Some have moved countries; others have moved mere counties, but, eight games into one of the most unpredictable Premier League campaigns in its era, how have the new boys faired?
Attainment C, Effort B
Since arriving in Wales after a £5 million move from Liverpool, Jonjo Shelvey has failed to make an impression: the feted prospect at Charlton, the unrealised potential in Merseyside, now the personification of average at Swansea.
According to WhoScored.com Shelvey is ill disciplined, often loses concentration and demonstrates ineptitude when it comes to tackling, characteristics compiled from statistics recorded in the Premier League this season.
Yet, more interestingly, according to the same website, and according to the same statistics collected this season, Shelvey has no significant strengths to his game: he is, quite frankly ineffectual.
Granted, at 21 he is still developing, nevertheless, he has not exhibited any defining talents following his move from the Addicks. Unlike fellow youngsters tipped for stardom of his generation, namely Jack Wilshere, Danny Welbeck and, more recently, Andros Townsend, Shelvey has no distinctive or outstanding talents that mean he demands attention.
Belying ESPN’s diagnosis of the midfielder’s strengths: “His distribution is excellent, reads the game well and has an eye for goal”, Shelvey has not reached double figures in the goal scoring charts for any of the clubs he has represented, including a total of 89 appearances for Charlton and Liverpool. Moreover, he has failed to display an outstanding ability to pass the ball, with only 1 assist made this season coupled with a mere 85% pass completion rate, measly in comparison to positional rival Leon Britton’s 91.1% last term.
His talents are typified by his return to Anfield earlier this campaign, a game in which he gifted his old teammates two guilt edge chances in quick succession after scoring the opener. I will concede the Londoner dispatched his first chance with poise and composure after a fortunate ricochet, but the lack of fundamental mental and technical capabilities resulted in goals from Daniel Sturridge and Victor Moses. Simply, he is not good enough, and has done little to convince them that there is more in his repertoire.
Discontent fans flooded forums: “Shelvey is having a mare”, “It was a stupid f*cking pass”, yet Brendan Rodgers summarised Shelvey’s performance, and, some may argue, his season, with three brutally patronising words, “Jonjo, bless him.”
The pupil content to let lessons pass him by, rarely expressing interest in any subject, and seldom articulating any determination to improve.
Attainment A+, Effort A
Mesut Ozil arrived at the Emirates amidst an almost indescribable concoction of emotions, the most ardent Gunners where ecstatic on discovering the midfielder would be an Arsenal player, the less emotionally immersed fans were sceptical that the acquisition would merely paper over the cracks, while neutrals were just stunned to see Wenger spend some money.
Unmindful of the hysteria, Ozil has enjoyed a flawless integration into England’s top flight, with supporters waxing lyrical about his talents. Without delving into the gross hyperbole of the Emirates regulars, Ozil has been immaculate. He embodies grace and style on the ball, with an uncanny habit of retaining it, yet he is not the type of player who devotes his entire game to simply maintaining possession. His immeasurable influence and guile have silenced even Wenger’s most pessimistic critics.
Arsenal’s new number 11 has scored 2 goals for Arsenal and set up 3, while obtaining an average rating of 8 in the Premier League and a Man of the Match award: impressive reading. Moreover, ‘der neue Diego’, a flattering nickname sourced from his days at German outfit Werder Bremen after the Brazilian attacking midfielder, created as many assists as the Prem’s leading playmakers, in a fractured final season at the Bernabeu.
The only blemish of his faultless start in London is the fear that the physicality and tempo of the league will catch up with him. There was indication that Ozil may be feeling the effects of such a hectic fixture schedule as he limped off injured on international duty last week, yet he returned the following week to bag a brace in an inspired performance against a startled Norwich City.
The pupil who sits at the back of the class; laid-back, almost enigmatic in his nature, yet incredibly observant and effortlessly intelligent.
Attainment B+, Effort C
There is a lot to be said for Joe Kinnear, but if he achieved one thing this summer, it is the purchase of French hitman Loic Remy. Tall, quick, clinical: Remy is just the antidote the Magpies needed for a sickeningly lacklustre effort last season, only maintaining their status as a Premier League club by the skin of their teeth.
He arrived to a mixed reception in Newcastle in light of allegations associating him to a gang rape, alas, Remy won over the Toon army with stunning displays against the likes of Cardiff and Hull. After appearing 6 times in a black and white jersey, including one brief substitute appearance, Remy has netted 5 goals and accomplished a 7.51 average rating in the league.
His contribution in the creation of chances is small, with a few sporadic touches at most, yet his contribution to the chance itself is invaluable for Newcastle. His composure, confidence and instinctive nature make Remy a feared marksman, with an ice cold streak present in all exceptional poachers. Many have likened his loan move in the North East with Lukaku’s successful spell at West Brom last term and Sturridge’s formative period at Bolton years ago.
According to Harry Redknapp, Remy is “a 10 to 15-goal a season man”. The Newcastle faithful concur, over two thirds of fans voting in a poll that Remy will find the net between 6 and 15 times in the forthcoming season. Eight games in, and he is already a single goal away from equaling even the most cynical fans’ predictions.
The pupil who adds little to class discussion and remains quiet in group tasks, making meticulous notes and studying shrewdly. Also copes very well under the pressure of exams.
Attainment C, Effort A
Iago Aspas arrived in Liverpool surrounded by intrigue and anticipation: an enthusiastic, goal scoring Spaniard, the first player to fit that description since Fernando Torres moved to Merseyside in 2007.
However, Liverpool’s new number 9 has failed to impress. He creates the impression of a young, overzealous and eager forward, keen to impress and improve; a player still developing. This is an image that contradicts his age, at 26, the forward should be reaching the pinnacle of his career, instead he has picked up more yellow cards than goals and assists combined, and achieved a pitiful average rating of 6.29 in 6 appearances this season.
He seems to lack the presence of mind to function with any success in the top division, often he appears to be oblivious of development around him. His all round game is almost immature: he picks up yellow cards frequently, misplaces passes and, when he receives the ball in promising areas, he rarely shows any vision or consideration for the movement around him, instead he gives the impression that he has a single minded focus on the ball, an impression compounded by his stooped running style.
Conversely, although he has tendencies to ignore his surroundings with the ball at his feet, nobody can question Aspas’ work rate and determination. He runs diligently, to the fans’ delight, chasing loose balls and sloppy defensive errors. Additionally, Aspas has, undoubtedly, got talent; he was scintillating last season for Celta Vigo, scoring and creating chances with ease. The diminutive forward was commonly referred to as ‘El Salvador’, literally meaning ‘the saviour’, because of his terrific performances in Spain preventing Celta Vigo being relegated.
On the other hand, Aspas’ pass success rate is a shocking 76.6%, a figure that seems even more pathetic when compared to Luis Suarez’s 81.1% pass success rate. In addition, his incompetence at this level is reflected by the fact he completes 0.2 dribbles a game, whereas fellow strikers Suarez and Sturridge complete 2.7 and 2.1 dribbles every game, respectively. Aspas’ stats are frighteningly underwhelming, particularly when you consider he has made more appearances than the exciting Victor Moses.
The conscientious pupil who toils tirelessly in lessons, striving to improve and impress, but consistently underachieving due to basic errors.
Attainment B+, Effort A-
After making over 70 appearances with French giants Lyon, Dejan Lovren joined Southampton for an undisclosed fee on a four year deal. At 24, the Croat’s CV makes for remarkable reading: the stopper has enjoyed lengthy careers with Dinamo Zagreb and Inter Zapresic before his move to Western Europe.
His chief attribute is his anticipation: an uncanny ability to read the game and make interceptions, halting potent attacks from the opposition. Furthermore, the 6 foot 2 inch centre half is classy and elegant, epitomising a ball playing defender and capturing crowds with his impeccably well-timed challenges and remarkable range of passing.
The senior sports reporter at the Press, Gordon Simpson, believes Lovren could be “one of the shrewdest acquisitions of the summer”, a statement that could prove to be prophetic one if Lovren can maintain his form at St. Mary’s.
Lovren is forming a partnership at the back with Jose Fonte reminiscent of the glory days in Southampton with stalwarts Michael Svensson and Claus Lundekvam. Lovren wins more aerial duels than any other player in Southampton’s squad, on average, further indication of Lovren’s capabilities at the heart of the Saints’ rearguard.
The Saints’ defence, led by the Croat, have been miserly this term, conceding only 3 goals in their first 8 games, including clean sheets against the likes of Liverpool and Swansea.
Lovren stated “I have it in my mind to do something big” upon his arrival in the South. Something big is certainly developing at the heart of the Saint’s defence.
The pupil that astonishes with an eloquence and intelligence belying his towering frame and almost intimidating appearance.