In a summer where everyone who is anyone seemed to be on the move, the football world should probably be forgiven for devoting its transfer window enthusiasms to departing icons, homecoming kings, and the sagas of generational talents.
However, there has been plenty more going on beyond the front page. Here are four new signings who could have an impact in the English top-flight this term who are unfortunate enough not to be called Cristiano Ronaldo.
Albert Sambi Lokonga (Anderlecht to Arsenal, £15million)
Let’s start by doing something very out of fashion at the moment: saying something nice about Arsenal. Early evidence on Lokonga has been promising. Admittedly, delivering respectable performances worthy of being a professional footballer has been just about enough to stand out for The Gunners in the early weeks.
But the 21-year-old Belgian has shown energy, a tidy touch, and a decent awareness of the game around him, playing with a positivity that leaves the onlooker wondering what he has done to deserve having to play for Arsenal.
He was one of the few who looked to have both the stomach for the battle and the creative quality which the opening night fixture at Brentford demanded. The midfielder was also largely exempt from criticism in a defeat to Chelsea underpinned by tactical blindness.
His strange exclusion from the defeat at Manchester City may have been a blessing in disguise for a young player so recently arrived in an elite league. Given the latest episode in the seemingly never-ending series of Granit Xhaka letting down his Arsenal teammates, any progress on his early displays will see Lokonga rapidly grow in responsibility.
That defeat to Chelsea is arguably the most respectable result but most worrying performance of the three. As eluded to before, Arsenal walked into a tactical trap, as Lukaku’s physicality dragged their full-backs in narrow in an attempt to help Pablo Mari, giving Chelsea’s wing-backs the freedom of the flanks at the Emirates.
That Xhaka at no point was able to do his job of cutting off the ground service into Lukaku and that Arteta seemingly wandered blind into an inevitable tactical slaughtering makes for a bad combination for Lokonga – a young player whose role will grow, and whose talent will grow with it, provided his coach knows how to use him.
Francisco Trincao (Barcelona to Wolves, Loan with £25million option)
Wolves are proof of why you shouldn’t let Arsenal off for their awful start because they’ve played the English and European Champions.
Three 1-0 defeats out of three, all at the hands of strong opposition, leave Wolves as pointless as Arsenal, but the mood remains bright in the Black Country. New boss Bruno Lage has taken what had become a pedestrian, and quite frankly dull, team under his predecessor Nuno Espirito Santo and has, without changing many of the playing staff at all, got them playing exciting, attacking football.
At Molineux against Manchester United they seemed to do everything but score – Neves and Moutinho were dominant, Adama Traore ran riot and offered his boss another teasing glimpse of just how dangerous he could be if only he could find regular end product, and Raul Jimenez looked like a man who will need time to find his way back in – understandably so, and it’s time he very much deserves.
The one new man who did feature in the XI, and whose arrival resonates well with Lage’s new-look Wolves, was Trincao. The Barca starlet, signed for big money a year ago from Braga, has all the tricks and close control to be expected from a Portuguese wide-man, and showed considerable strength and pace when holding off the hapless Fred to run through on goal only to be denied the opener by a magnificent Aaron Wan-Bissaka block.
When it all comes together, the new-look Wolves front three, supplemented by Daniel Podence, Fabio Silva, new boy Hwang Hee-Chan and eventually Pedro Neto will be threatening to all.
Expect questions of why the Catalans, who have now let go of Messi and Griezmann, were willing to show Trincao the door to start reasonably soon if early promise, and obvious talent, can be built on.
Milot Rashica (Werder Bremen to Norwich City, £9million)
Norwich’s latest return to the Premier League has brought another attempt to stay up with an entertaining team that doesn’t break the bank, all set to inevitably win the Championship next season.
Rashica fits with that approach. A midfielder, who one valuation website rated as a £30million player not so long ago, arrives in the Premier League off the back of Werder Bremen’s relegation to the second tier in Germany, in a campaign with very few redeeming features.
Rashica operates primarily off the left, and before last season had been a decent source of goals for the famous German club, with his direct approach leading him to typically be seen as his side’s most potent threat.
His fall in value, and therefore the relatively cheap price the Canaries have paid, reflects an all-round disaster of a campaign for Bremen, who wrongly thought survival the season before would be a platform for recovery.
That the Kosovan is going from back-to-back relegation battles in Germany straight into a new one in England is probably not reflective of his ability, and given Teemu Pukki’s questionable goal record at the top level, he will need to settle quickly to prevent this battle ending the same way as his last.
Will Hughes (Watford to Crystal Palace, £6million)
My last entry on this list is probably, on the surface, the least inspiring.
But just as Lokonga represents Arsenal’s newfound faith in youth and Trincao is symbolic of what Bruno Lage hopes to create from what Nuno left behind, the low-key signing of Will Hughes is a perfect example of what Patrick Vieira will hope is to be the new Crystal Palace.
The South London club have been busy. Marc Guehi and Joachim Andersen sound like very astute acquisitions, with both Michael Olise from Reading and Odsonne Edouard from Celtic representing more risky signings, but in Hughes they are getting a central midfielder with nearly 80 Premier League appearances across three seasons for a Championship price.
With all due respect to some very polished Premier League operators, Hughes, along with Chelsea loanee Connor Gallagher, look to make Palace a different, more ball-playing proposition in midfield than the McCarhty-McArthur-Millivojevic-based midfields the Selhurst Park faithful became used to under Roy Hogdson.
At their peak, both Roy’s Palace and Pardew’s before him were solid but devastating on the break. Provided Edouard is a hit, the latest transformation in South London can bring a team more comfortable on the ball. In Hughes, they have an accomplished midfield metronome to deliver this.
Image: Club Brugge via Flickr