An article evaluating the summer signings sparked much discussion a few months ago. I would now like to open the floor to see who should be dubbed the Signing of the Year.
Here are some candidates, feel free to nominate others, however I think my mind is already made up. Evaluation is based on performance, impact on the squad, how the club has fared this season in all competitions, and long-term potential for the team.
Stats are taken from ESPN Soccernet
To become a virtual automatic pick on a team that has 4 reasonably good strikers is no easy task. To do so while becoming a consistent scoring threat in whichever competition he plays (92 shots, 57 on goal in 32 games) is even more impressive.
Dimitar started a little slow, and had a bit of a goal drought in late December/early January, but has steadily progressed, and especially turned it on recently (5 goals in the last 6 appearances). He and Keane seem to be working well together, which bodes well for Tottenham if they can keep Keane.
While he stays out of trouble (one yellow card all season), he does pick up a minor injury here and there. Tottenham are still in the FA Cup and UEFA Cup, and within striking distance of the 5 or 6 spot in the Premiership. If Berbatov stays healthy I see him leading the Tottenham charge for years to come.
Obafemi Martins: “22,” Forward, Newcastle. Signed for 10.1m pounds
Premiership: 10 goals, 4 assists
FA Cup: 1 assist
UEFA Cup: 6 goals
Martins did not have as much competition as Berbatov, but has produced similar results. He stepped up big for Newcastle who, without Michael Owen lack a striker who is a real scoring threat (Martins has 91 shots, 47 on goal in 37 appearances).
Newcastle has struggled in the Premiership, Carling Cup, and FA Cup, but I doubt they would still be in the UEFA Cup without Martins. It remains to be seen how he pairs with Owen when he returns, but he has a lot of football ahead of him, and the outlook is certainly promising.
Tim Howard: 27, Goalkeeper, Everton. Signed on loan, made permanent for an undisclosed amount (Editor: 3m pounds).
Premiership: 28 games, 12 clean sheets, 23 goals against, 159 saves, 1 penalty save
Carling Cup: 1 game, 1 goal against, 4 saves
FA Cup: 1 game, 4 goals against, 4 saves
While his teammate Andrew Johnson may have been the early frontrunner for this award, (5 goals in his first 5 games), Howard has been a rock between the posts all year. While neither he, nor Everton performed well in the Cup competitions, Everton sit 6th in the Premiership, and have conceded only 26 goals all year, largely due to Howard’s presence.
Everton lost the only Premiership game he didn’t play 3-0 to Manchester United. His 12 clean sheets are second only to Jose Reina, and against Arsenal he had 12 saves in a marvelous performance that ended in a 1-1 draw. Tim should be a stalwart at Everton for years, and is pushing to win back his starting job for the United States.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Benedict McCarthy, Jonathan Woodgate, Nicholas Anelka, David James, Nwankwo Kanu, Andrew Johnson
You will notice that no players from the Big 4 are on this list. Nemanja Vidic would have been, but he was a January transfer. This is mainly because the impact these players have had for their clubs has been so obvious, and partially because none of the signings for the Big 4 were revolutionary to their teams. Players like Michael Carrick, Ashley Cole, Dirk Kuyt, Thomas Rosicky, etc. have all contributed, and some may eventually become more important to their club than those nominated here, but they did not have the same immediate, noticeable impact that they can single-handedly claim.
My vote goes to Dimitar Berbatov for his contribution in all competitions, ability to be a team player, and the fact that Tottenham still are still in the running for the FA Cup, UEFA Cup, and a top 6 berth in the Premiership.