Talking Tactics: Five of the best summer signings

Adrian Clarke looks at impact Di Maria, Costa Sanchez, Pelle and Song have had on their clubs

Southampton's summer signing Graziano Pelle has taken to the BPL like a duck to water
A standout feature of the season so far has been the positive impression made by several overseas imports. Having taken no time at all to settle in, it seems that everywhere you look a Barclays Premier League new boy has managed to offer a significant contribution in their new club colours.
This week our tactical analyst Adrian Clarke takes a closer look at five signings who have made a significant impact on the way their team plays.

Angel Di Maria

Manchester United desperately needed more pace and innovation going forward this season and they have found it in the shape of their record signing.
Too often last term the Red Devils were laborious in the final third, slowing attacks down and flinging a stream of hopeful crosses into the penalty area. The positivity and verve we traditionally associate with United was conspicuous by its absence, and eight other clubs scored more than they did on home turf.
Angel Di Maria has dragged them out of that rut, with a string of influential displays and the extra tempo he has brought to the side has been noticeable. Quicker than any of his team-mates at top speed, the former Real Madrid winger is presenting opposition defences with a problem they rarely encountered in 2013/14: direct, purposeful running with and without the ball.
United's new wide man has much more than just pace in his armoury, not least a formidably accurate left foot. Driving into advanced areas with his trickery and acceleration, the Argentinian has delivered 22 accurate crosses in just nine matches. Every time he stands over a dead ball, he is a major threat too.
Not since Ryan Giggs was in his heyday have United boasted a natural left-winger with the speed and talent to turn matches on their head in the blink of an eye, but they have one now in Di Maria.
As displayed below, his statistics are on a different level to those produced by United’s attacking midfielders under the previous regime.
Chances made3.

Diego Costa

Chelsea's rumbustious new centre-forward has singlehandedly transformed the potency of the Blues' attack.
Putting his startling goal record to one side for a moment, the Spaniard is first and foremost a team player who never shies away from his responsibilities to those around him. Willing to come short, hold his ground, or offer himself as a runner into the channels, the man on the ball always has an option with Costa in the side.
Because he looks after the ball so well, it has enabled Jose Mourinho’s men to take a firmer grip on matches this term, and as a consequence the midfielders are spending more time in possession. The contrast between Costa’s touches per match and those of his predecessors can be seen clearly below.
Shot conversion rate45.5%13.5%18.5%18.5%
Passes per match26.6169.19.1
Touches per match43.827.426.214.9
Chances made per match2110.4
It is of course the Spain international's finishing prowess that has caught the eye most, however, so it is no surprise Chelsea are scoring appreciably more goals.
So, how does he get himself into scoring positions ahead of defenders so often? His speed of thought and burst of pace over a few yards is very special. Costa's top speed in Barclays Premier League action has been measured at 34.69 km/h, quicker than Di Maria.

Alexis Sanchez

Arsenal's principle summer signing has been a revelation since making the switch from Barcelona, adding notably more firepower to the Gunners' line-up. Able to play as a lone striker or on either flank, Arsene Wenger has more options with the Chilean on board, but it is as a No 10 that he has created the strongest impression.
Alexis cannot keep possession as well as the injured Mesut Ozil (his pass-accuracy is 76.9% compared with the German's 88.1%) and he does not link with midfielders in the same assured way. However, his own unique interpretation of that position transforms the north Londoners from a straightforward 4-2-3-1 into a system that is as close to a 4-4-2 as we have seen from Arsenal in many years.
Wenger has a genuine twin strikeforce when his new boy is asked to perform the central role.
With a devastating 36.36% shot-to-goal conversion rate Sanchez is lethal when an opportunity arises, and when it comes to laying on chances for team-mates he surprisingly leads chief creator Ozil too, with 2.4 key passes per match.
Arsenal have signed a player who scores and creates goals more than any other.

Graziano Pelle

Finding an upgrade on the excellent Rickie Lambert was an unenviable task for Ronald Koeman, but he pulled it off with the capture of Dutch football’s leading scorer from last season.
Three years younger than the Lambert, Pelle's movement is a touch sharper than the Liverpudlian he replaced. Where Lambert had a habit of attacking the far post, the Italian mixes up his runs and that in turn makes him a more unpredictable presence when balls are whipped into the box.
Standing 5cm taller, Pelle wins twice as many aerial duels as Lambert and statistically manufactures more efforts on goal too.
Southampton's new goal hero is also benefitting from better service and that is important to note. While Adam Lallana did a terrific job on the south coast, his replacement Dusan Tadic has already supplied more successful crosses to his striker than the England international managed throughout the duration of 2013/14. He has also laid on the same number of chances for his striker, remarkably in 28 fewer matches.
Lallana to Lambert 2013/1437174.28
Tadic to Pelle 2014/1511173.89
Under Koeman Southampton's style of play is still built around a strong centre-forward who can act as a pivot, but player for player the younger man is a slightly better performer in most departments.

Alex Song

Pacy forwards Enner Valencia and Diafra Sakho have created a huge impression up front, but the influence of midfield man Alex Song has made just as significant an impact at the Boleyn Ground.
In recent seasons captain Mark Noble has had to shoulder an enormous amount of responsibility. Often left alone as the sole central midfield man, Noble has topped the Hammers rankings for tackles and passes by some distance for several campaigns in succession.
Tackles won/match2.42.2
Now, he has a partner, a fellow central midfielder with whom to share the load, and together they are laying a much more solid and controlled platform in the middle of the park for the rest of the West Ham side.
Song has a calm authority on the ball too. His ability to keep possession in tight situations rather than playing hopeful 50/50 passes has helped the Hammers' share of the ball in matches increase from 44% to 47% in 2014/15.
Sam Allardyce's intention of turning his side into a more attractive footballing side, without harming their defensive credentials, was given a huge lift when the Barcelona man agreed to join on loan. He is a player who has improved the team in both areas.

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