1. Glen Johnson, Portsmouth-Liverpool, Â£17m
Rafa has spent infrequently but well this transfer window, buying good players for key positions – even if some sales (such as Arebeloa) still mean he’s short of high quality back-up. Johnson’s no exception – he’s the best right-back in the league but there’s no one to cover him should he get injured, at least until some other defenders are back off the physio’s table or Insua and Aurelio can play rightfooted. But while he’s still playing, Johnson is able to run with the ball, cut inside and score a few goals; him and Kuyt should make an industrious, troublesome pair down the right. His defending improved when Tony Adams was coach at Portsmouth and practical Rafa should bring that side of Johnson’s game on at least.
2. Alberto Aquilani, AS Roma-Liverpool, Â£20m
Xabi Alonso moving to Real Madrid is obviously a massive blow – Liverpool won 67% of games when he played during his last two years for the Reds – but at least Benitez has spent two-thirds of Alonso’s transfer fee quickly and well. Aquilani won’t be available to play for a few weeks due to injury, but when he’s fit the Italian is expected to be more attacking than Alonso (he’s just as capable of scoring spectacular goals, even if he – like almost everyone else – lacks the Spaniard’s passing range) and get amongst the action in the final third. Does this mean Rafa is becoming less defensive, leaving Mascherano with sole defensive-midfield responsibilty? Or will Gerrard have to drop back a bit more? An exciting signing wherever he fits in, any case.
3. Michael Owen, Newcastle-Manchester United, free (out of contract)
After all those rumoured returns to Anfield, the former Boy Wonder’s latest destination couldn’t have been much further in the other direction. His impressive pre-season form (four goals in four games on United’s Asian tour) is making this look less like a bizarre gamble by Fergie and more and more like a mutually benifical transfer, especially with Owen on a two-year, play/performance-based contract. His experience will help Rooney, Welbeck and Macheda, while if he can find any sort of form other defenders should be worried: despite being either injured or playing for Newcastle (which is worse?), Owen had the best shots-to-goals ration in the league last season, with 29.6% going in.
4. Peter Crouch, Portsmouth-Tottenham Hotspur, Â£10m
The tenth move of Crouch’s career makes him the most paid for English striker ever (total transfer fees of Â£35m). He says he wants to finish his career at Spurs; his refusal to settle down so far makes some people question his committement; but his goal scoring record – 115 in 343 games, plus 16 in 34 for England – show why everyone from Rafa to Redknapp (twice) has wanted him at some point. He should be a success at Spurs, ensuring himself a place in the World Cup squad and maybe even a trophy, as long he can displace Pavlychenko and Defoe.
5. Various players, Various clubs-Manchester City, Â£stupidmoney
Mark Hughes has spent only a fraction of his boss’ Â£33bn fortune on a list of players that looks impressive: Tevez, Barry, Adebayor, Toure, Santa Cruz. But they’re all want-aways, sulkers and rumour-magnets who’ve decided to move down the league table and out of European competition (bar Santa Cruz, who’s moved five places up). Add them to Bellamy, Robinho and Stephen Ireland and that’s a squad that could get very grumpy, very quickly if players aren’t playing/winning/getting paid as much the other guy. Hughes is going to have to be an expert man-manager to keep his whole squad happy, and add some decent defenders if he wants a team with balance that will win anything.
6. Jo, Manchester City-Evertan, loan
Why City don’t just give Jo to another club when they’ve got so many other strikers, so much money and he’s not part of Hughes’ plans is a mystery. It would be a charitable PR move if nothing else. Perhaps they saw what he can do during his loan at Everton last season (five goals in 12 games) and want to be able to call him back should the current ‘project’ not work out. With Jo as a figurehead, Everton have a decent attack when a selection of Cahill, Yakubu, Saha, Arteta, Fellaini and Pienaar are uninjured. He provides some much-needed manpower and height to the Toffees’ small, injury-prone squad.
7. Fabian Delph, Leeds–Aston Villa, Â£6m
Alongside Charlton’s Jonjo Shelvey, Fabian Delph was the most talented midfielder outside the Premier League last season. Now that Martin O’Neill has shown yet more faith in young English players, Delph is one of the most talented young midfielders in the top flight. He’s only 19 and his tackling can be a bit wild (13 yellow cards last season), but former Liverpool and Villa defender Steve Staunton, who coached him at Leeds, called the Â£6m (potentially rising to Â£8m) fee a “bargain”. The Gareth Barry-shaped hole in Villa’s midfield might get filled swiftly indeed.
8. Joe Hart, Manchester City-Birmingham, loan
Birmingham will be glad they got Joe Hart on loan before the European U21 Championships, where he was formidable (saving and scoring in the semi-final shoot-out against Sweden), even if he missed the final through unfortunate suspension (where England then lost 4-0), and City might have reconsidered letting him go. Unfairly displaced by Shay Given mid-way through last season, Hart will be hoping to show Hughes and Capello a thing or two before the World Cup in South Africa.
9. Daniel Sturridge, Manchester City–Chelsea, Â£TBC
There were 10 other strikers at City when Sturridge left, which makes it seem less like he was ‘doing a Sidwell’ (moving for more momey/less games) by going to Chelsea and more like a good career move. With only Anelka, Drogba and no other out-and-out strikers ahead of him at Chlease, the 19-year-old who Robinho called his favourite player at City should at least get to come of the bench regularly and a cup run. Ancelotti was impressed with his movement on the Blues US tour, while he also has a decent passing range for a striker.
10. Steve Finnan, Espanyol-Portsmouth, free
The former Reds favourite is back in the Premier League after only four games and bunch of injuries for Espanyol, where he mutually terminated his contract with two years left to go. While Portsmouth might be leaking players and cash, an the addition of another experienced defender won’t do them any harm, especially if Campbell and/or Distin leave, and hopefully Finnan can do a better job on the south coast than another ex-Liverpool, Champions League-winning full-back. Yes, that’s you, Djimi.
Stephen Eddie is a neutral football fan and freelance journalist currently working in London. Visit his blog at Pulling Shapes.