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Five Aside: Di Maria a skillful crosser

Five Aside 15 hours ago
Read
Aug 10, 2011

Top Ten Premier League transfers

The annual spendathon will not reach its, presumably dramatic, conclusion until August 31, but some squads have been reshaped rather dramatically over the last three months. Amid the umpteen arrivals, some will soon be deemed mistakes and misjudgements, others masterstrokes. And these may belong in the latter category:

1. Shay Given (Aston Villa, £3.5 million)

His reward for a season when he was arguably the outstanding goalkeeper in the Premier League was demotion to the bench when Joe Hart returned from his loan spell at Birmingham and Roberto Mancini preferred a man who seemed less of a loyalist to his predecessor, Mark Hughes. So Shay Given may have a point to prove, and Aston Villa almost certainly have a bargain at just £3.5 million. Alex McLeish's appointment wasn't exactly greeted with unalloyed joy in the West Midlands, but his first signing should make the Villa faithful rather happier.

2. Gervinho (Arsenal, £11 million)

Arsene Wenger is often, and rightly, described as a fine judge of young talent in the transfer market. Where he is particularly shrewd, however, is identifying players who can occupy the wide positions and chip in with a regular supply of goals. Marc Overmars, Robert Pires, Freddie Ljungberg and Samir Nasri are cases in point, proving prolific by making angled runs. Gervinho, who seems earmarked for a role on the left, looks another to join a lengthy list, the Ivorian's pace and predatory instincts suggesting he can make the transition from French football quickly.

3. Demba Ba (Newcastle, free)

If West Ham's relegation was welcomed by many a club, it is because of the opportunities it afforded them. Newcastle were certainly swift to react by snapping up Demba Ba without even incurring a fee. As, a few months earlier, Stoke had been offering £6 million for the striker and as he mustered seven goals in 10 Premier League starts for a struggling side during his brief stay in Upton Park, it should represent excellent business, even if Ba seems to struggle to pass a medical.

4. Sergio Aguero (Manchester City, £38 million)

For all the off-field problems Carlos Tevez has caused them, Manchester City seem happy to persist with the blueprint of a short, speedy Argentine striker. For their sake, let's hope Sergio Aguero either doesn't notice or doesn't care how far Manchester is from Buenos Aires because, in other respects, he represents an ideal solution to an awkward situation. With 95 goals in his last four seasons at Atletico Madrid and almost one every other game for Argentina, he could compensate for Tevez's eventual departure, though much will depend on if, as his compatriot could, he can play alone in attack.

5. Brad Friedel (Tottenham, free)

Heurelho Gomes' ability to veer from the unbeatable to the infuriating makes the Brazilian one of the Premier League's great enigmas and enables him to polarise opinions. In contrast, Brad Friedel's dependability has been a feature of his long career and should make the American an enticing alternative to Tottenham's No.1. Harry Redknapp has long shown a fondness for extending veterans' careers - think of Stuart Pearce, Paul Merson and Kanu - and the 40-year-old Friedel could be another astute acquisition of an old-timer.

6. Ashley Young (Manchester United, £16 million)

Sometimes the statistics can explain a player's attributes. In four-and-a-half years at Aston Villa, Ashley Young averaged a goal every five games and an assist almost every three. What Manchester United's £16 million has bought them, then, is one of the most reliable players in the final third of the pitch in the Premier League, not to mention one of the more versatile. A desire to play Champions League football may help account for Young's decision to choose Old Trafford, but it is easy to envisage his prime job being defeating the division's lesser lights, week in week out, with a consistent supply of goals and assists.

7. Roger Johnson (Wolves, £7 million)

A £7 million fee for an uncapped 28-year-old defender may seem steep, but during his two-year top-flight career, Roger Johnson has forged a reputation as one of the most redoubtable centre-backs around. An old-fashioned stopper noted for his aerial ability, he may be ideally suited to a side aiming to stay up. As Wolves' best central defender, Jody Craddock, is now 36 and Mick McCarthy's side were guilty of some glaring errors at the back last season, he may prove just what they need.

8. Charles N'Zogbia (Aston Villa, £9.5 million)

Scouted by everyone from Juventus to Liverpool, the feeling that Charles N'Zogbia had outgrown Wigan had spread long before the winger eventually moved to Aston Villa. It was a case of second time lucky for Alex McLeish, who had attempted to lure the Frenchman to St Andrew's the previous summer (and had he done so, would Birmingham, and not Wigan, still be in the Premier League). The instant acceleration and sharp skill are eye-catching, but so are the substance of his stats: with five goals in his last six games, N'Zogbia made the biggest individual contribution to keeping Wigan up.

9. Sebastian Larsson (Sunderland, free)

Getting value for money is a difficult task for many a manager. Steve Bruce appears to have found a way around it with an intelligent use of the Bosman system. Like Keiren Westwood and David Vaughan, Sebastian Larsson did not cost a fee. The Swede, a player Bruce knows from his time at Birmingham, may be as close to a guarantee of quiet success as the transfer market offers: with no outlay other than wages, he has captured an experienced Premier League player and an acknowledged set-piece specialist.

10. Oriol Romeu (Chelsea, £4.3 million)

Arguably Chelsea have never really replaced Claude Makelele. John Obi Mikel occupies a position and can pass the ball sideways, but rarely dictates a game and tends to be the first man replaced when they require a goal. Oriol Romeu may have a solitary league game for Barcelona to his name, but appears more ambitious in his distribution and is sufficiently highly-rated that the Catalans inserted two buy-back clauses in the deal sealing his move to Stamford Bridge. Should he live up to expectations, he may be making a rapid return to the Nou Camp.

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