1. George Friend: 7.5
Coming in as Karanka’s first summer recruit, many were left fairly underwhelmed. The veteran defender had previously spent 8 years at the Teeside club and having formerly linked up with current gaffer Aitor Karanka will certainly add a sense of familiarity and experience to Blues. So far his composure has managed to also bring out the best of Harlee Dean who has looked more like the player we signed 3 years ago.
2. Jon Toral: 7
Having previously played for Blues in a loan stint in the 15/16 season and accumulating a total of 8 goals and 4 assists many of the St. Andrew’s faithful were left very happy to see the Spaniard return on a free from relegated Hull City. Toral joined the tigers at the start of the 17/18 season for £3 million from Arsenal, however, only managed 4 goals and 10 assists in his 3 year time at the club. Still regaining full fitness, it will be interesting to see if he is able to regain his former talent.
3. Ivan Sanchez: 8.5
After a period of summer speculation Ivan Sanchez was eventually announced as Blues’ third signing under Karanka’s reign. The former Elche winger came in on a free after running down his contract with the newly promoted La Liga side. Since arriving at St.Andrews Sanchez has really impressed, managing to get two assists from corners against Brentford and Stoke City respectively. Sanchez has certainly brought a spark to Blues, with his agile feet and rapid speed he has caused all sorts of problems for Championship defences.
4. Jonathan Leko: 7.5
After West Brom’s promotion to the Premier League, 21-year-old winger Jonathan Leko was not deemed to be of further assistance with further arrivals for the West Midlands club. Leko started brightly on loan for Championship side Charlton Athlectic last season where he managed to get 5 goals and 4 assists in 21 appearances. However, in December Leko suffered a cruciate ligament injury which has kept him out for just under 10 months. Leko is still recovering his fitness after making a small cameo appearance against Sheffield Wednesday. I believe Leko will be an exciting player for Blues, being able to bring a new dynamic to our attack and for £1 million could be a real steal.
5. Andres Prieto: 6
After the departures of Lee Camp, David Stockdale and Connal Trueman it was clear Blues were in need of recruiting at least two senior goalkeepers. Blues eventually managed to secure the services of Spaniard, Andres Prieto. The 27-year-old will come to Blues primarily as a back-up keeper who will have to bide his time for minutes. We saw glimpses of his talent in friendlies against Spurs and Walsall, he looks composed and measured in his ability and looks a more than adequate number 2.
6. Adam Clayton: 7.5
The second of Karanka’s recruits that he has previously worked with after George Friend. Clayton was not offered a new contract after spending 6 years at the Riverside and looked keen to link up with Karanka once again. Since coming in it is clear Clayton’s composure and communication has been pivitol to higher ball retention and keeping the team ticking. I believe he has also allowed Sunjic to harness a greater role in the team and show off the player we know he is.
7. Neil Etheridge: 8.5
After being linked to a Premier League move just 12 months ago, Blues were able to capture the services of the Phillipino for a rumoured £2 million. Etheridge is a keeper who brings a real statement of intent and pedigree and would be welcomed at most Championship clubs. Etheridge was Cardiff’s stand out player in their season in the Premier League, managing to achieve 10 clean sheets in 38 games. However, after suffering an injury on the opening day of the 2019/20 season Etheridge fell out of favour with Neil Harris and was demoted below Alex Smithies. Etheridge has already impressed at Blues pulling off a few acrobatic stops and being able to communicate his area sufficiently.
8. Scott Hogan: 7
After 7 goals in 9 pre lockdown appearances, Karanka stated he had got his man with the Villa man making the move across the season on a 4 year deal as Blues’ number 9. I believe Hogan is a very form orientated player and on his day there is not many better finishers in the division, however it is now about rediscovering that form and showing what he can do whilst providing an alternative dynamic to Jutkiewicz’s physicality.
9. Mikel San Jose: 8
San Jose comes to Blues having spent 10 years with Athletic Bilbao in Spain and has clocked up over 300 La Liga appearances, along with international representation at both the EUROs and the Olympics. Predominantly deployed as a defensive midfielder, San Jose can also fill in as a centre-back if needed. His experience and work horse qualities will give Blues much needed physicality and dogginess in the middle of the park. San Jose is yet to make an appearance for Blues, however there is much excitement for his imminent debut.
10. Riley McGree: 6
Coming in on the international deadline day, Riley McGree arrives from Adelaide United via signing for Charlotte FC in the USA. McGree will most notably be remembered for his spectacular Puskas nominated scorpion kick goal. I believe he wil have to adjust quickly to the pace and power of the Championship which could make his transition more challenging, however, could be a decent option off the bench for changing things up.
11. Jake Clarke-Salter: 7.5
After an impressive 2019/20 season most Blues fans will be happy to see Clarke-Salter return to St.Andrews on a further season long loan. The Chelsea loanee comes to Blues having attracted a host of Championship suitors interest following his impressive spell. Clarke-Salter certainly adds further defensive security for Blues who under Karanka will be seeking to concede far less than the 75 goals let in last season.
Overall, I believe Blues have done a lot of smart business this summer spending just shy of an overall £4 million whilst accumulating close to £30 million from sales. The acquisitions of free agents such as Ivan Sanchez and Mikel San Jose will prove to be great pieces of business. Blues have also looked to secure up the defence with recruits like George Friend and Jake Clarke-Salter who I think will be vital to a new look solid Karanka side. I still believe Blues are lacking in forward options and think they will need to revisit this is the January window, however, for now I am very happy with Blues’ summer business.