The Premier League's Best Buys and Biggest Busts of 2014
As we hit the halfway point in the 2014/15 English Premier League season, it’s time to take stock of the winners and losers among the big money signings that were supposed to make the big difference to their teams.
Chelsea appeared to have done the shrewdest business in last summer’s transfer window, but for all its apparent dominance, Jose Mourhino’s team is only a neck ahead of Manchester City and there is still all to play for in 2015.
In contrast, Liverpool squandered all the strides of last season by splashing out on a handful of duds that don’t come close to matching Luis Suarez’s impact on the division before his departure to Spain.
So who were the game changers in the first half of the season – for good and for bad.
1. Alexis Sanchez
The Chilean star shows the same kind of enthusiasm and never-say-die love for the game as Suarez but without all the baggage. His work rate is magnificent but it is his attack with the ball at his feet that has set the premiership alight. The entire stadium collectively holds its breath when he’s buzzing towards goal, the ball stuck tightly to his feet. Barcelona’s loss is Arsenal’s gain. Sanchez has the ability to become a premier league great.
2. Diego Costa
Chelsea’s search for a reliable goal scorer appears to be over. The Spanish bullfighter doesn’t back down from anyone but his uncompromising style is complemented with a delicate skill. He’s not a one dimensional footballer – he’s a penalty box assassin.
3. Cesc Fabregas
Arsenal chose not to take the option to re-sign their former captain from Barcelona and now they – and the rest of the premier league – is paying the price. Fabregas has created more chances than anyone else. More to the point, he looks like he’s having an absolute ball having been given free rein to roam the pitch as he pleases.
4. Diafra Sakho
The Senegalese striker has been a revelation at West Ham since his transfer from the lower reaches of French football. The goals have fallen off a little but Sakho’s speed and touch have played a major role in the Hammers makeover from long ball bores to a passing team that controlled more of the ball than Arsenal in Sunday’s 2:1 loss.
5. Dusan Tadic
Second in assists only to Fabregas, the Serb joined Southampton from FC Twente to plug one of the gaping holes left by the summer exodus of stars like Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert. Mission accomplished.
1. Mario Balotelli
Everybody’s favorite bad boy is running out of chances. He is fast falling out of favor at Liverpool and dragging his manager Brendan Rodgers down with him. It’s fun watching his body language but somebody has better to translate into Italian the reason why he’s being paid all that money – to score goals!
2. Rio Ferdinand.
The former Manchester United defender is spending more time on Twitter than on the field these days despite his move to QPR. Ferdinand was supposed to lord over a new defensive strategy at his new club but kept getting the run-around. Retirement is looming.
3. Dejan Lovren
The Croatian cost a club record free for a defender when he jointed Liverpool in the summer from Southampton but he flattered to deceive while at the Saints with ample protection from midfield. He’s been awfully exposed at Liverpool and the fans already know what the management is being forced to accept; that Lovren simply isn’t the dominating center back they thought they were getting.
4. Bacary Sagna
From first choice full back at Arsenal to back-up at Manchester City. What was the Frenchman thinking when he chose to play second banana to Argentinian hard man Pablo Zabaleta, who carried on playing on Sunday even after picking up a gruesome had wound against Burnley? Money isn’t everything.
5. Eliaquim Mangala
He’s lucky he has Vincent Kompany next to him at the heart of Man City’s defence but his defensive frailties are clear to all. The French international looked vulnerable again against Burnley at the weekend, hardly the toughest test. Look at it on the bright side – there’s plenty of room for improvement.