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.
|Club||Player||Transfer Fee||Transfer Date||Minutes Played (% of possible total)||PM/ 90 mins (Team average)|
|AFC Bournemouth||Philip Billing||£15 million||29th July||248 (83%)||0.00 (-0.30)|
|AFC Bournemouth||Arnaut Groeneveld||£13.7 million||1st August||0 (0%)||N/A|
|AFC Bournemouth||Lloyd Kelly||£13 million||1st July||0 (0%)||N/A|
|Arsenal||Nicolas Pepe||£72 million||1st August||173 (59%)||-0.52 (0.00)|
|Arsenal||Kieran Tierney||£25 million||8th August||0 (0%)||N/A|
|Arsenal||David Luiz||£8 million||8th August||196 (67%)||-0.46 (0.00)|
|Aston Villa||Wesley Moraes||£22 million||13th June||277 (93%)||0.32 (-0.30)|
|Aston Villa||Matt Targett||£15 million||1st July||0 (0%)||N/A|
|Aston Villa||Douglas Luiz||£12.5 million||25th July||213 (72%)||-0.42 (-0.30)|
|Brighton||Adam Webster||£22 million||3rd August||0 (0%)||N/A|
|Brighton||Neal Maupay||£20 million||5th August||137 (47%)||0.66 (0.31)|
|Brighton||Leandro Trossard||£18 million||26th June||187 (64%)||-0.96 (0.31)|
|Burnley||Jay Rodriguez||£10 million||9th July||66 (22%)||-2.73 (0.60)|
|Burnley||Bailey Peacock-Farrell||£2.5 million||2nd August||0 (0%)||N/A|
|Burnley||Erik Pieters||£1 million||8th July||298 (100%)||0.60 (0.60)|
|Chelsea||Christian Pulisic||£57.6 million||January||197 (67%)||-0.91 (-0.92)|
|Crystal Palace||James McCarthy||£8 million||7th August||40 (13%)||0.00 (0.00)|
|Crystal Palace||Stephen Henderson||Free||6th July||0 (0%)||N/A|
|Crystal Palace||Gary Cahill||Free||5th August||102 (34%)||0.88 (0.00)|
|Everton||Alex Iwobi||£35 million||8th August||36 (12%)||-2.50 (-0.30)|
|Everton||Moise Kean||£27.5 million||4th August||85 (29%)||-1.06 (-0.30)|
|Everton||Jean-Philippe Gbamin||£25 million||2nd August||151 (51%)||0.60 (-0.30)|
|Leicester City||Ayoze Perez||£30 million||4th July||240 (82%)||0.38 (0.31)|
|Leicester City||Dennis Praet||£20 million||8th August||88 (30%)||0.00 (0.31)|
|Leicester City||James Justin||£6 million||28th June||0 (0%)||N/A|
|Liverpool||Sepp van der Berg||£4.4 million||27th June||0 (0%)||N/A|
|Liverpool||Harvey Elliott||Tribunal||28th July||0 (0%)||N/A|
|Liverpool||Adrian||Free||5th August||256 (87%)||1.05 (1.83)|
|Manchester City||Rodri||£63 million||4th July||216 (72%)||2.50 (2.10)|
|Manchester City||Joao Cancelo||£60 million||7th August||7 (2%)||0.00 (2.10)|
|Manchester City||Angelino||£5.3 million||3rd July||0 (0%)||N/A|
|Manchester United||Harry Maguire||£80 million||5th August||297 (100%)||0.91 (0.91)|
|Manchester United||Aaron Wan-Bissaka||£50 million||28th June||297 (100%)||0.91 (0.91)|
|Manchester United||Daniel James||£17 million||7th June||214 (72%)||0.00 (0.91)|
|Newcastle United||Joelinton||£35 million||23rd July||260 (88%)||-0.69 (-0.61)|
|Newcastle United||Allan Saint-Maximin||£20 million||2nd August||45 (15%)||0.00 (-0.61)|
|Newcastle United||Emil Krafth||£5 million||8th August||199 (67%)||-0.45 (-0.61)|
|Norwich City||Sam Byram||£750,000||16th July||5 (2%)||-18.00 (-0.61)|
|Norwich City||Aidan Fitzpatrick||£350,000||5th July||0 (0%)||N/A|
|Norwich City||Daniel Adshead||£300,000||18th June||0 (0%)||N/A|
|Sheffield United||Oli McBurnie||£20 million||2nd August||113 (38%)||0.80 (0.00)|
|Sheffield United||Lys Mousset||£10 million||21st July||0 (0%)||N/A|
|Sheffield United||Callum Robinson||£6 million||12th July||213 (72%)||0.00 (0.00)|
|Southampton||Che Adams||£16 million||1st July||232 (78%)||-0.78 (-0.61)|
|Southampton||Moussa Djenepo||£13.5 million||13th June||61 (21%)||4.43 (-0.61)|
|Tottenham Hotspur||Tanguy Ndombele||£65 million||2nd July||194 (65%)||0.93 (0.30)|
|Tottenham Hotspur||Ryan Sessegnon||£25 million||8th August||0 (0%)||N/A|
|Watford||Ismaila Sarr||£31 million||8th August||21 (7%)||0.00 (-1.82)|
|Watford||Craig Dawson||£5.5 million||1st July||296 (100%)||-1.82 (-1.82)|
|Watford||Danny Welbeck||Free||7th August||50 (17%)||0.00 (-1.82)|
|West Ham United||Sebastien Haller||£45 million||17th July||198 (67%)||-1.36 (-0.92)|
|West Ham United||Pablo Fornals||£24 million||14th June||147 (50%)||-2.45 (-0.92)|
|West Ham United||Albian Ajeti||£8 million||8th August||0 (0%)||N/A|
|Wolverhampton Wanderers||Patrick Cutrone||£17 million||30th July||23 (8%)||0.00 (0.00)|
|Wolverhampton Wanderers||Pedro Neto||£18 million (combined)||2nd August||32 (11%)||2.81 (0.00)|
|Wolverhampton Wanderers||Bruno Jordao||£18 million (combined)||2nd August||0 (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.
|Average % of possible minutes played||47||43||28|
|Average % of possible minutes played (excluding players yet to make their debut)||67||65||38|
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.