Chelsea and Man United’s missing strikers: Every Premier League club’s worst transfer mistake of 2023

tour of Europe’s top five leagues (plus the Eredivisie for good measure) all before his 25th birthday. In hindsight, maybe there should have been a bit more focus on the fact a player at 24 had managed to put off every single club in those other leagues so swiftly. This nepo baby is still waiting to add the Premier League to the list of Europe’s top five leagues (plus the Eredivisie for good measure) in which he’s actually managed to score a goal.

only very slightly denting his overall goal-per-game record in the Barclays.

 

 

 

Brighton – Verbruggen for Sanchez

This is Brighton, they don’t really do ‘transfer mistakes’. But there’s definitely more than a hint that things have gone awry in the goalkeeper department. Twenty-three million quid for the displaced Robert Sanchez seems okay, but the seemingly confident expectation that Jason Steele would outperform him never really seemed a view to back and there’s not compelling evidence as yet that 21-year-old Dutch keeper Bart Verbruggen is quite yet ready for full number-one responsibilities. Spending 20 million for Verbruggen and getting 23 million for Sanchez isn’t a disaster but it’s certainly not up to Brighton’s usual standards in squad building and ROI.

Burnley – James Trafford as a clear number one

Quite a few clubs have made a bit of a mess of the goalkeeper situation this year, often by being too muddled with it all. Burnley have gone the other way and done it by being too decisive. Trafford is a major talent but signing him on the back of age-group tournament success – albeit particularly notable age-group tournament success – and then immediately entrusting him with the number-one position at a newly-promoted club that was inevitably going to need help from its keeper along the way was an almighty gamble that 12 games, one win and 30 goals conceded is not really paying off for anyone.

 

 

 

Chelsea – spending all the money and still not having a striker

There are increasingly encouraging signs that Mauricio Pochettino’s Chelsea might be a) quite good and b) not entirely drab but these are still extremely low bars to clear for a club that has spent such an astonishingly vast sum of money in such a staggeringly short period of time. That all that money has been spent and the closest thing Chelsea have to an actual striker is Nicolas Jackson, proud owner of the worst Premier League hat-trick on record, is truly astonishing.

Crystal Palace – the near total absence of any of it at all

Do you know who the last player Palace received a transfer fee for was? Christian Benteke, sold to DC United for £5m in August 2022. Before that? Alexander Sorloth in September 2020. The one before that is Aaron Wan-Bissaka. Palace’s outgoings are a cacophony of frees and loans, of run-down contracts and unwanted players who cannot be permanently discarded at literally any price. Which has a necessary impact on incomings as well, especially when you decide to spend what it turns out is very nearly half your entire summer’s budget on a reserve goalkeeper.

 

 

 

Everton – thinking Ashley Young could still do a job

There are more facetious answers available to questions of Everton’s financial activity, but let’s limit ourselves here to on-field matters. Ashley Young is not young. He is, for a Premier League outfield player, extremely old. It was showing in a very good Aston Villa side and it’s really showing in an undeniably improving but not yet good Everton one.

Fulham – signing Raul Jimenez as an Aleksandar Mitrovic replacement

Was never going to be easy for Fulham to try and replace Mitrovic’s goals and general vibes but this always appeared an odd choice. Maybe now he’s got off the mark with his first Premier League goal for the Cottagers – and a vital one too in turning a 3-0 defeat to Aston Villa into a 3-1 defeat to Aston Villa – the floodgates will open. But as it was his seventh Premier League goal in 60 games since that sickening head injury against Arsenal in 2020, we’re not confident.

 

 

 

Liverpool – signing Waturu Endo

Made sense at the time, but almost instantly rendered superfluous when Liverpool were subsequently able to extract the superb Ryan Gravenberch from Bayern Munich. We’ve already noted this elsewhere, but this is really a good thing for Liverpool. If your biggest mistake is signing a player and then instantly rendering that signing unnecessary by signing someone better, then things are going pretty well really, aren’t they?

Fulham – signing Raul Jimenez as an Aleksandar Mitrovic replacement
Was never going to be easy for Fulham to try and replace Mitrovic’s goals and general vibes but this always appeared an odd choice. Maybe now he’s got off the mark with his first Premier League goal for the Cottagers – and a vital one too in turning a 3-0 defeat to Aston Villa into a 3-1 defeat to Aston Villa – the floodgates will open. But as it was his seventh Premier League goal in 60 games since that sickening head injury against Arsenal in 2020, we’re not confident.

 

Liverpool – signing Waturu Endo
Made sense at the time, but almost instantly rendered superfluous when Liverpool were subsequently able to extract the superb Ryan Gravenberch from Bayern Munich. We’ve already noted this elsewhere, but this is really a good thing for Liverpool. If your biggest mistake is signing a player and then instantly rendering that signing unnecessary by signing someone better, then things are going pretty well really, aren’t they?

Luton – Albert Sambi Lokonga

Churlish to call out Luton for mistakes really. They’re in the Premier League and, in the best possible way, have no business being in the Premier League. As long as they don’t do anything while in the Premier League that places the future of the club in jeopardy, crack on. Signing an injured Albert Sambi Lokonga on loan from Arsenal and watching him get injured again two games after he eventually appeared isn’t great, though.

 

 

 

Manchester City – letting so many attacking players leave for no real good reason

City have been very good at refreshing and renewing their squad when the need arises but it still feels like their current mission to apparently divest themselves of all sorts of attacking players every summer is an exercise in trying to achieve things on some slightly harder difficulty level. Winning the Premier League – and even the Treble – has become so straightforward that they’ve decided to see how they can go about doing it even after letting Riyad Mahrez, Cole Palmer and Ilkay Gundogan wander off a year after deciding to do without Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus. It’s all part of Pep Guardiola’s policy of never blocking any transfer if City’s price is met, but sometimes it doesn’t half look a bit much. They’ve not exactly left themselves short, but they were more vulnerable than they needed to be to a Kevin De Bruyne injury, and those never seem to be all that far away these days.

Manchester United – spending all that striker money on a project

Poor Rasmus Hojlund. We do feel for him a bit. He’s clearly good, he clearly has vast potential and a very high ceiling. But he is equally clearly not remotely ready to be Manchester United’s starting striker. His zero Premier League goals will dog him until that record improves significantly, but it’s really not his fault. He’s looked like exactly what he is: a highly promising young footballer with a roughly one-in-three goalscoring record adapting to a tough new league under a harsh spotlight. He certainly hasn’t disgraced himself or let anyone down. But United needed hit-the-ground-running finished product and paid hit-the-ground-running finished product money.

 

 

 

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