I initially cut down to 25 by removing Liverpoolâ€™s Sebastian Coates and Cityâ€™s Stefan Savic both young players that I feel are excellent long term prospects for their respective clubs. Savic in particular when I saw him in person this summer did all the little things right. Each and every time he made the smart simple pass rather than looking to be â€śclever.â€ť I like that in a defender.
Romelu Lukaku, a very promising youngster and Scott Dann a vastly under rated defender were next to face the axe as were two former City stalwarts, Craig Bellamy and Shaun Wright-Phillips. SWP was the best player on the pitch when City played Club America in the Herbalife World Football Challenge at AT&T Park in San Francisco in July and his performance that day had me hoping that Roberto Mancini could find a place for him this year. Alas this was not to be and I believe QPR may have done a useful business to pick him up. Similarly the departure of Craig Bellamy is one that I greatly lament. While I believe his impact at Liverpool will be less than it could have been if Mancini had returned him to the first team at City, the Welshman remains a player with a frightening level of speed. Liverpool will be better because of the â€śnutter with the putter,â€ť still the best nickname of the past few years.
This brings me to Connor Wickham and his arrival at Sunderland. The former Ipswich man wins the "coveted" last man out award, which last year went to Raul Meireles.
As always please remember that loan signings don't count. This is only for permanent moves.
20. Matthew Upson/Jonathan Woodgate Stoke from West Ham and Spurs
Ok so I cheated on this one, but as a combination picking up two former English internationals on free transfers is pretty impressive. Woodgate remains the most unfortunate player of his generation. On his day easily the best pure defender in the Premier League and truly world class. Alas those days have been few and far between. Upson is not to far removed from the England squad and is a useful addition.
19. Owen Hargreaves Manchester City from Manchester United
I accept that this will probably be the most controversial name on the list, but Hargreaves has the potential to be the most important player acquired by any club during the transfer window. City, while flying high, have an extreme vulnerability should Nigel de Jong go down. Hargreaves is that insurance and even with his injury history, in fact because of it, represents a brilliant calculated risk. A top quality back up would usually have been highly expensive, but Hargreaves comes with minimal cost and a fit Hargreaves is a very useful player to have.
18. Roger Johnson Wolves from Birmingham City
This might be my favourite move of the summer. After struggling for a couple of years in the top flight this is the sort of smart under the radar signing that allows a team to build a foundation. Probably the only surprise was that Wolves didn't snag his defensive partner Scott Dann who ended up at Blackburn.
17. Zoltan Gera West Brom from Fulham
I am an unabashed fan of Gera and have been since his first stint with West Brom. The Hungarian captain was consistently the best player on the field during the infamous "great escape" season and brought an infectious enthusiasm that I would liken to a lesser Tim Cahill. Curiously like the Everton player, Gera is also good in the air.
16. Samir Nasri Manchester City from Arsenal
I am in the minority on this one. I'm not sold, despite the demolition of Spurs, that Nasri has a place in the starting line up when Silva is playing. I'd be happy to be proved wrong and the Nasri that started last year was one of the best players in all of the Premier League. It's just that I've never been overly impressed with Nasri as a long term week in and week out contributor. Arsenal fans are reeling right now with his loss and that of Cesc Fabregas, but eventually I believe Wilshere and Ramsey will be seen as a superior duo.
15. Mikel Arteta Arsenal from Everton
Interesting pick. The Arteta of two years ago was rather useful. I'm not sure this wasn't a panic buy by Wenger when there were significantly better players available that would have made more sense. The subsequent news that Jack Wilshere is out for longer than expected makes this a good move... there were just greater ones to be had.
14. Jordan Henderson Liverpool from Sunderland
The current captain of the England Under-21 team, Henderson represents Liverpool's current focus on young UK talent. While Henderson did not shine in his England debut, the long term potential is there.
13. Davide Santon Newcastle from Inter Milan
Couple of big ifs come with this signing. If Santon is as good as people in the game think he is and if he settles on Tyneside, then this could be the steal of the transfer window. I'm hard pressed to name an Italian defender who has played in the Premier league. Festa probably for Boro... but that speaks volumes.
12. Peter Crouch Stoke from Spurs
Possibly the most misused footballer in the history of English international football. Crouch is utterly prolific against lesser footballing nations where his size and skill completely overwhelms the opposition. However you can maintain the argument, depending on how you classify Mexico and the recent French vintage, that Crouch has never scored against a decent international team and has in fact been conspicuous in his inability to hit the net against quality opponents. It's that lack of goals that moved him on from Spurs, scoring just 4 league goals this past season. I've a sneaking suspicion that the wing play of Stoke will benefit Crouch this year.
11. Charlie Adam Liverpool from Blackpool
A revelation last year for Ian Holloway's side, Adam steps up to a much bigger stage at Liverpool. How Kenny Dalglish manages all of his new additions will be fascinating to see. I'm not convinced there are enough games for Adam and Henderson when Steven Gerrard is fit when looking at the other midfield options.
Part Two will conclude the Top 20 tomorrow.
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