Premier League clubs totalled a transfer spend of £1.91 billion over the summer window, while Serie A, Bundesliga, La Liga and Ligue 1 clubs combined £1.98 billion between them. The financial gap between England and the rest of Europe continues to grow, with this summer’s spending spree the latest example. Over the next two weeks on Bet Central, I’ll be taking a look at my favourite signing from each of the 20 Premier League sides, with this week’s edition focusing on Arsenal, Aston Villa, Brentford, Bournemouth, Brighton, Chelsea, Crystal Palace, Everton, Fulham and Leeds’ summer business.
Arsenal: Gabriel Jesus
They say good things come to those who wait, and that looks to have been the case for Arsenal at the centre-forward position. After Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang departed the club in the January window for Barcelona after falling out with Mikel Arteta, the Gunners pondered completing a deal for Dušan Vlahović only for the Serbian striker to remain in Italy and join Juventus, but they decided they were better off waiting for the summer than pursuing alternative options. Alexandre Lacazette returned to Lyon on a free transfer whilst Eddie Nketiah steered clear of a free transfer by renewing his deal with Arsenal until 2027, but the signing that has moved the pendulum for them is the arrival of Gabriel Jesus from Manchester City. After a six-year spell that saw him score 58 goals in 159 appearances and winning four Premier League titles, the 25-year-old Brazilian striker and Oleksandr Zinchenko have made an instant impact since trading the Etihad for the Emirates, with Jesus grabbing 3 goals and 3 assists in his first 6 matches in North London and leading Arsenal to first place in the table with 15 points, one point above his former employers and Tottenham Hotspur.
Aston Villa: Boubacar Kamara
Despite interest from Atlético Madrid and various clubs, Aston Villa managed to prise away Boubacar Kamara on a free transfer with the 22-year-old departing Marseille and signing a five-year deal at Villa Park. The Frenchman has started each of Villa’s seven matches this season, operating in the holding midfield position and providing Steven Gerrard’s 4-3-3 with a defensive linchpin alongside the attack-minded John McGinn and Jacob Ramsey. Villa started the season with a 2-0 defeat at Bournemouth, bouncing back with a 2-1 win at home against Everton, losing 3-1 to Crystal Palace, beating Bolton Wanderers 4-1 in the EFL Cup, and losing their next two matches to West Ham and Arsenal, before grinding out a 1-1 draw at home to Manchester City. They find themselves hovering above the relegation zone with 4 points from 6 matches and they will look to keep up the positive momentum from their recent draw against the defending champions and face off against Leicester City, and Kamara’s presence in the anchor role will be crucial in ensuring that Villa do not get caught out on the counter or outmuscled in duels as they look to get some breathing room from the bottom.
Brentford: Mikkel Damsgaard
Despite failing to agree on a new contract for Christian Eriksen as the Danish playmaker headed for Manchester United on a free transfer, Thomas Frank’s Brentford have delivered in the transfer window as they look to avoid second-season syndrome and build on last season’s 13th-place finish in the club’s first top-flight season since 1946/47. The Bees have picked up veteran English centre-back Ben Mee (32) following Burnley’s relegation as well as Albanian goalkeeper Thomas Strakosha (27) from Lazio on free transfers, as well as English winger Keane Lewis-Potter (21) from Hull City for £16 million, Scottish fullback Aaron Hickey (20) from Bologna for £14 million and Danish winger Mikkel Damsgaard (22) from Sampdoria for €12 million, with the latter taking on a major role in Denmark’s attack following Eriksen’s cardiac arrest in their opening match of the European Championships against Finland. An unused substitute vs. Finland, Damsgaard was thrown into the starting line-up the following match as Denmark began their Euros campaign with defeats to Finland and Belgium and needing a result against Russia to qualify for the knockout round. Collecting a pass at the edge of the box, Damsgaard took a touch before launching a rocket past Matvei Safonov in goal to open the scoring in the 38th minute with Denmark prevailing 4-1 to set up a Round of 16 match vs. Wales, with Damsgaard finding Kasper Dolberg for the opening goal as Denmark won 4-0 in Amsterdam, beating the Czech Republic 2-1 in Baku before losing to England at Wembley Stadium in the semifinals. After missing a lengthy period of last season to injury, Damsgaard will be looking to establish himself as a first-team regular under Frank and become the latest Danish star to make a name for himself at Brentford.
Bournemouth: Marcus Tavernier
“At this present moment in time, I feel sorry for the fans. I feel sorry for the players, to be honest with you because at the moment we are just a bit underequipped at this level from where we have come from. “(The result) doesn’t shine a light on it (what’s going wrong) for me because throughout the summer that’s exactly where I’ve seen it. There are players playing in this team with huge quality but this is the first time they are experiencing Premier League and we are where we are. This is the toughest day as a player and certainly, as a coach, this is the most painful day that I have experienced. I could sense it was painful for the players on the pitch as well. I felt for every single one of them because they need some help and the levels were just too great.”
Those the comments of Scott Parker that precipitated his dismissal at Bournemouth following a 9-0 defeat to Liverpool, making him the earliest manager to be sacked in a Premier League season since 2004 when Paul Sturrock and Sir Bobby Robson lost their jobs in successive weeks. When compared to fellow promoted sides Nottingham Forest and Fulham, who have spent $178 million and $68 million, Bournemouth haven’t even reached $30 million in their transfer spend. Three of their signings have been free transfers – Joe Rothwell, Neto, Ryan Fredericks – one has been a loan arrival (Jack Stephens), and just two have involved any transfer fee: Marcos Senesi, signed from Feyenoord for $16.5 million and Marcus Tavernier, signed from Middlesbrough for $13 million. Whilst Senesi has dropped to the bench after failing to cover himself in glory at Anfield, Tavernier has remained in the Cherries’ starting line-up and has been crucial in securing victories against Aston Villa and Nottingham Forest as well as a stalemate against Wolves. Capable of playing across multiple positions and formations, the 23-year-old Englishman is coming off a season that saw him score 5 go
He has started each of Bournemouth’s opening four games, playing on the right-hand side of a front three in Parker’s favoured 3-4-3 formation. As a left-footed attacking player, he gives Bournemouth more variety to their offensive play due to the wealth of right-footed options currently at the club. Tavernier, a strong dribbler, and incisive passer is coming off the back of his most productive season to date after contributing five goals and five assists for Middlesbrough last year. The 23-year-old has a knack for finding the net from range and is also a prominent threat cutting in on off his left foot. Whilst Tavernier has thus far been utilised in an attacking role, his future is seemingly at wing-back, where his relentless defensive work rate and ability to drift inside is seen as key to helping Bournemouth congest the midfield when they are trying to set up to frustrate their opponent. Whilst his quality on the ball gives Bournemouth the opportunity to break the press and transition the ball quickly. Bournemouth have not been as bold as Nottingham Forest in the transfer market. But through the additions of Tavernier, Joe Rothwell, Neto, Marcos Senesi and Ryan Fredericks, they are trying to build a team who can hold their own in possession and not rely so heavily on moments of individual brilliance. The odds are stacked firmly against Bournemouth when it comes to beating the drop, with the Cherries two points above Leicester, one point above Wolves and level with West Ham, Aston Villa and Everton, as well as the first side to sack their manager, but Marcus Tavernier nevertheless has the potential to make a strong impression in his debut Premier League season at the Vitality Stadium.
Brighton Hove & Albion: Pervis Estupiñán
After selling Marc Cucurella to Chelsea for an initial £55 million potentially rising to a club-record £62 million in add-ons, Brighton Hove & Albion snapped up 24-year-old left back Pervis Estupiñán from Villarreal for £15 million. Born in Esmeraldas, Ecuador, Pervis moved to Europe in 2016 and joined Watford, only to be loaned out to Spanish clubs Granada, Almería, Mallorca and Osasuna before departing Vicarage Road in 2020 without making a single appearance for the Hornets and joining Villarreal on a seven-year contract, where he would rack up 41 appearances in all competitions as El Submarino Amarillo reached the UEFA Champions League semifinals and finished 7th in the league. Whilst he often rode the bench for the more attack-minded Alfonso Pedraza, he was mainly preferred to the Spaniard against Europe’s top sides due to his defensive nous, starting Villarreal’s last five Champions League matches as Unai Emery’s side defeated Juventus and Bayern Munich before losing to Liverpool in the semifinals. Estupiñán is now headed back to England, and this time, he’s actually playing. The Ecuadorian made his Premier League debut on August 21 in a 2-0 win vs. West Ham before starting a week later in a 1-0 win vs. Leeds, grabbing an assist in a 2-1 defeat to Fulham, before dropping to the bench in a 5-2 victory against Leicester. As they look to navigate choppy waters following the departure of Graham Potter and maintain their position in fourth place, Estupiñán looks set to play a crucial role at left back and begin a Premier League dream that has been six years in the making.
Chelsea: Wesley Fofana
It has been a transitional summer at Stamford Bridge, with Todd Boehly taking the reins from Roman Abramovich after a 19-year spell as owner, Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rüdiger leaving the club on free transfers, Romelu Lukaku returning to Inter Milan after a disastrous return to Chelsea whilst Marcos Alonso, Emerson, Timo Werner and more have also been shipped out. Boehly has kicked off his ownership by signing Raheem Sterling from Manchester City, Marc Cucurella from Brighton and Carney Chukwuemeka from Aston Villa, but arguably his most exciting Premier League signing has been Wesley Fofana, who has arrived from Leicester City for an initial fee of £70 million plus £5 million in add-ons.
At 21, Fofana is 10 years younger than Kalidou Koulibaly, who has joined from Napoli to provide leadership and quality in the heart of defense following the departures of Christensen and Rüdiger, and unlike Koulibaly, he has proven his quality in England’s top-flight with the Frenchman joining Leicester on deadline day of the summer 2020 window and emerging as a starter in defense for Brendan Rodgers as the Foxes narrowly missed out on top four whilst beating Chelsea in the FA Cup Final, only for the following season to be curtailed by a vicious tackle from Fernando Niño in a preseason friendly against Villarreal. If Fofana can recover his 2020/21 form and nail down a starting spot under Graham Potter, Chelsea’s money will be well-spent – despite the injury, Fofana remains one of the most promising young center backs in Europe, combining speed, anticipation and fearlessness and proving an imperious 1v1 defender capable of playing in a back three or back four, and after Lewis Dunk, Adam Webster, Ben White and more, he could be the next center back to take his game up an entire notch under the stewardship of Graham Potter.
Crystal Palace: Cheick Doucouré
One year after a summer rebuild that saw Odsonne Edouard, Marc Guéhi, Will Hughes Joachim Andersen, Michael Olise and Conor Gallagher arrive at Selhurst Park, Crystal Palace have continued to rejuvenate their squad under the leadership of manager Patrick Vieira and sporting director Dougie Freedman, with veterans like Cheikhou Kouyaté, Christian Benteke and Martin Kelly departing South London and Malcolm Ebiowei (18) and Sam Johnstone (29) joining on free transfers whilst American center back Chris Richards (22) has arrived from Bayern Munich to provide quality in central defense. The only new signing who has already solidified a starting spot, however, is Cheick Doucouré.
Born in Bamako, Mali and raised in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, Doucouré left Africa for Europe after turning 18, spending a year with Lens’ reserves and emerging as a starter in midfield for the first team in the 2018/19 season before achieving promotion to Ligue 1 the following year. Operating alongside Ivory Coast international Seko Fofana in midfield, Doucouré and his fellow West African teammate formed a lethal duo in midfield as Lens narrowly missed out on European football in each of their first two seasons back in the top-flight under Franck Haise, impressing with one of the most aesthetically pleasing styles of play in France. It has seen Doucouré earn a move to the Premier League with the Eagles paying an initial fee of €21 million potentially rising to €25 million, a fee only topped by Benteke and Mamadou Sakho’s arrivals at Selhurst Park. The Malian international is already proving to be a vital presence in the base of midfield, blending a strong positional awareness with an ability to carry the ball forward amid pressure, capable of breaking up counter-attacks and starting them with his incisive dribbling. At 22 years old, he has taken the reins from Kouyaté and emerged as the holding midfield in Patrick Vieira’s 4-3-3 and operating alongside Eberechi Eze and Jeffrey Schlupp in the centre of the pitch.
Everton: James Tarkowski
“Tarkowski, now 29, has joined Everton on a four-year deal and will be looking to provide experience and stability alongside two other centre-backs in Lampard’s back three, be that Michael Keane, Yerry Mina, Mason Holgate or Ben Godfrey. He has a pedigree and consistency that is paralleled by few centre-backs in the Premier League, having emerged as an indispensable defender for Sean Dyche’s plucky Clarets over the past five years and earning himself a move to a team in desperate need of a leader in central defence. For a Toffees side that has its hands tied financially, signing James Tarkowski on a free transfer is a major coup for Frank Lampard’s Everton.”
It has been two months since I wrote about Everton’s signing of James Tarkowski on a free transfer from Burnley. At the time, he was the Toffees’ sole signing of the summer – they have since completed loan deals from Portuguese left back Rúben Vinagre from Sporting and his ex Wolves teammate Conor Coady, who, like Tarkowski, is a veteran England international who should provide ample experience and leadership in the center of defense, as well as reinforced their attack with the signings of Dwight McNeil from Burnley and Neal Maupay from Brighton following the departure of Richarlison to Tottenham. More importantly, they have overhauled their midfield with the signings of Amadou Onana, Idrissa Gana Gueye, and James Garner, with Onana my pick of the bunch. It was a close call between Onana and Tarkowski, but given Everton’s well-known financial difficulties, I’m giving the edge to Tarkowski – a center back who provides a pedigree and consistency matched by few defenders in the Premier League.
Fulham: João Palhinha
Since ending a 13-year spell in the Premier League in 2013/14, Fulham have achieved promotion on two occasions and have been immediately relegated each time. After ascending to the top flight in 2018, the Cottagers signed Jean Michel Seri from Nice and André-Frank Zambo Anguissa from Marseille only to finish 19th with 81 goals conceded in 38 matches. They would return two years later, reinforcing the centre of the pitch with the permanent signing of Harrison Reed and the loan arrivals of Mario Lemina and Ruben Loftus-Cheek, only to finish 18th and return to the Championship. Whilst the likes of Zambo, Seri and Loftus-Cheek are all talented footballers, none of them fit the ball of a tough-tackling holding midfielder capable of promoting Fulham’s backline and thriving in the Premier League’s physical style of play. Enter: João Palhinha.
Born in Lisbon, Palhinha joined Sporting’s academy in 2012 and rose through the ranks to Alcochete before heading out on loan to various Portuguese sides such as Moreirense, Beleneneses and Braga, where he would spend a few months under rookie manager Rúben Amorim before returning to his parent club in the summer of 2020. He looked close to joining Wolves for €15 million only for the deal to fall through at the final minute, remaining in the capital and forming a stellar double pivot alongside João Mário in Sporting’s 3-4-3 under Amorim as the Lions won their first league title in 19 years. However, at 27 years of age, it seemed as though Sporting’s window to sell Palhinha for a decent fee was closing, and after bringing in Manuel Ugarte the previous summer as a potential successor, Palhinha was sold to Fulham for £20 million, with the Portuguese midfielder making his debut in a 2-2 home draw vs. Liverpool and scoring his first goal two weeks later in a 3-2 victory against Brentford. No player is averaging more tackles per game than Palhinha (5.0), who is forming a solid partnership in midfield alongside Harrison Reed and offering the rock-solid defensive presence that Fulham have missed in recent years, and he could just be what Fulham need as they look to successfully avoid relegation upon achieving promotion for the first time since the 2001/02 campaign.
Leeds: Luis Sinisterra
After a season that saw them finish third under new manager Arne Slot and lose to Roma in the first-ever UEFA Europa Conference League Final, Feyenoord have seen their squad raided in the summer with Marcos Senesi, Luis Sinisterra and Tyrell Malacia earning moves to the Premier League whilst Fredrik Aursnes has joined Benfica. Sinisterra joined Leeds for £21 million after a season that saw him rack up 23 goals and 14 assists in all competitions for Feyenoord, with the 23-year-old Colombian winger becoming the most expensive Feyenoord sale ever. Sinisterra would make his first start for Leeds on August 24, grabbing a goal and an assist in a 3-1 win against League One side Barnsley in the EFL Cup, before starting the following match against Everton and launching a rocket past Jordan Pickford into the bottom right corner to even proceedings in a 1-1 draw at Elland Road, before grabbing another goal in the following match as Brentford defeated Leeds 5-2 in London.
Despite selling arguably their two best players in Raphinha and Kalvin Phillips, Leeds United have taken two steps back to then take three steps forward, with Jesse Marsch’s side bringing in Tyler Adams and Marc Roca, the current first-choice double pivot, Sinisterra and Rasmus Kristensen, Leeds’ right-sided pairing, as well as 18-year-old talents Darko Gyabi and Wilfried Gnonto, veteran goalkeeper Joel Robles, and Brenden Aaronson, who has played in the central attacking midfield role in a system that effectively utilizes three #10s behind the central striker, with Sinisterra, Aaronson and Jack Harrison creating danger in the final third and combining with Rodrigo Moreno, Joe Gelhardt or Patrick Bamford to wreak havoc on the opposing defense. For £21 million, Leeds United have secured the services a player who is capable of stepping into Raphinha’s void and providing a livewire attacking presence as they look to avoid last season’s relegation battle and make long strides forward in their first full season under the American manager.