Premier League: Predicting the 8 biggest flops of the summer transfer window

Gareth Bale wears the captain's armband for Wales

With such gargantuan fees involved and players having to adapt to new tactics, new team-mates, new locations and sometimes new languages, it’s practically inevitable that a significant portion of Premier League transfers simply won’t work out.

This summer saw 112 new arrivals throughout the Premier League’s 20 clubs and come the end of the season, a noteworthy chunk of those will have struggled to excel in their new surroundings.
Of course, some will falter to a larger degree than others, so whether it’s because of their reputations, the money it cost to sign them or simply the level expectation upon them, Give Me Sport have outlined the eight players we believe will prove to be the biggest flops of the summer transfer window…

Gareth Bale - Loan

Gareth Bale warms up for Real Madrid

Let’s face it, Gareth Bale hasn’t actually done much footballing of late. In fact, he’s only started one game since February and last season he played the full ninety minutes on a mere six occasions. 

Of course, we’re talking about a forward of immense natural ability, one who lit up the Premier League for Spurs back in 2012/13 before moving to Real Madrid in a world-record deal.
But bearing in mind his lack of football over the last year, his constant injury problems, his age (31) and his apparent preference for golf over club football, you have to wonder how often he’ll firstly be able to show that immense natural ability, and secondly actually want to.

The idea that he’ll be more motivated to play for Spurs just doesn’t fly, and it’s really not clear what Tottenham are expecting from a loan deal that will see them cover half his wages. The best-case scenario is probably a glorified supersub, and the worst is someone who spends all season in the physio room.

Eberechi Eze - £20m 

Eberechi Eze chases the ball

In fairness to Eberechi Eze, he looks like a youngster with some real ability - he started every game for QPR in the Championship last season, returning 14 goals and eight assists in the process. That’s not to be sniffed at from a 22-year-old.

The only problem is the club he decided to join this summer, and particularly the manager he’s chosen to work under. Roy Hodgson is hardly famed for bringing through young players - albeit there have been some exceptions down the years - or playing particularly expansive football.

It’s not taxing to imagine Eze spending much of his first season at Selhurst Park sitting on the bench when a natural attacking talent like Max Meyer can’t even get a game, especially considering he’s got to wrestle a starting spot from either Andros Townsend, who has already bagged one goal and two assists this term, the talismanic Wilfried Zaha, last season’s top scorer Jordan Ayew or everybody’s favourite unsung hero Jeffrey Schlupp.

Eze’s started two games so far this season and Palace lost both of them. That’s the kind of justification Hodgson needs to stick with more established personnel.

Edinson Cavani - Free Transfer

Edinson Cavani in action for PSG

Fears of Gareth Bale being past it only ring doubly true for Edinson Cavani. Aged 33, to say the Uruguayan’s peak years are beyond him would be an understatement - the highest-scoring season in his career was all the way back in 2016/17.

Last season he only managed 18 starts due to a series of injury problems and having decided not to extend his contract with PSG for the restart of the 2019/20 campaign, who knows when the veteran forward will actually be fit enough to feature regularly for Manchester United.

Radamel Falcao was once brought to Old Trafford on loan way past his sell-by date and this late summer swoop has exactly the same vibe. 

Willian - Free Transfer

Willian in action for Arsenal

There’s been a notable trend in recent years of ageing Chelsea players moving to Arsenal and struggling to show the same level of form that made them such stalwarts for the Gunners’ London rivals - see Petr Cech and David Luiz.

Willian feels like he might be the next on that list. Last season saw the Brazilian produce his best ever return for goal involvements in a Premier League campaign with16, but he was on set piece and penalty duties. When you take those out of the equation, he only actually scored three goals and laid on seven assists - not the most inspiring for a top six winger who started 36 games.

In fairness to Willian, he offers a lot more than just end product. But bringing in attacking players at the age of 32 is never the smartest idea, especially when he’s being paid £220k per-week. So far this season, two assists on his debut has been followed up with not much else to write home about. 

Rhian Brewster - £23.5m  

Rhian Brewster takes a penalty for Liverpool

Nobody likes to shoot down a young player before they’ve even got a chance to put on the jersey for their new club, but Sheffield United’s club-record swoop for Liverpool youngster Rhian Brewster was certainly a bit of a curveball.

The fee alone is a lot of money on very young shoulders - the forward is still just 20 years of age - and he’s joined a team in the Blades that don’t particularly suit his natural strengths, with a bigger emphasis on physicality and organisation than free-flowing football.

Now, Sheffield United can play some eye-catching stuff when opportunities allow and Brewster clearly has big potential - he netted eleven times in the Championship for Swansea last season.

But a little like with the aforementioned Eze, it just seems an awkward fit, and because Chris Wilder utilises such a unique system, it feels almost inevitable that his longer-serving forwards like Oliver McBurnie, David McGoldrick and Billy Sharp will be largely preferred.

Throw in Sheffield United’s troubling start to the season which has seen them fail to win a point, and it could be a tough debut year for Brewster at Bramall Lane.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek - Loan

Ruben Loftus-Cheek in pre-season

Having once enjoyed a thoroughly impressive temporary spell at Crystal Palace in which his midfield performances were nothing short of rampant at times, Fulham’s late loan swoop for Ruben Loftus-Cheek this summer might seem like something of a coup - especially after he unexpectedly turned out for parent club Chelsea on the opening day of the season.

But the England international just hasn’t looked quite the same player since spending almost an entire year out due to an ACL injury and while a move to a smaller club that can offer him the game-time to get back to his best is arguably a shrewd one, it remains to be seen whether Loftus-Cheek is still the same, dynamic force that earned a place in England’s 2018 World Cup squad.

Fulham aren’t in particularly great shape themselves, having failed to secure a point after four Premier League games and then reacted by bringing in a whole host of signings towards the end of the window, and that ever-tricky act of a club trying to bed in numerous fresh faces at once will only make things tougher for the 24-year-old.

Aaron Ramsdale - £18.5m 

Aaron Ramsdale in action for Sheffield United

In some ways this one isn’t really Aaron Ramsdale’s fault - it’s more the fact that Dean Henderson’s two seasons on loan at Bramall Lane, in which time he helped then achieve promotion to the Premier League before ranking joint-third for clean sheets makes him an incredibly tough act to follow.

And that extended stay with Sheffield United allowed Henderson to forge a real understanding with an incredibly familiar and tight-knitted defensive unit. At least initially, Ramsdale will inevitably struggle to provide the same presence, and that challenge has only been made tougher by a potentially season-ending injury for defensive stalwart Jack O’Connell. 

Throw in the money involved and while this is clearly a long-term investment for the Blades, it looks to be another tricky season for the former Bournemouth man after the Cherries’ relegation last term.

Hakim Ziyech - £33.3m

Hakim Ziyech in action for Ajax

There is an old adage when it comes to players moving to the Premier League from the Eredivisie: for every Luis Suarez or Dirk Kuyt, there is a Mateja Kezman or Alfonso Alvez. Chelsea fans will point to Hakim Ziyech’s Champions League form last season as evidence of him belonging in the former category, with two goals and four assists in Europe’s top competition, but doubts will frankly remain until the Moroccan is dazzling on the pitch at Stamford Bridge.

And that’s where we come to problem No.2. Due to a knee injury, Ziyech has missed the start of Chelsea’s season and it’s always tough for new signings to have the impact they desire when they’re unfortunately a little late to the party, having to feed off substitute appearances and cup outings until they’re at the same sharpness as the rest of the team.

To make matters a little worse, Frank Lampard’s team selections so far this season suggest there will be almost constant rotation amongst his attackers anyway - especially with Christian Pulisic due to return from the sidelines as well - so with all factors considered, even if Ziyech isn’t another Eredivisie dud he’s got something of a fight on his hands to justify the hype.

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