Football Features

How the Premier League’s three ‘game-changing’ signings could affect the Big Six

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 18:28, 23 July 2019

The transfer window is open for another three weeks but the Premier League’s ‘Big Six’ have seen game-changing signings already.

All the sides have been active in the market, not equally but, still, no one’s “doing a Spurs” from last year and sitting things out. But three signings, in particular, are not just good but potentially game-changing for the clubs that made them.

Rodri for Manchester City, Aaron Wan-Bissaka for Manchester United and Tanguy Ndombele for Spurs. We’ll be having at look at why these three players are going to be such game-changers for their clubs. Moreover, we’ll look at three signings the other ‘Big Six’ sides should be making to have an equally game-changing effect.

Rodri to Manchester City

The rich get richer. Well, not literally as Manchester City had to shell out €70m to bring Rodri over from Atlético Madrid. But they get so much better as a footballing side. It’s quite absurd, really. Their one weakness was their lack of continuity at defensive midfield – their only realistic option being the 34-year-old Fernandinho – and they not only found another body there but it’s a player who improves them.

Every great Pep Guardiola side has always had a world-class pivot. Sergio Busquets and Xabi Alonso did the job for Barcelona and Bayern Munich. Manchester City have been getting by with Fernandinho but as good as he has been, the Brazilian is not in the same class as the Spaniards Pep had previously coached. In Rodri, they now have the third-best defensive midfielder on the planet (behind Busquets and Frenkie de Jong); a player who can recycle possession, mop up counters and control the tempo of matches with supreme serenity. Buckle up, sports fans, this could get hairy!

Tanguy Ndombele to Spurs

Spurs didn’t sign anyone last summer, so any signing would have been a game-changer. But to break the dry spell with a signing like this? Oh man, this is pretty spectacular. Purely as a player, Tanguy Ndombele is a sensation. A do-it-all midfielder who’s like Moussa Sissoko except younger and better. Imagine that!

But what makes Ndombele so game-changing for Spurs is everything else. This is one of the hottest prospects in football, and he wound up at Spurs. Not Manchester United, PSG or Real Madrid (all were linked) but Spurs. And not only did they beat them all to the player but they even showed a willingness to flex some financial muscle in the process. He cost £60m, a fee which doubles the previous Spurs record. Before he had even kicked a ball, Ndombele was a game-changer. What’s going to happen once he starts playing?

Aaron Wan-Bissaka to Manchester United

Manchester United’s defence was, well, it was bad. United haven’t had a specialist right-back play consistently since Gary Neville about 15 years ago. Since then, they’ve used some versatile back-ups (Wes Brown and John O’Shea) promising wing-backs (Rafael and Fabio) and then, well, Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young. The two were serviceable for a while, they became a problem at least two years ago. With either of them at right-back, United’s backline was laborious in defence (especially transition defence) and atrocious in attack.

Wan-Bissaka arrives for a massive price (£60m) but he is a truly game-changing signing for Manchester United. Here is a full-back who is not only a specialist but a phenomenal, relentless defender. He’s not the best attacker, true, but he has bags of athletic ability, stamina and is arguably the best defender at the club despite being a full-back. You don’t get past Wan-Bissaka, it’s just not done. Having a defender who can lock down an entire flank while also providing covering runs and tackles in transition is going to be monumental.

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Liverpool

The Reds won last season’s Champions League so, in many ways, one could ask what exactly needs improving? Well, there’s always something. As yet, Liverpool have merely let players return from loan or let them leave. They’ve not made a significant addition to the squad but if they want to progress as a side (and at the elite edge of the game, standing still may as well be going backwards) they have to move.

What are Liverpool lacking right now? An attacking midfielder to unlock stubborn defences and even rotate with the forwards if need be. Liverpool had a lot of luck to hit 97 points last season and relied heavily on their full-backs for creativity (both had double figures in league assists). That kind of thing is amazing but probably not repeatable, so they need a more consistent creator.

The man they should target for that spot? Philippe Coutinho. Yes, the man they sold to kick-start their recent period of brilliance is the one they need to bring back to hit the next level. He knows the players, he knows the system, and he’s been sufficiently humbled by failure in Barcelona that he’d be motivated as all hell to help Liverpool win their first Premier League for over 30 years.

Arsenal

Arsenal are a club in very real danger of spiralling out of relevance as an elite, Champions League side. Years of coasting under Arsene Wenger left Unai Emery with an anaemic squad and not enough funds to truly fix it. There’s so much that Arsenal need that almost any player would be a game-changer, but the one thing that could be solved by one man is the attack.

In defence, they have too many needs for any one player to be a game-changer. But in attack? They have so much quality they’re just missing someone who can carry the ball. A dribbling winger would be transcendent for Arsenal. Someone who can carry the ball past opponents, leaving them for dead and unlocking teams via methods beyond the pass. The Gunners attempted the 14th-most dribbles in 2018/19, fourteenth! They drastically need to up those numbers to become a modern side.

The man for the job? Wilfred Zaha. Crystal Palace’s wing wizard is, with all due respect, better than Crystal Palace. He’d be sensational in north London, carrying the ball as part of a rampaging attack alongside Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette. The potential for magic here is immense.

Manchester United (again)

As Chelsea are banned from signing players, the final slot goes to Manchester United again. The Red Devils and the Gunners are both considerably weaker than the other four sides, but United could take a huge leap into being great with just one more signing whereas Arsenal need a whole host of them.

The position that could fix United is at centre-back. Obviously, they have a need in midfield too but there’s always a chance there that Fred will begin to show his true class. It’s far from impossible. In defence, meanwhile, there’s no one good enough to step up and lead the team. And by goodness do they ever need leading. They conceded 54 goals, their highest total ever in the Premier League era. Wan-Bissaka will help but United need a player in the middle. Not just a great defender but a great leader, too. Someone who can inspire their team-mates.

Harry Maguire is the man here. Sure, Kalidou Koulibaly is better but it’s clear United are focusing on the Leicester man, and with good cause. Yes, the fee is too large but Maguire is a massive, monumental presence both literally and figuratively. Maguire dominates in the air like few others, can carry the ball out with the grace not many can match and he’s got that sense of leadership that United desperately need some of. Hell, if he signed you wouldn’t be surprised if he were named captain, such is his grasp of a captain’s duties. Maguire (and Wan-Bissaka) would be the rocks around which Manchester United’s new defence would build. The most solid foundation that would turn the ‘Big Six’s’ worst defence into one of its best.

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