Who’ve been the most impactful Premier League summer buys?

Leave a comment

It’s been a heck of a season for Premier League transfer buys, and that includes a bevy of intra-league purchases.

So who’ve been the best imports? Probably a safe bet to set some parameters.

[ MORE: Alonso, Pedro have Morata’s back ]

We won’t count players like Aaron Mooy, who’s Huddersfield Town purchase was formalized after a loan, or those who returned from loan like Chelsea’s Andreas Christensen or Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere.

We’ll also opt against a couple Chelsea loanees signings, if just to whittle our list. Ruben Loftus-Cheek was magnificent before a long-term injury at Palace, and Kurt Zouma probably just sits beyond the Top Ten.

Mainz loanee Jonas Lossl of Huddersfield Town fits the bill, too. And for injuries: Who knows how high  Benjamin Mendy would’ve surged up this list?

Stats culled from WhoScored and Squawka.

Honorable mention – Antonio Rudiger, Mario Lemina, Richarlison, Alexandre Lacazette, Mat Ryan, Bernardo Silva, Steve MounieKyle Walker, Alvaro Morata, Florian Lejeune.

10. Jordan Pickford, Everton — Under siege at Sunderland for most of last season, Pickford probably expected smoother sailing than this: the Everton backstop has been forced into making the most saves in the Premier League (95). Fifty-four of those required him to dive. Only four teams have allowed more goals than Everton, which explains why some of you might be scratching your head at his inclusion.

9. James Tomkins, Crystal Palace — I thought the signing was silly, but Tomkins is nearly unrivaled in terms of interceptions per game in league play. Palace hasn’t been a defensive powerhouse, but his former club West Ham looks terrible since he moved across London.

8. Davinson Sanchez, Tottenham Hotspur – There have been bumps along the way — Sanchez is 21 — but he’s blessed with the speed to make up for his and others mistakes. A fine passer, Mauricio Pochettino should only further benefit from his career progression.

7. Ahmed Hegazi, West Bromwich Albion — Hegazi’s 2757 minutes played are the most amongst field players in the Premier League (though Alfie Mawson, Harry Maguire, Jack Cork, and Lewis Dunk could pass him by playing more than an hour in their match-in-hand).

6. Harry Maguire, Leicester City — The Foxes badly needed to lower the age of their center back corps, and can count their purchase of Maguire from Hull City as a coup. Perhaps no player other than Wilfred Ndidi has been as influential for Claude Puel‘s bunch.

5. Romelu Lukaku, Manchester United — Lukaku started dispelling myths about his production versus big teams when he was one of the lone stars in United’s Super Cup loss to Real Madrid. While he’s been up-and-down in terms of goals in said contests, his hold-up play and work ethic have been better than expected. His 21 key moments (14 goals, seven assists) are even with Roberto Firmino and trail only Mohamed Salah, Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling, Harry Kane, Sergio Aguero, and Leroy Sane. Anthony Martial is the closest United comparison, and he has 14. Paul Pogba and Jesse Lingard have 12.

4. Pascal Gross, Brighton and Hove Albion — The Ingolstadt transfer’s promise was quickly realized, and he’s posted five goals and eight assists. On a team with the fourth-lowest goal total in the league, that’s impressive. The only players with more PL assists: De Bruyne, Sane, Dele, David Silva, Salah, Pogba. Gross also ranks third in the league in crosses per game.

3. Nemanja Matic, Manchester United — It’s hard to fin the numbers to meet the eye test, but Matic flat out makes his team better. Maybe it’s organization, maybe it’s toughness, but there’s little doubt United is better in the middle of the park while former club Chelsea has struggled to find the same form since he skipped town. Advantage: Mou.

2. Ederson, Manchester City — Look only to last season’s status of City net minders to know how important the sweeper-style passing keeper is to Pep Guardiola‘s side. The Brazilian has pushed himself into competition for the starting gig at one of the World Cup favorites.

1. Mohamed Salah, Liverpool —  There is no other answer here, and Harry Kane’s injury essentially gift wraps the Golden Boot to the Egyptian. There was a question as to whether he’d bring his Serie A flourish over to England, and that seems absurd now.

Bundesliga wrap: Schalke win late to stave off chasing pack

AP Photo/Michael Sohn
Leave a comment

BERLIN (AP) Schalke needed a penalty save and a late own goal to scramble a 1-0 win at Wolfsburg and retain second place in the Bundesliga on Saturday.

Substitute Breel Embolo helped create the decider when his pass across the box was turned into his own net by Robin Knoche four minutes from time.

Schalke goalkeeper Ralf Faehrmann saved Paul Verhaegh’s penalty in the 76th minute after Matija Nastasic had fouled Riechedly Bazoer.

“This is the work of our entire goalkeeping team,” Faehrmann said of his stop. “I don’t want to boast about it on my own, we’re always meticulously prepared for such situations.”

Schalke’s fifth consecutive win opened a four-point advantage over third-place Borussia Dortmund, which hosts Hannover on Sunday.

Wolfsburg is 15th.

“We played well and then missed the penalty and conceded a goal,” Knoche said. “I’m sorry for the team.”

Runaway leader Bayern Munich is 17 points clear before visiting Leipzig on Sunday.

Eintracht Frankfurt kept in the hunt for a top-four finish, and a Champions League berth, by beating Mainz 3-0.

Kevin-Prince Boateng put Eintracht in front after six minutes. Ante Rebic set up Luka Jovic for the second goal and Rebic finished off a counterattack before halftime.

Eintracht is fourth ahead of fifth-place Bayer Leverkusen’s trip to Cologne on Sunday.

Matthias Ginter netted in the 89th minute as Borussia Monchengladbach came from behind three times to draw 3-3 at home to seventh-place Hoffenheim.

Benjamin Hubner scored with a header before substitute Josip Drmic replied for Gladbach in the first half.

Andrej Kramaric converted a penalty after Jonas Hofmann had fouled Serge Gnabry to put Hoffenheim back in front. Lars Stindl then leveled before Florian Grillitsch quickly restored the visitors’ advantage.

Ninth-place Gladbach was staring at defeat until Ginter turned in Raffael’s cross at the far post to snatch a point that kept his team in the hunt for a Europa League berth.

Werder Bremen continued to climb away from danger after Algerian forward Ishak Belfodil grabbed two goals in a 3-1 win at Augsburg.

Belfodil was twice on target before halftime. Rani Khedira pulled one back for Augsburg before Max Kruse secured the points.

Werder is 12th after a fourth victory in six matches.

Hertha Berlin rallied for a 2-1 victory at relegation-haunted Hamburg.

Douglas Santos put Hamburg ahead before halftime, only for Valentino Lazaro and Salomon Kalou to turn the match around in the 56th and 63rd minutes.

Hamburg, the only club never to be relegated from the Bundesliga, is seven points from safety after 14 matches without a victory.

Arsenal gets CSKA Moscow in Europa League

Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
1 Comment

With the Champions League draw concluded and Liverpool preparing to face Manchester City, the Europa League draw took center stage and sent Arsenal to .

The Gunners’ Arsene Wenger was hoping to avoid Atletico Madrid, and the 1/7 odds held up; The Gunners will head to Russia to face Vitinho, Ahmed Musa, Igor Akinfeev and CSKA Moscow.

[ MORE: Arsenal cruises past Milan ]

The two sides met in the group stage of the 2006-07 Champions League, with Moscow winning one and drawing the other.

As for Atleti, they get a tricky intra-peninsula trip to Sporting Lisbon, while Lazio will like it’s draw with Red Bull Salzburg. The other RB crew, the Bundesliga’s Leipzig, has a tough task in Marseille.

UEFA Europa League quarterfinals
RB Leipzig vs. Marseille
Arsenal vs. CSKA Moscow
Atletico Madrid vs. Sporting Lisbon
Lazio vs. Red Bull Salzburg

Wenger lauds Arsenal, wants to “avoid Atletico Madrid” in quarters

AP Photo/Alastair Grant
1 Comment

Lots of managers and players like to act as if tournament draws shouldn’t matter, or that there shouldn’t be teams to avoid.

And we all know that’s garbage.

[ RECAP: Arsenal 3-1 (5-1 agg.) AC Milan ]

Arsene Wenger‘s not going to bother trying to fool you as Arsenal earned a spot in the UEFA Europa League quarterfinals with a decisive win over AC Milan on Thursday.

Anybody but Atleti.

“We would certainly want to avoid Atletico Madrid, but we will see, we have no influence over that,” Wenger said.

The Gunners were very good aside from a world-class goal from Hakan Calhanoglu, winning the tie 5-1 and the leg 3-1 thanks to a pair from Danny Welbeck and a Granit Xhaka goal. From the BBC:

“We have to improve defensively, but overall we are team with technical quality which is more offense-minded.

“We struggle a bit more when we have to defend. We finished the game more compact and more solid.”

Welbeck won a penalty for the first goal with a fairly blatant embellishment — he was even looking to the fourth official before he hit the deck — but the Gunners definitely deserved to be on the winning end of the Round of 16 tie.

Jack Wilshere was celebrating the win as well as an England call-up, and said the result was an impressive one.

“We needed it,” Wilshere said. “We set the level last week in Milan. It was about getting the job done tonight and being professional. We didn’t start well but it woke us up. They got a good goal early on and made us work for it. We are happy to be through to the next round and we will see who we get.”

The quarterfinal draw is set for 8 a.m. ET Friday. You can find the full field here.

Europa League quarterfinal field set

AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky
Leave a comment

Longtime Liverpool man Lucas Leiva led Lazio into the UEFA Europa League, as eight teams not await Friday morning’s quarterfinal draw.

[ MORE: Arsenal blasts Milan ]

Three rounds stand between these teams and an automatic berth in the UEFA Champions League, though that does not seem to be an issue for several via league standing (chiefly Atletico Madrid).

AC Milan, Lyon, Borussia Dortmund, and Zenit Saint-Petersburg were among the eight sides dumped out of the tournament on Thursday.

Atletico Madrid
CSKA Moscow
RB Leipzig
RB Salzburg
Sporting Lisbon