The 2021 summer transfer window is finally shut, and as the dust settles we observe the changed landscape for Premier League clubs.
It was a summer of considerable business, with every club active in the market. Not all of the business was good, of course, but there have been some truly incredible signings made by Premier League sides.
A massive amount of talent has flowed into the league, and equally, a lot of it has stayed exactly where it is. All of this defined the Premier League’s three winners and three losers in the 2021 summer transfer window.
Who are those clubs? Read on and find out!
Winner: Manchester United
It’s strange that Manchester United can be said to have had a fantastic transfer window when they actually failed to address their biggest problem position of all (central midfield), but it’s absolutely true that the club have had a fantastic window because the players they have signed are all utterly world-class (and Tom Heaton).
Seriously, their transfer incomings are Jadon Sancho, one of the most phenomenal young talents in the world and the only man besides Leo Messi to bag 30+ goals and 30+ assists in Europe’s top five leagues since 2018/19. When you’re in a list of two with the best player on the planet, you know you’re special.
Then there’s Raphael Varane aka “Champions League Varane” who is quite literally the best or second-best centre-back on the planet, secured for less than Arsenal paid for Ben White.
Finally Cristiano Ronaldo returned home (although given he was born in Funchal and played more years in Madrid, it’s questionable to call Manchester his home), and despite allegations in his personal life and an obviously declined physical profile given his age, he remains a world-class goalscorer, with a stature at United that will inspire the younger players at the club to step up their level. With Ronaldo up-front, United just might have the firepower to overcome the hole in midfield that they failed to address, making them surefire winners.
Loser: Manchester City
As much as the red half of Manchester celebrated, the blue half was left to curse their luck. Yes, Manchester City broke the British transfer record to sign Jack Grealish, but as a signing, the former Villa man was never needed, per se. Sure, who wouldn’t get better by signing Jack Grealish? City sure have, but he wasn’t the goalscorer or left-back they so desperately need, nor was he the long-term heir to Fernandinho they could probably do with as well (Rodri is a different type of pivot and, for some games, they need Fernandinho’s dynamism).
Of course City tried to sign a goalscorer, but they were twice denied. The Harry Kane saga rumbled on for most of the summer and while it felt inevitable that the striker would eventually join Grealish at City in a £100m+ transfer, Spurs refused to sell for anything but the most ludicrous of prices. So, City had to move on. They thought they could bag Cristiano Ronaldo late in the day, only to be gazumped by cross-city rivals United, leaving them high and dry.
With 24 hours left in the summer transfer window, Chelsea would not have been classified as winners. Yes they signed Romelu Lukaku for £97.5m and he has already done well and will only do better as time goes on. And yes, they sold lots of their young players and raised well over £100m in sales, but their squad had a hole.
They had just three starters for two central midfield positions. And two of those starters have proven to be a tad injury prone, at least lately. N’Golo Kante is so important to Thomas Tuchel’s system and they had no one who could even begin to approximate his skill-set. One Kante injury and their midfield press would be all but gone, and this would destabilise the whole defensive structure their team is built around.
Better Call Saul?
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) August 31, 2021
Then on deadline day, Chelsea left it really late but managed to secure the loan signing (with a purchase option) of Saul from Atletico Madrid. The brilliant Spaniard is an all-around talent who crucially possesses the kind of pressing engine that will allow him to act as a superb back-up for Kante. As a result, Chelsea’s squad is one without a single weakness in it and the Blues should now be considered favourites, not only to win the Premier League, but perhaps to retain the Champions League as well.
2021/22 Premier League winner odds with William Hill
- Manchester City 5/4
- Chelsea 11/4
- Liverpool 9/2
- Manchester United 5/1
- Tottenham Hotspur 33/1
Odds correct at time of writing (10:45 on 02/09/21) 18+ only. Be Gamble Aware
Arsenal needed to have an active transfer window where they addressed the holes in their squad, with quality additions that would lift the club back up to the level they want to be at. And, well, they were very active, signing six players for a combined £147.5m. That’s the most spent by any Premier League club this summer. So why are they losers?
Well, what’s worse than signing a collection of average to above average players? Signing a collection of average to above average players for £147.5m. £50m for a defender like Ben White is absolutely ludicrous. Martin Odegaard has incredible talent but plays the same position as Emile Smith Rowe and, on the evidence of last season, doesn’t play it as well! £34m for him is bonkers. And the less said about signing a back-up goalkeeper for £24m, the better. Moreover they failed to sign a striker, meaning the club has to rely on their overpaid and underperforming captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, rather than selling him and starting afresh.
Arsenal's 2021/22 Premier League season by numbers so far:
◎ 3 games
◎ 0 wins
◎ 0 draws
◎ 3 defeats
◎ 0 goals scored
◎ 9 goals conceded
And they're bottom of the table. pic.twitter.com/zo1rAK1q6H
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) August 28, 2021
Arsenal have now assembled a Europa League squad on a Champions League budget.
Pure loser antics.
Winner: West Ham
The Hammers had a fantastic season in 2020/21, spending most of the campaign among the top seven and in a massive shock, actually finishing there as well! David Moyes’ men had momentum to build for their Europa League campaign, and they’ve done well to do that in a complicated transfer market.
Sure, a week ago it looked like their only major incoming was Craig Dawson on a permanent as defensive cover, and their biggest positive was retaining Declan Rice amid interest from Manchester United and Chelsea. However, a late flurry of activity has seen them add the consistently solid Kurt Zouma in defence, get Alphonse Areola on loan, pick up the dynamic Nikola Vlasic and the promising Armstrong Oko-Flex in attack — who scored a hat-trick in his U23 debut against Arsenal — get rid of Felipe Anderson’s colossal wages and finally add the exciting Alex Kral on loan late in the day.
Liverpool started this window superbly, signing Ibrahima Konate way back in May. However, now we’re in September and they haven’t signed anyone else. Despite losing permanent starter Gini Wijnaldum to PSG on a free transfer, they made no additions in midfield, and will now rely on 18-year-old Harvey Elliott to plug the gap, despite being a completely different kind of player to the Dutchman.
That means that Liverpool have five starters for three midfield positions, three of whom are injury-prone and the fourth has just five career top-flight appearances. The Reds are relying heavily on Fabinho because that lack of midfield depth gives Liverpool the same issues that Chelsea have right now. However, unlike the Blues, they didn’t even sign a new forward to compete with their famed front three. And while Diogo Jota is around and should help, things could get dangerously stale for the Reds up-top. If they do manage to have any success in 2021/22 it will be despite their awful transfer window, not because of it. Jurgen, it’s over to you!