As we enter November, we now have a general idea of how the new signings throughout the English football pyramid are coping with the pressure and dog-eat-dog nature of English football. Some players, both domestic and foreign, can take time to get to grips with the lifestyle of a footballer in England, so I’ll try not to be too harsh.
This will likely – and hopefully – create a bit of debate among you good-readers, so here goes. Here are my top ten players that have had the biggest impact on English football so far:
10 – Jordan Ibe (Derby County)
The on-loan Liverpool winger has added to a long list of attacking threats at the iPro Stadium and has helped them into fifth place in the Championship table, helping to cement their place as a real force within the division. Although the 18-year-old has only managed to score two goals in 12 appearances, it’s definitely fair to say that, while scoring is not something that should be expected of him, he makes up for it by consistently being a part of Derby’s build-up and goals.
His massive presence in Liverpool’s successful youth side last season has seen him earn loans at Birmingham City last season and now at the Rams this season. Just like Liverpool midfielder Jordan Rossiter, Ibe has a big future on Merseyside and Brendan Rogers would be foolish to not give the under-20 England International a chance to shine on the biggest stage over the coming years.
9 – Gylfi Sigurdsson (Swansea City)
After joining Swansea from German outfit Hoffenheim on loan back in 2012, Sigurdsson managed to earn himself a big move to Tottenham. But after proving ineffective in his single season at White Hart Lane, he joined the South Wales side permanently, in a deal that also involved then full-back Ben Davies moving in the other direction.
His first spell at Swansea was superb. he played 18 matches and scored seven times during the second half of the 2012/13 season. He has once again found his feet at the Liberty Stadium, having scored the winner at Manchester United on the opening day of the season and playing a huge role in most of Swansea’s goals so far. He is also on form for Iceland as well, which suggests that the midfielder is either in or approaching the best form of his career.
8 – Matej Vydra (Watford)
Another player who has returned for a second spell at a club, Matej Vydra was by far Watford’s biggest player in their play-off campaign, which in turn ended in defeat against Crystal Palace. He then went on to make a loan move to West Brom, after hitting 21 goals in 40 appearances at Vicarage Road the previous season.
However, like Sigurdsson, his move didn’t pay dividends and he has since returned to his previous club, picking up where he left off, with seven goals in 13 appearances. It is incredible how some players find a club where they just seem to belong, and Vydra seems to belong at Watford, despite this being his third successive loan from Italian side Udinese.
The Hornets are expected to be up there at the top of the table come May, and with the return of Troy Deeney from injury, him and Vydra are likely to terrorise Championship defences throughout the season.
7 – Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal)
With his big money move from Barcelona and a half-decent World Cup, the Chilean had a lot of pressure on his shoulders when he opted to move to the Emirates, but he has certainly provided value for money so far, having found the net seven times in nine games for the Gunners. With Olivier Giroud out injured and Danny Welbeck being the only fully fit Arsenal striker, Sanchez, like many of his team-mates in midfield, are expected to kick up their efforts in the final third.
Having scored a brace against Burnley at the weekend, he is certainly proving that he’s got what it takes to shine in the Premier League.
6 – Joe Lewis (Blackpool)
I know, I know. Being a Blackpool fan, this one might be slightly bias. I can’t help but include on-loan Cardiff keeper Joe Lewis, who I personally believe has played a large part in Blackpool picking up a, albeit lowly, six points so far this season. If it wasn’t for some excellent saves throughout the season, the Seasiders could have been on the end of some real thrashings. Lewis has, overall, managed to keep the scores respectable. Him and Elliot Parish, who kept Blackpool’s only clean sheet of the season against Cardiff, might just provide Blackpool with a chance of survival. If it wasn’t for the shot-stoppers, they probably wouldn’t have a single point to their name.
5 – Mohamed Diame (Hull City)
There was a bit of controversy surrounding Diame’s move from West Ham, as he claimed he simply wasn’t treated right at Upton Park, but his current form suggests that he’s feeling relatively comfortable at the KC Stadium. The Senegalese International was one of many signings made by Steve Bruce as part of a squad revamp at Hull. The midfielder has scored four goals in all competitions so far and is proving to be a shrewd signing.
However, West Ham weren’t slow to replace the Hammers misfit as they brought in Alex Song from Barcelona on loan, who could have made this list himself, just like many others. Diame has added to a physical midfield at Hull, who also have Tom Huddlestone playing in the centre, and his ability to enforce his creative flare on the field and chip in with goals will likely see Hull safety avoid relegation this season.
4 – Graziano Pelle (Southampton)
Trust me, it was very tough to choose between the Italian, Dusan Tadic, Ryan Bertrand or Fraser Forster for the Saints’ spot. So far, all players in their squad have been superb, which has seen Southampton rise up to an incredible second place, only four points behind leaders Chelsea. However, in terms of influence, Pelle’s six goals have made him difficult to ignore and the target man will now be expected to lead the Saints to European football.
All credit must go to the owners at Southampton, as well as new boss Ronald Koeman, who replaced Mauricio Pochettino in the summer when the club was up in arms having seen their star players leave for big money to clubs like Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal. Prior to the start of the season, a fair few critics had Southampton down as a team who would be lucky to avoid relegation as they attempted to re-build their star-studded team. So far, Dutchman Koeman has achieved a feat that nobody had expected, leading the club to a superior position to the one they were in twelve months ago, thanks to some under-the-radar signings in England goalkeeper Fraser Forster, Serbian Dusan Tadic, on-loan Chelsea full-back Ryan Bertrand, Shane Long and Pelle, who have turned Southampton into a real force.
They don’t just win games 8-0, as they did in an iconic victory against Sunderland two weeks ago, but they can also grind out results, like their 1-0 away win at Hull over the weekend. Pelle isn’t a man who is hugely agile or quick, but in the final third his positioning and awareness has made him one of the Premier League’s best signings so far this season.
3 – Aaron Cresswell (West Ham United)
Just like Southampton, West Ham are certainly defying their critics with some stunning early season form, thanks to some exceptional acquisitions over the summer. Last season West Ham were desperately missing an athletic finisher to lead the line, as well as an attacking full-back. Just as the saying goes – like London buses, they never turn up, and then suddenly two arrive at once – with Cresswell, who was Ipswich Town’s star player last season, arriving alongside on-loan Arsenal full-back Carl Jenkinson. Cresswell is not only a solid defensive player, but also an attacking threat down the left-flank. His ability to deliver a presentable cross makes him a striker’s dream.
The decision to choose which Hammers player should make the list left me at a crossroads, as Jenkinson, Diafro Sakho and Enner Valencia have all impressed and played huge roles during their early days at the club. Cresswell, however, wins the battle for me, as the 24-year-old is guaranteed to be involved in both attack and defence throughout the season. He is also the perfect example of how players do have the capability to make the step-up from the Championship to the Premier League, so all credit to him.
2 – Diego Costa (Chelsea)
I sat here for another good ten minutes choosing whether Diego Costa or Cesc Fabregas would make this list. Even now I still have doubts, that’s how good they have both been for the Blues so far this season, lifting the club in to first place in the Premier League. Although Fabregas has been involved in all of Chelsea’s last ten goals, and even scored one himself, the manner in which Costa has adapted so quickly to life in the Premier League pipes his fellow Spaniard to the post. Fabregas’ previous experience in the Premier League was a factor that went against him in this case.
Costa is Chelsea’s top scorer with nine goals, one behind Sergio Aguero in the goalscorer charts, and he doesn’t look like slowing down, despite a recent injury. Chelsea were heavily tipped to lift the title this season prior to kick-off, and Costa, like many others, have pulled their weight for Jose Mourinho’s side, which sees them sitting four points clear at the top of the leaderboard after narrowly beating rivals Queens Park Rangers over the weekend.
1 – Angel Di Maria (Manchester United)
Ah clichés. The Argentine wizard was by far the best deal United have closed out since Robin van Persie joined the club from Arsenal in 2012. It makes you beg the question, where would the Reds be without him this season? After their derby defeat to Manchester City, they are – on paper – in an inferior position to where they were under David Moyes at this point last season, and although United fans will point out that Louis van Gaal’s football is at least more attractive to watch, it doesn’t subtract the fact that United are having another sub-standard season to say the least.
Di Maria looks like their only bright spark up front so far and appears to be pulling United along single-handedly at present. Critics have jumped on the fact that Van Gaal splashed out around £160 million in the summer, on the likes of Daley Blind, Luke Shaw, Marcos Rojo and Di Maria, yet United haven’t really taken any strides forward, increasing the pressure on the club, which is the last thing the Dutchman needs.
There’s still a long way to go, but surely United can still better last season’s seventh place finish.. Can’t they?
Ten more who didn’t quite make the list:
Dusan Tadic – Southampton
Callum Wilson – AFC Bournemouth
James Wesolowski – Shrewsbury Town
Cesc Fabregas – Chelsea
Dele Alli – MK Dons
Alberto Moreno – Liverpool
Sameul Eto’o – Everton
Andre Wisdom – West Brom
Michail Antonio – Nottingham Forest
Paul Hayes – Wycombe Wanderers
Who has been your stand-out signing of the season? Leave a comment below.