One of the greatest challenges facing any Football manager is to balance the development needs of every member of their squad. Providing an opportunity to one player will mean denying the same opportunity for other players, and sometimes what is best for the development of an individual player is not necessarily what is best for the team.

One time of the year when this is particularly evident is during the early weeks of the season. In many cases, a gradual introduction into the first team will be the best for the player, allowing them to slowly adapt to the team’s tactics, the culture of their new club, and potentially a new language, culture and climate until they are ready for a regular starting role. However, injuries to other players may force a manager to rush this transition and put the new signing straight into the team, or the good form of other players may prolong the process and leave the new signing frustrated by a lack of opportunities.

With the amount of time it takes a player to adapt to a new club dependent on a huge range of factors, the early weeks of the season highlight a variety of different development strategies from each of the respective managers towards their new recruits, but are there any overall trends? The table below shows the three most expensive Summer recruits at each club (where applicable), with a couple of exceptions. Transfers which turned previous loan arrangements into permanent deals such as Tyrone Mings at Aston Villa and Youri Tielemans at Leicester City have not been considered, since they had already gone through that period of adaptation at their new club. Additionally, transfers such as William Saliba to Arsenal and Jack Clarke to Tottenham Hotspur where the transfer deal included an arrangement to loan the player immediately back to their former club have also not been included. Finally, only permanent deals have been included, regardless of the value of any loan fees. Through these restrictions, comparisons between clubs can be sought, as well as those within a club.

ClubPlayerTransfer FeeTransfer DateMinutes Played (% of possible total)PM/ 90 mins (Team average)
AFC BournemouthPhilip Billing£15 million29th July248 (83%)0.00 (-0.30)
AFC BournemouthArnaut Groeneveld£13.7 million1st August0 (0%)N/A
AFC BournemouthLloyd Kelly£13 million1st July0 (0%)N/A
ArsenalNicolas Pepe£72 million1st August173 (59%)-0.52 (0.00)
ArsenalKieran Tierney£25 million8th August0 (0%)N/A
ArsenalDavid Luiz£8 million8th August196 (67%)-0.46 (0.00)
Aston VillaWesley Moraes£22 million13th June277 (93%)0.32 (-0.30)
Aston VillaMatt Targett£15 million1st July0 (0%)N/A
Aston VillaDouglas Luiz£12.5 million25th July213 (72%)-0.42 (-0.30)
BrightonAdam Webster£22 million3rd August0 (0%)N/A
BrightonNeal Maupay£20 million5th August137 (47%)0.66 (0.31)
BrightonLeandro Trossard£18 million26th June187 (64%)-0.96 (0.31)
BurnleyJay Rodriguez£10 million9th July66 (22%)-2.73 (0.60)
BurnleyBailey Peacock-Farrell£2.5 million2nd August0 (0%)N/A
BurnleyErik Pieters£1 million8th July298 (100%)0.60 (0.60)
ChelseaChristian Pulisic£57.6 millionJanuary197 (67%)-0.91 (-0.92)
Crystal PalaceJames McCarthy£8 million7th August40 (13%)0.00 (0.00)
Crystal PalaceStephen HendersonFree6th July0 (0%)N/A
Crystal PalaceGary CahillFree5th August102 (34%)0.88 (0.00)
EvertonAlex Iwobi£35 million8th August36 (12%)-2.50 (-0.30)
EvertonMoise Kean£27.5 million4th August85 (29%)-1.06 (-0.30)
EvertonJean-Philippe Gbamin£25 million2nd August151 (51%)0.60 (-0.30)
Leicester CityAyoze Perez£30 million4th July240 (82%)0.38 (0.31)
Leicester CityDennis Praet£20 million8th August88 (30%)0.00 (0.31)
Leicester CityJames Justin£6 million28th June0 (0%)N/A
LiverpoolSepp van der Berg£4.4 million27th June0 (0%)N/A
LiverpoolHarvey ElliottTribunal28th July0 (0%)N/A
LiverpoolAdrianFree5th August256 (87%)1.05 (1.83)
Manchester CityRodri£63 million4th July216 (72%)2.50 (2.10)
Manchester CityJoao Cancelo£60 million7th August7 (2%)0.00 (2.10)
Manchester CityAngelino£5.3 million3rd July0 (0%)N/A
Manchester UnitedHarry Maguire£80 million5th August297 (100%)0.91 (0.91)
Manchester UnitedAaron Wan-Bissaka£50 million28th June297 (100%)0.91 (0.91)
Manchester UnitedDaniel James£17 million7th June214 (72%)0.00 (0.91)
Newcastle UnitedJoelinton£35 million23rd July260 (88%)-0.69 (-0.61)
Newcastle UnitedAllan Saint-Maximin£20 million2nd August45 (15%)0.00 (-0.61)
Newcastle UnitedEmil Krafth£5 million8th August199 (67%)-0.45 (-0.61)
Norwich CitySam Byram£750,00016th July5 (2%)-18.00 (-0.61)
Norwich CityAidan Fitzpatrick£350,0005th July0 (0%)N/A
Norwich CityDaniel Adshead£300,00018th June0 (0%)N/A
Sheffield UnitedOli McBurnie£20 million2nd August113 (38%)0.80 (0.00)
Sheffield UnitedLys Mousset£10 million21st July0 (0%)N/A
Sheffield UnitedCallum Robinson£6 million12th July213 (72%)0.00 (0.00)
SouthamptonChe Adams£16 million1st July232 (78%)-0.78 (-0.61)
SouthamptonMoussa Djenepo£13.5 million13th June61 (21%)4.43 (-0.61)
Tottenham HotspurTanguy Ndombele£65 million2nd July194 (65%)0.93 (0.30)
Tottenham HotspurRyan Sessegnon£25 million8th August0 (0%)N/A
WatfordIsmaila Sarr£31 million8th August21 (7%)0.00 (-1.82)
WatfordCraig Dawson£5.5 million1st July296 (100%)-1.82 (-1.82)
WatfordDanny WelbeckFree7th August50 (17%)0.00 (-1.82)
West Ham UnitedSebastien Haller£45 million17th July198 (67%)-1.36 (-0.92)
West Ham UnitedPablo Fornals£24 million14th June147 (50%)-2.45 (-0.92)
West Ham UnitedAlbian Ajeti£8 million8th August0 (0%)N/A
Wolverhampton WanderersPatrick Cutrone£17 million30th July23 (8%)0.00 (0.00)
Wolverhampton WanderersPedro Neto£18 million (combined)2nd August32 (11%)2.81 (0.00)
Wolverhampton WanderersBruno Jordao£18 million (combined)2nd August0 (0%)N/A

Both ends of the scale offer some interesting insights into each club’s transfer strategies and integration into the first team. Of the 56 players in the sample, just 4 have played every possible minute of the first 3 matches of the season; Craig Dawson, Erik Pieters and the Manchester United duo of Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Harry Maguire. There are two common threads between these 4 players. Firstly, they all have Premier League experience, which theoretically should make their transition to their new club slightly easier, and they are also all defenders, where continuity of selection tends to be higher and substitutions rarer. This however can work both for and against a new signing, as highlighted by Adam Webster, who despite being a club record signing has yet to make his competitive debut for Brighton, instead being forced to bide his time behind the club’s tried and tested centre back partnership of Lewis Dunk and Shane Duffy.

Webster is one of 17 players from the sample yet to make his Premier League debut for his new club, roughly 30% of the sample. However, there are a variety of other factors at play. Kieran Tierney for example was signed whilst injured, and is not yet fit enough to have made Arsenal’s match day squad. Additionally, not every player signed over the Summer was recruited with the intention of immediately breaking into the first team. Liverpool signed 17 year old Sepp van der Berg and 16 year old Harvey Elliott very much as long-term prospects, and although Adrian has featured in all 3 league games, he was signed as a backup and likely would not have featured but for Alisson’s injury during the opening fixture against Norwich.

Taking a wider view of the league, there are two trends which perhaps you would expect to see at this stage of the season. The first would be an expectation that those players signed earlier in the Summer would generally have played more than those signed closer to deadline day, as they would have been able to start their integration process during pre-season. And indeed, we do see this, both when considering the whole sample group and when excluding those yet to make their debuts. The drop-off during July is only marginal, but the drop for August signings is a significant one, supporting the theory.

Transfer DatePre-JulyJulyAugust
Average % of possible minutes played474328
Average % of possible minutes played (excluding players yet to make their debut) 676538

The other trend you may expect to see is that the most expensive signing would play the most minutes, partly due to the correlation between a players quality and their transfer fee (albeit far from a perfect correlation), but also due to the fact that the greater the financial outlay on a player, the greater the desire to generate an immediate return on that investment. However, whilst this was the case at the majority of clubs, that majority was just 10 to 9, with Chelsea not considered since their transfer ban prevented them from adding to their January signing of Christian Pulisic, who then joined the Blues this Summer (Mateo Kovacic’s loan was also made into a permanent deal, though as discussed has not been considered here). Therefore at this stage of the season, transfer date appears to be a more significant factor behind the number of minutes played by a new signing than the fee.

In terms of Plus Minus ratings, it is too early to draw any conclusions regarding which signings have improved their team and which signings have not, with the number of minutes played being incredibly small in some instances. However, this is something which will be revisited throughout the season, investigating which signings have proven to be the best value.

Fantasy Premier League Tip – Moussa Djenepo

Whilst the upper echelons of the Plus Minus rankings are predictably dominated by Liverpool and Manchester City players even at this early stage of the season, one of the surprise names near the top of the rankings per 90 minutes is Southampton midfielder Moussa Djenepo. Available for £5.4 million, Djenepo has been a positive impact substitute during the past two games for the Saints and scored his first goal for the club against Brighton. The fact he has picked up yellow cards during both appearances will concern Fantasy Premier League managers, but expect him to be handed his first start imminently.