London – Gylfi Sigurdsson, Everton, £45m
It wasn’t just the £45m fee Everton forked out for Gylfi Sigurdsson that was costly but also the time they spent securing his signature when they could have been looking at areas of the squad that were in greater need of strengthening. An outrageous goal on his first start for the club in the Europa League hinted that he could prove money well spent but his form in the league has been far from reflective of such an inflated price tag.
Everton fans will hope their new arrival can take confidence from a memorable international break, when he helped Iceland book a place at the World Cup for the first time in their history. He scored in the game that clinched qualification but is yet to do so in the Premier League for his new club (only two of his 11 shots so far this season have been on target) – and he hasn’t registered an assist in 479 minutes of action. With Ronald Koeman’s men hovering above the relegation zone, they need more from their record signing.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Liverpool, £40m
Having made a relatively bright start to the season in a struggling Arsenal side, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s season took an almighty dip around the time of his £40m transfer to Liverpool. His last match for Arsenal ended in a 4-0 defeat and his first for Liverpool ended in a 5-0 defeat. He has been given limited opportunities at Liverpool – he hasn’t started a Premier League match yet – but he did himself few favours when given his full debut against Leicester in the EFL Cup. Liverpool lost the game 2-0 and Oxlade-Chamberlain was truly awful.
Another disappointing display on international duty for England in their drab 1-0 win over Slovenia offers little encouragement for an imminent upturn in form; he looked isolated while he was on the pitch and was the first England player to be substituted. Oxlade-Chamberlain needs to get out of this current funk or risk becoming something of a comedy figure. Sadio Mané’s injury could give the 24-year-old a route into the side in the coming weeks. Putting in a good performance against Manchester United on Saturday would be a good way to kickstart his Liverpool career.
Michael Keane, Everton, £25m
Michael Keane’s start to life at Goodison was very promising. His first four starts ended in victories and clean sheets – and he even managed to score in the last of those games, a 2-0 win over Hajduk Split in the Europa League. Keane’s form has taken a concerning downturn since, however. Ashley Williams has taken the brunt of the criticism at the back but he hasn’t been helped by his 24-year-old central defensive partner, who has looked particularly shaky recently.
His distribution from the back has been found wanting at times, particularly against teams willing to press high up the pitch. Keane’s confidence seemed to dip as Everton suffered four straight defeats without scoring a goal. They faced strong opponents in that run but conceding 12 goals in four games is not good enough for Everton. Keane must prove that he can cut it against the better sides if Everton are to move up the table.
Nathan Aké, Bournemouth, £20m
A successful loan spell on the south coast last season was enough to persuade Bournemouth to part with a record £20m fee for Nathan Aké, but the Dutch international hasn’t reached the same heights since his return. There was some cause for optimism that the youngster was beginning to re-adjust ahead of the international break, however, with his strongest showing of the season coming as Bournemouth were held to a stalemate against Leicester, securing a first clean sheet of the campaign.
The 22-year-old was impressive last season, weighing in with three goals and one assist in his 10 league appearances, but his form has dipped since he signed a permanent deal. He hasn’t scored or set up a goal but, more concerning for Eddie Howe will be his drop in pass accuracy and tackles (down from 2.2 to 1.6 per 90 minutes), clearances (down from nine from 6.4) and blocks (down from one from 0.4) per 90 minutes. Howe put a lot of faith in the Chelsea graduate but as yet he has been far from convincing.
Andre Gray, Watford, £18.5m
Another record signing for his new club during the summer, Andre Gray has plenty to live up to following a modest debut campaign in the top flight. He only scored nine league goals for Burnley last season but Watford were still willing to splash out £18.5m on the 26-year-old, who has struggled to make a real impact under Marco Silva.
He scored his first league goal in 510 minutes in Watford’s 2-1 win at Swansea last month but other than that he has been quiet. Gray has mustered just seven shots in as many appearances for his new club – and just two on target – and he doesn’t offer the same link-up play or aerial threat as out-of-favour Troy Deeney. Four of Deeney’s five league appearances this season have come as a substitute but he has managed to register an assist (unlike Gray), while also winning eight aerial duels in just 123 minutes compared to Gray’s three in 460 minutes.
The Guardian Sport