Today, we’ll be taking a look at the best Premier League transfers for summer 2021 on Bet Central.
GK: José Sá
Wolves were faced with the tall task of filling in the goalkeeper position after longtime Portugal #1 Rui Patrício departed for José Mourinho’s Roma last summer, but they have arguably upgraded between the sticks with the arrival of José Sá from Olympiakos. At 29 years of age, the Portuguese goalkeeper delivered a superb display between the sticks for Bruno Lage’s side and was a key reason for their push for European football in the opening months of the season. It’s fair to say that the Molineux faithful won’t be shedding any tears over Patrício, five years Sá’s senior.
“Sá joined Wolves with big shoes to fill, but did a tremendous job,” says Breaking The Lines journalist Luke James. “He was a calming presence behind a low-scoring team, backstopping them to a top-half finish. Considering he was signed so cheaply, and on a five-year deal, he was easily one of the signings of the summer. It’s hard to argue that he wasn’t an upgrade on Patrício, both in the long- and short-term. Sá’s shot-stopping really jumped off the page last season, his save percentage and PSxG were stronger than Patrício’s at any point in his Wolves career. It remains to be seen whether Sá’s form is sustainable – I actually expect him to regress to the mean – but he’s off to a great start.”
RB: Valentino Livramento
After failing to make a single first-team appearance for Chelsea with Reece James blocking his route into the XI, Valentino Livramento headed for Southampton in August 2021, ending a 12-year spell at Stamford Bridge. At 19 years of age, Livramento quickly flourished into one of the Premier League’s most exciting right-backs with an encouraging run of displays for Ralph Hasenhüttl’s Saints, but his season came to an end after suffering a knee injury on April 24 that will see him miss the remainder of 2022.
“Performing at such a high level for a new club was an incredible feat for a teenager with zero professional experience,” says James. “I like his football IQ, he reads the game well and that shows up in his interception stats. There’s also a calmness about the way he plays that’s rare in young defenders: he wasn’t perfect last season, but always bounced back from disappointment. He still has work to do — including on passing accuracy — but Livramento is off to a really great start for the Saints.”
CB: Cristian Romero
After a stellar campaign that saw him emerge as a crucial fixture in defence for Gian Piero Gasperini’s Atalanta and play a crucial role in Argentina’s Copa América victory, Cristian Romero joined Tottenham Hotspur for €55 million, and whilst injuries have stalled his progress, he has excelled in defence for Antonio Conte’s side in their return to the UEFA Champions League. There are plenty of question marks as to who will play in Spurs’ back three next season with Clément Lenglet, Eric Dier, Ben Davies and more competing for a starting spot, but Romero is one of the few guaranteed starters.
“He’s had a really strong season, especially since the arrival of Conte,” says BTL’s Premier League correspondent Sam Tabuteau. “The Italian has a knack of getting the best out of physically robust defenders like Gary Cahill and Milan Skriniar and he seems to have worked the same magic with Romero. He is an enforcer and a player who leads by example. An aggressive defender, he snaps into challenges and is unafraid to go toe to toe with some of the Premier League’s most physical strikers. It’s his proactive defending that allows Spurs’s wing-backs to push so high, whilst his ability to physically dominate forwards means the likes of Ben Davies can offer more progressive options in possession.”
CB: Marc Guéhi
It wasn’t long ago that Crystal Palace had the oldest squad in England, a 73-year-old manager with a preference for defensive, risk-averse football, and a team that seemed to be just about treading water with no real direction forward. Today, the future is bright at Selhurst Park – their new state-of-the-art academy will allow them to shore up some of the world-class talent at their disposal in Selhurst Park, whilst their summer 2021 transfer window under Patrick Vieira gave clear indications of a new transfer strategy focused on young talent with high resale value. Perhaps no signing has been more important than the arrival of Marc Guéhi from Chelsea.
“Guéhi has been nothing short of exceptional this season,” says Tabuteau. “Chelsea academy graduates know their worth these days and he is not short of confidence in his own ability, and rightly so. It’s a true testament to his character that Vieira has handed him the captaincy on more than one occasion. A leader on and off the pitch at just 21.
“There’s a self-assuredness that belies his years. He’s just as composed in and out of possession and rarely jumps into challenges. It would be remiss of me to say he never puts a foot wrong, but he is certainly calm and considered in his decision-making.”
LB: Marc Cucurella
After bouncing around Barcelona and Espanyol’s academies and polishing his skills at Eibar and Getafe, Marc Cucurella joined Brighton in 2021 and has fast become the latest youngster to develop into a stalwart at the Amex after Yves Bissouma, Tariq Lamptey, and more. It appears that Cucurella’s time at Brighton may be set to end after one year with Manchester City interested, as Graham Potter’s side could be raided once more following the sale of Bissouma to Spurs.
“Cucurella’s ability to invert and overlap on and off the ball is a manager’s dream, especially Pep Guardiola,” says BTL writer Raphael Adelugba. “Also, he has an emotional side to his personality which is carried into his play style — this intensity is evident in his game. His positional versatility is one of his biggest assets — he has been able to play superbly at left-back and left-centre back in a three — and I’m sure that’s one of the aspects of his game that intrigues Pep. Another area of his game that has been fun to watch is his adaptability to the league — I was one of the people who thought he would need a year or two but that’s not been the case, he’s coming from a less physically demanding league in LaLiga and has been able to up to adapt brilliantly. He came into the league as an unknown and quickly established himself as one of the most promising two-way full-backs. He’s been crucial to one of Brighton’s best-ever seasons and now has admirers from Chelsea and Manchester City.”
CM: Enock Mwepu
The summer of 2021 was a shrewd example of long-term squad planning from Brighton Hove & Albion’s perspective. As usual, the club spread their net far and wide, picking up Ecuadorian attacking midfielder Jeremy Sarmiento from Benfica’s academy, Japanese winger Kaoru Mitoma from Kawasaki Frontale, Dutch goalkeeper Kjell Scherpen from Ajax and Senegalese forward Abdallah Sima from Slavia Prague. However, apart from Cucurella, no signing has made a bigger impact at the Amex than Enock Mwepu, the Zambian and his compatriot Patson Daka leaving Red Bull Salzburg and joining Brighton and Leicester, respectively.
“Mwepu’s transition to life in the Premier League was very impressive, says James. “Making the jump from the Austrian Bundesliga isn’t easy, but he took it in his stride. It’s also worth remembering that he still has room to grow. His passing caught my eye for the wrong reasons at times last season, although he has his best years ahead of him at 22.
“He is a tough-tackling midfielder whose versatility allows him to influence the game in both defence and attack,” adds Tabuteau. “The Zambian shone towards the back end of last season, showcasing a goal threat for a goal-shy Brighton side. Capable of turning defence into attack, he also possesses the awareness and range to unlock defences and drive his team forward.”
CM: Conor Gallagher
From Marc Guéhi to Valentino Livramento, from Fikayo Tomori to Tammy Abraham, Chelsea sold an unprecedented amount of Cobham-produced talent following their second Champions League trophy last summer. They can take solace, however, in the fact that Conor Gallagher’s superb form at Crystal Palace occurred in a dry loan rather than a permanent transfer. The 22-year-old joined Chelsea’s academy at the age of 8 and made his way up the ranks, and after loan spells at Charlton Athletic, Swansea City, West Brom and Palace, he could be set to make his mark on the Chelsea first team under Thomas Tuchel.
“Gallagher always showed signs of promise, even under difficult circumstances at West Brom, but it’s at Palace where his talent has blossomed,” reveals Tabuteau. “He’s taken advantage of an ageing midfield to put himself front and centre – everything went through him last season. Capable of starting and finishing moves almost single-handedly at times, his late runs draw unerring comparisons to Frank Lampard and you feel this threat from deep is something Chelsea have been sorely missing since Lampard’s own departure eight years ago. His future for club and country couldn’t be brighter right now.”
CAM: Martin Ødegaard
After missing out on Europe for the first time in 26 years, Arsenal splurged heavily in the transfer market in the 2021 summer window, a strong display of trust in manager Mikel Arteta. Takehiro Tomiyasu, Ben White, and Aaron Ramsdale all played a key role in shoring up the backline, whilst Nuno Tavares and Albert Sambi Lokonga did have their fair share of adaptation issues. They have gone from finishing eighth to narrowly missing out on the top four and will be headed back to the Europa League, and perhaps no signing has played a bigger role in their ascent than Martin Ødegaard.
“Ødegaard’s main role is to act as the attack-oriented player through the middle, playing in that number 10 pocket and spraying the ball back and forth to ignite attacks,” says BTL’s English football journalist Kelan Sarson. “He’s very intelligent on the ball at cutting through opponents and gave Arsenal a lot more creativity. What’s impressed me the most is the immediacy of how well he’s transitioned into the PL, coming in on loan and managing to become a focal point of Arsenal’s attack is impressive in such a short space of time. Just having an extra bit of creativity to help the likes of Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith-Rowe, that bit of quality that can create a chance from nothing, and his importance will rise with the likes of Gabriel Jesus feeding off attacks and looking for goals as a poacher-like finisher.”
RW: Maxwel Cornet
I recently wrote an article on Bet Central regarding the best players from relegated sides, and whilst Maxwel Cornet did not make the XI, he was certainly close to doing so. The Ivorian winger has been a key cog in attack for Burnley after making the move from Lyon for a club-record fee, and whilst fellow arrival Wout Weghorst has ended up joining Besiktas on loan, Cornet could very well fetch himself a move to a Premier League side following the Clarets’ relegation. If not, Vincent Kompany will be keen to get him going as Burnley look to bounce back to the Premier League.
“He added dynamism to Burnley’s attack and given more support he would’ve helped the club move away from the conservative style of play that ultimately resulted in their relegation. He’s proven enough to earn a move back to the Premier League,” argues Tabuteau.
“His best position is on the left of a front three, though he will likely have to become more adaptable if he’s to make the step up to a big six team, as has been reported. He was given freedom to express himself as the focal point of Burnley’s attack. The structure was rigid around him, meaning Cornet was able to play to his strengths.”
CF: Cristiano Ronaldo
It is true that he is currently trying to force his way out of the club after one season, and it is also true that Manchester United have become considerably worse since his arrival, going from a second-place finish to a dismal sixth and 73 goals scored to 57. But whilst Cristiano Ronaldo certainly isn’t blameless for United’s decline in form over the past 12 months, he has nevertheless been one of their better players in a topsy-turvy campaign. The 37-year-old scored 18 goals in 30 Premier League matches and six goals in seven Champions League matches – a competition he is desperately trying to return to following United’s Europa League qualification. Has it been a disappointing season by his lofty standards? Yes. Has he delivered a better season than Jadon Sancho, Jack Grealish, Michael Olise, Demarai Gray and other attacking signings? Also yes.
“Cristiano Ronaldo has personally had a good season, but at 37 it was never going to be a smart move for United to cater to his needs and build their attack around him,” admits Tabuteau. “He’s still capable of producing match-winning moments, but people tend to forget his form fluctuated massively last season. He’s an impact player these days, and maybe even Ronaldo needs to concede that to himself.”
LW: Emmanuel Dennis
We close out this article with a player who also cracked my Best Players From Relegated Teams, a player whose 10 goals and 6 assists trounces his Watford teammates like Cucho Hernández (5 goals and 3 assists), Joshua King (5 and 3), or Ismaïla Sarr (5 and 2). Emmanuel Dennis has delivered at Vicarage Road in his debut Premier League campaign following his arrival from Club Brugge, and at 24, he could be primed for a move to another Premier League side should he not fancy life in the second division with the Hornets.
“He started off the season really well — top scorer at one point, but as the season progressed and the chances on hitting teams on transition lessoned, he started to struggle,” says Adelugba. “The AFCON debacle would’ve had a mental impact as well — not being able to play for your country in a massive tournament — would be a massive blow for any player, especially one suffering from confidence at the time.”
“A move to a team whose style of play that revolves around quick transition play will highly benefit him — West Ham would be a good option for him. They’re in need for a forward to challenge Michail Antonio as well as offer versatility out wide and Dennis would provide that. Heis attributes and tendencies enable him to play in various positions across the front three, but his ability to drift into space and get a shot with his weaker foot makes the left channel favourable for him.”