10. James Milner Transfer Fee: FREE Appearances: 28 Goals: 5
The loss of Steven Gerrard at the end of last season signalled the end of an era for Reds – not since the 1998/9 season has a Reds side turned out without their midfield talisman. It was never going to be easy to adjust, but the signing of James Milner was definitely a step in the right direction. Despite spending the majority of the last few seasons on the fringes for both club and country, Milner came to Liverpool not as a player who was used to being on the bench, but a player who was determined to prove a point! Taking to the role of stand-in captain as easily as he did the role of right-midfield, Milner stepped up to the challenge of leading a young Liverpool side in transition, chipping in with a career-high 14 assists in the process.
9. Andre Ayew Transfer Fee: FREE Appearances: 34 Goals: 12
Signings from Ligue 1 have a track record of being ‘consistently inconsistent’, with most of them taking months to settle in (providing they even settle in at all), but the same cannot be said about Andre Ayew. If it wasn’t for the Ghanaian’s early season form and end of season performances, Swansea would have found themselves in a much tougher battle for premier league survival. His versatility and willingness to fill in as a winger, second striker and main striker covered for the dip in form of players around him at various points in tge season (Jefferson Montero, Wayne Routledge and Bafetimbi Gomis in particular) and to top it all off, he cost the Swans absolutely nothing!
8. The Entire Watford Squad Transfer Value: £ £27.4 million
Ok maybe that was a bit of an exaggeration, but it might as well be! Watford made a total of 15 signings this summer, more than any other team in the top-flight, a big risk considering that the last newly-promoted team to do this, QPR, were relegated after struggling to gel. Many people tipped Watford to go down at the beginning of the season, due to the unprecedented amount of new faces at the club, coming from all across the globe (18 different nationalities to be exact), but communication never seemed to be an issue for the Hornets.
Under the management of Spaniard Quique Sanchez Flores, Watford’s comradory and performances won the club many admirers, not to mention their shock wins over some of the league’s biggest teams. A standout 3-0 win against Liverpool being the highlight of their season and finishing in 13th place (the former I’d prefer not to go into detail about).
7. Anthony Martial Transfer Fee: £36 million Appearances:31 Goals:11
Overpriced. Too Young. Unproven. All words that were thrown in the direction on Anthony Martial when he first signed for Manchester United. 10 months on and the only two words you’ll be hearing used to describe him are “good business”. In the sea of mediocrity that was Manchester United’s summer signings, Martial proved himself to be a head and shoulders above Old Trafford’s other new arrival from his very first game (an electrifying debut against Liverpool that I don’t care to talk about). As the season went on Martial not only managed to establish himself as United’s best signing but also as their most potent goal threat, not bad for a kid they were calling a waste of money at the beginning of the season.
6. Kevin De Bruyne Transfer Fee: £55 million Appearances: 25 Goals: 7
When Jose Mourinho AND Chelsea both view you as surplus to requirements, the only way to go is down…. clearly Kevin De Bruyne wasn’t told this. Since returning to the Premier League De Bruyne has made the made the £55 million transfer fee City paid for him in the summer seem like an absolute bargain, and morever made Chelsea’s decision to sell him for a measly £18 million to Wolfburg look like nothing short of daylight robbery.
City’s early season form and mid/end of season capitulation did not come out of the blue. De Bruyne was fit when they were winning and injured when they were losing, it’s as simple as that. Toure and Silva’s influence on the team is not what it once was and De Bruyne picked up the slack for both of them in the goalscoring department and as the team’s creative spark. If it wasn’t for his injury he would find himself much higher on this list, and City probably would have been celebrating securing another Premier League title.
5. Toby Alderweireld Transfer Fee: £11.5 million Appearances: 38 Goals: 4
Played EVERY single minute of EVERY Single game. Toby Alderweireld was an ever-present in Tottenham’s back four this season, playing an integral part in their title-challenge and eventual 3rd place league finish (the highest in their history).
Before the signing of Alderweireld, Tottenham had one of the leakiest defences in the league, trying (and failing) to partner Jan Verthonghen with Younes Kaboul, Vlad Chricles and Eric Dier over the course of last season. The answer was simple, pair Verthonghen with a defender he’d already built a formidable partnership with at international level and during his days at Ajax… Enter Toby Alderweireld.
Since signing from Southampton, Alderweireld slotted seamlessly into the Tottenham defence, providing Verthonghen with the cover he needed to carry the ball up the field without fear of leaving gaps in the defence. Even more impressive than Alderweireld’s partnership with Verthonghen was how he took the challenge of replacing Verthonghen when he was out injured. The Belgian international provided Spurs with the solid defensive base to build their attacks on, whilst getting himself on the scoresheet on 4 different occasions, including goals against Manchester City, Arsenal and Manchester United.
4.Delle Alli Transfer Fee: £5 million Appearances : 33 Goals: 10
Technically Dele Alli signed for Tottenham last season, but didn’t make his debut until this year so he’s still eligible for a place on this list. Just thought I’d clear that up before the comment section gets flooded by people ‘keen’ to point that out.
Now onto Dele Alli. Last season Tottenham’s over reliance on Kane could only take them as high as 5th place, but since Alli’s arrival, Kane and tottenham have climbed to new heights (golden boot winner and 3rd place finish) and much of this can be credited to Alli’s arrival.
Although the 19 year-old’s partnership with Kane was the most prolific in the league, his own individual performances have garnered just as much acclaim from football fans everywhere – earning him the FA Young Player Of The Year Award. It’s hard to believe that last season Alli was playing for MK Dons in League 1 and just a year on, he was scoring one of the goals of the season against Crystal Palace. If this debut season is anything to go on, we can expect many more goals, assists and moments of magic from the young Englishman for seasons to come.
3. Petr Cech Transfer Fee: £10 million Appearances: 34 Clean Sheets: 16
More than a few eyebrows (and fists) were raised when Arsene Wenger only made 1 summer signing despite the club’s apparent need for a striker and a defensive midfielder, he opted to sign a goalkeeper. However, what they failed to take into consideration was that Arsenal were signing one of the best goalkeepers in Premier League history… Petr Cech.
This signing was probably the most needed of all.
The gunners’ goalkeeper problem can be traced all the way back to the departure of Jens Lehman to Stuttgart in 2006. Since then Arsenal have tried several keepers between the sticks (Manuel Almunia, Lukas Fabianski and Wojiech Szczeny), each as unconvincing as the one who came before them. However, Petr Cech’s signing has put an end to that problem. Petr Cech’s presence alone settled the nerves of Arsenal’s back four, transforming them into the Premier League’s best defence and regaining his place as the best keeper in the league (16 clean sheets) all within the space of a season.
2. Dimitri Payet Transfer Fee: £10.7 million Appearances: 30 Goals: 9
Dimitri Payet’s ability has never been in question. But his application and willingness to contribute to his team has always casted a cloud over his career. This season Payet has not only lifted this cloud and his own performances, but also lifted the bar of what we’ve come to expect from players who occupy the number 10 role.
The trickery and explosiveness of Payet caught all of us off guard, especially the defenders who were unlucky enough to have come up against him.
Much like when we first saw Jay Jay Okocha play for Bolton, we were all left thinking the same thing when we saw Dimitri Payet play for West Ham… “How did they manage to secure such a world-class talent and why did no one else sign them?? “
Good players are judged on their own performances. Great players are judged on their ability to raise the performances of those around them. Payet has proven himself to be one of those great players. Much of the focus of Payet’s play has been on his outstanding ability in dead ball situations, but the chances he created for his teammates were just as influential towards West Ham’s rise to an unprecedented 7th place finish, laying on 12 assists throughout a season that many fail to realise was injury hit campaign for the Frenchman.
1. N’golo Kante Transfer Fee: £5.6 million Appearances: 37 Goals: 1
Most Tackles in Europe’s top five leagues (175), Most Interceptions in Europe’s top five leagues (156) and a Premier League winners medal. The list of statistical achievements are just as long as the list of superlatives when it comes to describing this man’s first season in England’s top-flight.
It’s hard to believe that at the beginning of the season Leicester fans were petitioning to try and get Esteban Cambiasso stay at the club, despite their best efforts he left for Olympiakos. This turned out to be the best thing that could have happened to the club!
His replacement? A little known Frenchman by the name of N’Golo Kante…
Without Kante Leicester would not have won the Premier League. FACT.
Kante’s tireless running and outstanding defensive displays made it look like Leicester were playing with 12 men on the pitch at times; there was never a pass or opposition player that made it through the Leicester midfield without being hunted down by Kante.
However, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Kante’s ability to disrupt play was only one dimension of his game. He was also the foundation of Leicester’s counter-attacking play, carrying the ball from deep and putting the ball on a plate for the likes of Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez to do the rest.
For all the reasons above Kante is undeniably the best signing of the 2015/6 season, not just in the Premier League but probably even across the whole of Europe.
Let’s see if he ends up on this list again next season, because it will be a struggle for Leicester to hold onto their midfield dynamo.