x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Arsenal not alone in reloading

Mesut Ozil has received the most attention, since he is the best new player joining the English Premier League, but Arsenal are not alone in buying well before the close of the transfer window.

Arsenal's acquisition of Mesut Ozil from Real Madrid was the big news but other clubs also vastly improved themselves before the transfer window closed. Juan Medina / Reuters
Arsenal's acquisition of Mesut Ozil from Real Madrid was the big news but other clubs also vastly improved themselves before the transfer window closed. Juan Medina / Reuters

The transfer window was not as exciting as I expected, but there were some great deals done and it is not only the signing of Mesut Ozil that excites me. Ozil has received the most attention, since he is the best new player joining the Premier League, but Arsenal are not alone in buying well.

Across North London, Tottenham’s signing of Christian Eriksen impressed. Tottenham have bought other players, but they lacked creativity in the recent derby against Arsenal. Mousa Dembele has it, but he is getting the hook at the moment.

Eriksen oozes creativity. I watched him at Ajax and for Denmark. He was man of the match against England two years ago – not that England are a force that you should measure top players against.

Eriksen is the real deal. He is creative, finds space for himself and always looks to do something for others. He’s hugely talented. He’s only 21, yet experienced, with nearly 40 games for Denmark. At €11 million (Dh53.7m), he wasn’t expensive, either. Buy-out clauses can make deals prohibitive. His did not. He has the potential to be another Bale or Berbatov – an emerging talent brought in relatively cheaply and sold for a huge fee.

Alvaro Negredo is another signing who has impressed me.

He is a big lad who reminds me of an old-fashioned English centre-forward and €25m seems like a good value for a player with an excellent pedigree who plays up front for the world and European champions.

He scored more goals that any other Spaniard in Spain last season. Negredo is good in the air, has decent pace and movement – he showed that with his goal for Spain in Finland last week.

City needed a new forward after Carlos Tevez left.

Tevez was a fantastic player. Negredo is now pushing hard to become a regular ahead of Edin Dzeko, who has also done well.

Yet the Bosnian is the one who has twice come off for Negredo, who is conditioned to competition.

He is in a battle with Roberto Soldado, David Villa, Fernando Torres and Fernando Llorente for Spain.

When he has come off the bench, Negredo has taken his chance, scoring both times. It is great for Manuel Pellegrini to have two top forwards competing for the same spot.

Negredo has settled quicker than Dzeko, who did not quite capture the form he had shown at Wolsfburg after he joined City.

Negredo is more physical and puts his head where it hurts – not a characteristic you would often associate with a Spanish player.

That offers City another option, since Negredo can provide a better aerial focus – and that is why Pellegrini keeps switching between the two during matches. I would not be surprised if Negredo gets his first start for City at Stoke today.

James McCarthy is another excellent signing.

The Scot moved from Wigan to Everton on transfer-deadline day as Marouane Fellaini signed with Manchester United.

Everton did well there and he can be a more-than-adequate replacement.

McCarthy made his debut at 16 in Scotland before Roberto Martinez brought him down to Wigan.

I worry that some kids who debut at such a young age will burn out, but McCarthy, 22, keeps improving. He’s a midfielder who does it all: puts his foot in, looks to make passes and get in the opposition’s box. And he always wants to get on the ball.

The role of the central midfielder has changed from that of enforcer to an interceptor who needs to get on the ball in as many areas as possible.

There are no longer players like Roy Keane, Bryan Robson or Paul Ince. I can remember Manchester United looking at McCarthy a year ago. They weren’t the only ones.

Everton paid £13m for him and I would expect him to make his debut today against Chelsea. Like Eriksen, he is experienced at a young age. He also has moved to a manager he likes and trusts.

Everton’s problem so far has been scoring goals.

Nikica Jelavic has not performed well for over a year, so it was wise that they signed Romelu Lukaku.

Like Eriksen and McCarthy, he was 16 when he made his debut – and he had only just turned 16 when he played for Anderlecht.

He is on loan from Chelsea, who were convinced that they had signed the new Didier Drogba, but were not ready to play him every week. And someone as good as Lukaku deserves to be playing every week.

They loaned him to West Brom last season, where he scored 17 goals, an incredible achievement for a mid-table side.

Lukaku has pace and strength.

Everton, Arsenal, Tottenham and Manchester City: Four teams who had a very good summer transfer window.

Watch out for them.

Andrew Cole’s column is written with the assistance of European football correspondent Andy Mitten.

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