Ronaldo, Gallagher & the eight best Premier League transfers of the season so far

Stuart Hodge Updated: 28 Dec 2021 12:17 CET 12 min read
Conor Gallagher on loan at Crystal Palace from Chelsea

How well a club does in their summer recruitment can often dictate whether a team succeeds or fails in the season which follows.

At Premier League level it becomes even more pivotal to ensure you get those incoming transfers right, given the fine margins which can decide games.

Here, Football Transfers looks at which teams have nailed it – and which of their signings have caused the rest of the league to sit up and take notice.

Aaron Ramsdale – Sheffield United to Arsenal, £24m rising to £30m

Arsenal goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale

From initially being seen as a backup for Bernd Leno, Ramsdale is now the undisputed first choice for Arsenal and also competing with Jordan Pickford to be Gareth Southgate’s number one for the World Cup.

Statistically, Ramsdale is the best goalkeeper in the league right now with a save percentage of 79.7% and only Ederson has more clean sheets than him, which is quite something considering Arsenal have already lost six games this season.

Ramsdale has been the Gunners’ saviour on multiple occasions and his stop from James Maddison’s free-kick against Leicester at the King Power Stadium will live long in the memories of anyone who saw it. It was one of eight saves in a man-of-the-match display for the young goalkeeper.

Rather than acting as an outlier, though, that performance was indicative of a general excellence which the 23-year-old has displayed since making his big move. On top of everything else, his personality has added character to an Arsenal team badly needing it and he seems to have the disposition as well as the skills and aptitude to be an excellent Premier League goalkeeper.

Cristiano Ronaldo – Juventus to Manchester United, £12.86m with potential £6.86m in add-ons

When you’re signing one of the most prolific players in the history of the world, then it’s safe to say you’re probably going to be on to a banker, signing-wise.

But 36-year-old Ronaldo, at this veteran stage in his career, is still absolutely bossing the Premier League.

His return to English football saw him net twice in a 4-1 win over Newcastle at Old Trafford and the Portuguese superstar has hardly let up from there. Particularly notable are the amount of late winning goals he’s netted for an often-average Manchester United side. In the Champions League, he’s done it against Villarreal and Atalanta (as well as bagging a brace in the Bergamo clash to salvage a draw) and also in the Premier League against Norwich in a poor performance at Carrow Road.

Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates his Premier League double in Man Utd 3-2 Arsenal

On top of that, although the step-overs of a couple of decades ago are pretty much gone, the dazzling skill is still evident in different ways – such as the beautiful control and perfectly-weighted assist he produced for Edison Cavani’s goal against Spurs.

He’s still a magician, still an assassin and single-handedly elevates United’s match-winning capabilities to a different level.

Odsonne Edouard – Celtic to Crystal Palace, £12m rising to £18.5m

It didn't take Odsonne Edouard long to get started at Crystal Palace. He scored his first goal 28 seconds after coming off the bench in the 84th minute against 10-man Tottenham Hotspur and scored another before the end of the game as Palace won 3-0.

He also netted a fine goal against Arsenal and his versatility and willingness to adapt has been impressive as Partick Vieira has asked him to fill a few different roles. As a result, he is intercepting more passes and making more tackles than he ever did for Celtic, and his combination play and movement between the lines has impressed his new boss.

Christian Benteke's good form, in particular the red-hot spell between October and November where he scored four goals in five games, has meant Edouard has played a lot less in his natural centre-forward role than he might like.

But his skill, tidyness in possession and running on and off the ball offer a different outlet for Palace and if he can get the goals flowing with a little more consistenc there is no doubt this will prove to be a home-run move for Palace.

Maxwel Cornet – Lyon to Burnley, £13m

The Ivory Coast international has been hugely impressive since arriving at Burnley in the summer.

Cornet has scored five goals in his nine Premier League games so far and in doing so has showcased a flair and finishing ability which has left Clarets fans salivating. His impact with the Burnley faithful has been such that he comfortably won the Fans’ Player of the Year award despite only joining the club in the summer.

Not just that, but his overall movement and the pace and power he shows when running with the ball has added a completely new (and badly-needed) dimension to Burnley’s attack.

The only criticism would be that a couple of niggly injuries have stopped him showcasing his talents even more regularly but the relatively small outlay, especially in Premier League terms, represents a fantastic piece of business by Burnley.

Emmanuel Dennis – Club Brugge to Watford, £3.7m

The cheapest deal on this list, it’s scarcely believable that Watford were able to acquire a player of such quality for such a small fee.

Other teams in the relegation scrap must be looking on enviously as Dennis has provided seven goals and five assists in just 15 Premier League games, including against Chelsea, Leicester and Manchester United in successive matches.

Dennis plays with a natural desire to entertain, searing pace and conviction in front of goal – a lethal combination – and the demeanour with which he celebrates when he scores is indicative of a player who expects this level of excellence from himself.

An absolute bargain and should Watford fail to survive the drop, he will have a long queue of suitors and the Hornets will make an excellent return on their investment.

Takehiro Tomiyasu – Bologna to Arsenal, £17m

Takehiro Tomiyasu playing for Arsenal, 2021/22

Tomiyasu was seen by many as a bit of a punt when Arsenal forked out the money to ship him over from Italy, but the move has been a slam dunk for Edu, the Gunners’ sporting director.

Despite being just 22, Tomiyasu plays with the assurance of someone more experienced and he hasn’t found the step up to the Premier League at all daunting. In fact, Arsenal have kept clean sheets (eight) in more than half of his 15 Premier League appearances so far.

Deceptively quick and with tall stature, good composure and a knack for reading the game and anticipating situations well, the Japanese international has slotted seamlessly into the Arsenal backline.

Comfortable at either centre-back or right-back, he very much enjoys the art of defending and that’s the kind of player Arsenal have needed for a long time.

Connor Gallagher – Chelsea to Crystal Palace, loan

Connor Gallagher is a bundle of energy and regular first team football at Premier League level seems to have been the absolute making of him. He is very much the archetypal modern midfielder in that he does a little bit of everything, and does everything well.

Gallagher is ranked second statistically out of all the players at Palace for tackling and wins possession in the middle third more than any other player.

In terms of what he does in and around the opposition box, he has six goals and three assists from 15 Premier League games his season. That means he has been involved in half of Palace’s league goals this season.

The growth in his game was pointedly shown in his match-winning display against Everton, where he scored twice. In particular, the way he forced Christian Benteke out of the way before curling in a brilliant strike from well outside the box for the second of those is demonstrative of the confidence soaring through his veins.

He plays with character, panache, brains and skill and Gallagher’s exploits this season have led to him being capped by his country for the first time. Even though it is just a loan deal Palace have had great value from acquiring him.

Jose Sa – Olympiakos to Wolves, £6.25m

Jose Sa is very much a modern goalkeeper and his ability with the ball at his feet and his proactive attitude in possession have helped set the tone for a Wolves side which has started so impressively under new boss Bruno Lage.

He can even claim an assist for his long pass to Raul Jimenez which yielded the winning goal against Southampton in a 1-0 victory at St Mary's.

No Premier League goalkeeper has created more chances this season and he has also been one of the best at coming off his line quickly to sweep up. Combine all of that with a save percentage of 78.1% (second in the league, a smidge behind Ramsdale) and it's clear Sa has been a sure-fire success at Molineux.