The five most-interesting transfers so far, part II
With a few days left on the football summer transfer market, we already had some very interesting signings all across Europe. After analysing some of them thanks to our contributor Edward Stratmann, we realize that 5 of them weren’t enough to appreciate some of the most influencing transfers of the summer. So, we ask him to analyse five more, trying to predict how they will fit in their new teams. Enjoy!
Pépé to Arsenal
Wanting to bring in some attacking reinforcements, Arsenal decision to sign Nicolas Pépé was a brilliant way to do precisely that. Having scored 22 goals and supplied 11 assists for Lille last season, he was an instrumental figure in them achieving a memorable second-place finish. Possessing that unique ability to both score and create, the Ivory Coast international will be a real asset to Unai Emery’s men.
Blessed with searing pace and an ability to expertly time and direct his runs, this ensures he’s a nightmare for defenders to keep tabs on. Varying his movement so effectively, he targets gaps between defenders, their blindside and takes advantage when they lose concentration. This means he regularly breaches backlines to get in behind.
Granted plenty of freedom to drift infield from his usual right-wing post under Christophe Galtier at Lille, he also relished occupying infield spaces, where he could either shoot, dribble or combine with the likes of Jonathan Bamba, Jonathan Ikone, Loic Remy and Rafael Leao. An unpredictable and elusive proposition due to his wicked dribbling, Pépé can beat his man in many ways. Be it with nifty changes of pace and direction, feints, shoulder drops or stepovers, he’s very effective at outfoxing his marker.
Always on the lookout to unlock defences with his passing, Pépé‘s creativity and incision see him manufacture many openings for his colleagues, with his slicing through balls especially notable. A wonderful finisher to boot, he displayed his composure and enviable capacity to find the back of the net in all types of situations. On top of being an adept penalty taker, he’s also great in 1v1s with the keeper, instinctive inside the box, hits driven efforts with conviction and can place his shots calmly.
By the numbers from last season, his 0.5 goals p90, 0.26 assists p90, 2.79 shots p90, 3.66 dribbles p90, 2.53 progressive runs p90, 1.64 shot assists p90, 2.91 touches inside the box p90 and the fact he was fouled 2.73 times p90 demonstrate his quality. One of the most wanted players in Europe this transfer window, Arsenal have done beautifully to snap up the gifted 24-year-old. Watching him strut his stuff in the Premier League should be a real treat for the Gunners faithful, as he looks set for a terrific career at the Emirates.
Veretout to Roma
While not as high profile as many other Serie A transfers, AS Roma’s acquisition of Jordan Veretout is a very slick piece of business indeed. Joining after two successful campaigns at Fiorentina, where he established himself as one of the finest central midfielders in Serie A, he looks set to be a key component of Paulo Fonseca’s exciting Roma project.
Capable of playing as a holder, as an attacking midfielder or in a box to box role, the tactically intelligent Frenchman’s versatility should offer Fonseca plenty of tactical flexibility as to how best deploy him. It is expected that he’ll play as one of the two central midfielders, though, a position he’ll have no issues operating in. A player bereft of any real weaknesses, he’ll be a steady contributor on both sides of the ball.
To start with his defensive output, and he tucks into his work in a robust, smart and competitive way. So good at positioning himself to ensure compactness and to block off passing lanes, his tactical understanding is key. Furthermore, he recognises when to drop back, shift across, step up or help teammates due to his awareness.
Seeing as Fonseca will look to implement a structured pressing strategy, the former Aston Villa man will have no worries adjusting to this, for he’s excellent in this regard. Full of conviction in his pressing, he gets at his opponents intensely, to force turnovers and unclean actions. Once his team loses the ball, he’s just as effective, for he’s quick to react and counter-press so the opposition finds it tough to launch a counter of their own.
When it comes to his offensive exertions, he’s just as effective. Weighting his passes ideally and with accuracy, he progresses the ball through the thirds nicely. Concise and coherent in his decisions and actions, he’s subsequently excellent during the build-up. Importantly, he’s very capable of creating chances higher up by hitting some splitting through balls over the top and on the ground.
Composed with the ball at his feet and a man who rarely gives away possession, he’ll offer security and incision to Roma’s possession phases. Accompanying this with his clever movement, which sees him neatly identify spaces within the opposition block to exploit, his reading of the play is at an advanced level. Forever scanning and assessing what’s going on around him, his positional sense is fantastic for supplying teammates with options. Set to be a key cog under the tactically astute Fonseca, the Giallorossi’s capture of Veretout is unquestionably a shrewd acquisition.
Gelson Martins to AS Monaco
After leaving Atletico Madrid on loan last January to join AS Monaco, the move worked out wonderfully for Gelson Martins. Regaining his confidence and finding some excellent form on his way to scoring four goals and supplying four assists, the Monegasques have now secured him permanently.
Such a threat with the ball at his feet, the Portuguese flyer’s dribbling is a huge weapon of his. Boasting a solid first touch and neat ball control, this forms a strong platform from which to undertake his work. Thriving in 1v1 duels and in any scenario where he has time and space to run into, he uses cunning feints, shimmies and his wicked speed to beat his markers. Executing his actions so quickly, this means defenders struggle to respond quickly enough to his movements.
Another aspect of his game that warrants special mention is his movement. Knowing when to burst in behind or drop short, he does a sterling job of destabilising opposition backlines. Directing his runs smartly, he effectively stretches defensive units, as he combines the afore with his blistering speed to gain an edge.
Competent at venturing infield to find space, he provides another positive central option while notably creating room out wide for his fullback. His statistics depict his menace, as he enjoyed 1.89 shots p90, 3.28 successful dribbles p90, 1.95 progressive runs p90, 3.89 touches inside the box p90 and was fouled 1.52 times p90 while on loan at Monaco in the second half of last season. Giving Monaco another dimension in attack, Martins could be a real game-changer as his team plans to return to the European places after a disappointing 2018/2019 that threatened to end in relegation.
Frenkie De Jong to Barcelona
One of the most high profile deals of the summer, Barcelona’s signing of Frenkie De Jong is one littered with upside. Ambitious and full of personality on the ball, the entertaining Dutch midfielder will unquestionably add plenty of attacking impetus to Barcelona.
A player who looks to progress his team through the thirds by breaking the lines with both his dribbling and passing, de Jong’s fantastic at disrupting defensive schemes. Courtesy of his wizardry on the dribble, he can breeze by foes with a trademark feint or a tidy piece of control or skill, which also regularly sees him attract one or more markers to free up a colleague upfield.
The fact he can generate moments of magic via his passing will be another key feature, especially seeing as Barcelona will be up against many deep sitting defensive blocks. Confident in his ability and never shy to play the expansive pass, he’s so good at setting teammates up to be in ideal positions to score or breathe life into attacks. Superb at switching the angle of attacks, hitting penetrative line-breaking passes, launching pinpoint through balls or combining intricately in close quarters, his distribution will be vital.
Supplementing this with his intuitive movement, which sees him aware of his surroundings due to his positional sense and head scanning, this will give his teammates many options. Recognising when to drop deep to aid build-up, support wide attacks, push upfield, occupy the half-spaces or run in behind, he’s a menace to mark. Popping up in pockets all over the pitch, his persistent probing catches markers off guard efficiently.
A player who’ll be perfectly suited to Barcelona’s style and thrive playing alongside some of the world’s finest players, the 22-year-old appears destined for a long and successful career at the Catalan giants.
Hummels to Borussia Dortmund
Falling just short in their push for the Bundesliga title, Borussia Dortmund knew they needed to add some extra experience and quality into their defensive ranks this summer. And the acquisition of Mats Hummels goes a long way to addressing this.
Returning to Dortmund after three years with Bayern Munich, Hummels will add some essential nous, leadership and composure to Lucien Favre’s side. This should inherently help make them a much more formidable outfit to break down. Moreover, with Favre’s team preferring to not play a high line, this should suit the 30-year-old ideally, for he won’t be exposed too often against quicker attackers. A stopper who operates with authority and conviction, he’s positionally sound and does a solid job of knowing when to drop back, shift across, step out, pick up a runner or help a teammate.
Indeed, his organisational skills should see him assist the likes of Manuel Akanji and Dan-Axel Zagadou, as he’ll be constantly monitoring the shape of the backline. A real force to be reckoned with in aerial duels, Hummels’ aptitude here means he’ll win the majority of his headers. As a result, Dortmund will be a lot better equipped to win second balls, defend set pieces and handle crosses into the box. Applying his challenges with just the right amount of force, this allied with his reading of the play ensures he cuts out many attacks while imposing himself physically on his adversaries.
Meanwhile, in terms of his offensive worth, Hummels will contribute heavily due to his masterful passing and ability to carry the ball forward. An expert at provoking pressing actions due to his coolness in possession, he’s so good at then exploiting the spaces that arise further up. Executing his actions with clarity and conviction, his superb passing will make life easier for Favre’s team to not only maintain possession but also to cut through the press. Boasting great vision and awareness, Hummels’ vertical passing into the feet of his attackers, raking long balls, searing through balls and capacity to recirculate possession ensure he’s the ideal candidate to orchestrate play from deep.
With Dortmund desperate to knock off Bayern this time around, the signing of the accomplished Hummels might just be enough to tip the scales in their favour.