The Premier League’s January transfer window has been SLAMMED shut for another year. Some managers were backed in and can be seen as nothing other than winners, whereas some clubs clearly come out of January as losers.
Winner: Christian Eriksen
Where else to start but the most heart-warming of signings.
Just seven months after coming perilously close to losing his life in front of a global audience, the former Ajax, Tottenham and Inter playmaker is back on a football pitch, signing to play under his former coach in Thomas Frank at Brentford.
Still just 29 years old, Eriksen should be in the absolute middle of his professional prime but, in a sense, what Eriksen provides on the pitch is almost secondary. This might turn out to be a beautiful reunion between the Dane, his former mentor and with football itself. It could come to pass that Eriksen experiences further health issues and walks away from the game at seasons end.
No matter the outcome, it’s simply wonderful to have the chance to appreciate Christian Eriksen again.
Tottenham were the window’s bride-left-at-the-alter. After feeling they had agreements with Luiz Diaz, Adama Traore and Franck Kessie, all three ended up landing somewhere other than White Hart Lane. The real kick to the bollocks came in the form of Ollie Tanner, the 19 year old currently plying his trade with non-league Lewes, turning down the offer of a Premier League contract. When you can’t even sway non-league teenagers to join you….
That said, it wasn’t all bad for Spurs. They did sign Rodrigo Bentancur to solidify the midfield and the winger Dejan Kulusevski so hopefully supply some ammunition for the misfiring Harry Kane. They also cleared out some of the middling deadwood in Bryan Gil (after only six months at the club), Giovanni Lo Celso and the enigmatic Tanguy Ndombele, all on loan. They also jettisoned former Golden Child Dele Alli to Everton on a permanent transfer that is initially free, but loaded with future fees.
All things considered, though, it was not a successful window in North London (more on their neighbours below).
Winner: Steven Gerrard
An excellent start to life as a Premier League manager for Gerrard only got better through the January transfer window. At Rangers, he was hampered somewhat by the market inequities of Scottish football but also by Rangers’ lack of financial clout relative even to Celtic. At Villa, the managers’ monetary leash has been significantly lengthened.
The most dramatic signing was of former teammate Philippe Coutinho on loan from Barcelona. The Brazilian brings an element of unpredictability to the Villa attack. His panache will make him an instant darling of the Holte End. Gerrard took advantage of the tribulations his former boss Rafa Benitez experienced at Everton, swindling Lucas Digne whilst offloading Matt Targett to Newcastle – a huge upgrade on the left flank. Gerrard also brought in Callum Chambers who will provide cover across the backline and experienced keeper Robin Olsen, who immediately steps in as one of the best reserve goalkeepers in the Premier League – he’d start for close to half the teams in the division. Villa also resisted overtures towards the influential Douglas Luiz.
Loser: West Ham
Sitting 5th in the table, the Hammers have a wonderful – and exceedingly rare – opportunity to gatecrash the Champions League party. Their 1st XI is undoubtedly strong, but this squad lacks any serious depth. Manager David Moyes wasn’t expecting too much of his club in this window, but to come up with literally no new signings must smart. Especially since the last few January transfer windows have netted the likes of Jesse Lingard (more on him below), Tomas Soucek and Jarrod Bowen.
West Ham did make some late enquiries to Benfica as to the availability of Darwin Nunez, but that was about the sum of their activity. As things stand, West Ham are relying on a team that is high in technical ability, physically strong and well organised. They’re also relying on a defense that is inexperienced behind its top four and on Michail Antonio’s delicate hamstrings to carry the scoring burden. It’s a risk.
Winner: Frank Lampard
The deadline day appointed Everton manager has been immediately backed in the transfer market with the deadline day signings of midfielders Donny van de Beek and Dele Alli. The lesser sighted pairing should be champing at the bit given their lack of playing time of the past few seasons. He also inherits the two full backs signed by his predecessor, Rafa Benitez.
Lampard is still unproven as a manager, though he has demonstrated that he has significant pulling power, apparently contacting Alli personally to pitch a move to Goodison Park. Compared to the lethargic off season transfer window that greeted Benitez, Lampard will have some off field momentum coming into his first games. That could prove crucial in Everton’s bid to avoid relegation.
Whilst Lampard may or may not prove a panacea, the Toffees dealings up to deadline day were, in retrospect, shambolic. Benitez signed Nathan Patterson from Rangers as the much needed long term replacement for aging club legend Seamus Coleman and also brought in young Ukrainian left back Vitalii Mykolenko, both for reasonable money. The reason Mykolenko was brought in, though, is due to an epic falling out between Benitez and Everton’s creative Frenchman Lucas Digne, who was sold to Aston Villa for £27 million. In typical Everton fashion, Benitez was sacked just five days after Digne’s sale. A sure sign of the dysfunction at Everton is that Anwar El Ghazi – a makeweight in the Digne sale, though unwanted by Benitez – has been at the club just 20 days. He’s served under three managers in that time.
Everton’s regular strong starts to seasons point to their strong formidable XI, though their continual mid-season struggles indicate a severe lack of strength in depth, despite significant spending under owner Farhad Moshiri.
This is a club in crisis and through they were able to pull a potentially spectacular deadline day, the previous 30 days of shambles can’t be ignored.
Like most things Brighton, this window was a low-key success. In a sure sign that they’re now an established Premier League club, they managed to keep hold of the players they wanted to keep, sell those they didn’t need for good money and make some astute purchases of their own.
In the first instance, they held on to Yves Bissouma despite strong interest from Aston Villa amongst others as well as keeping Tariq Lamptey in the fold. They managed to get £13 million for fourth choice centre half Dan Burn – a fee that surely includes some Newcastle Tax. Finally, they reinvested that money into the German Denis Undav (currently the top scorer in Belgium) and the exciting 18 year old Pole Kacper Kozlowski.
Neat, efficient work from the Seagulls.
In a similar vein to West Ham, Arsenal are putting their Champions League qualification hopes in peril through a rather lacklustre transfer window. Currently, 6th, just a point behind the Hammers but with two games in hand, Arsenal and much loved/maligned manager Mikel Arteta needed to make a statement in January.
The Gunners brought in precisely zero ambulant footballers in January. That, combined with the fact that six players moved out of the club (three on loan) leaves Arteta with a painfully thin squad at his disposal.
The midfield, shorn of Ainsley Maitland-Niles, is just one Granit Xhaka suspension away from being officially ‘thread bare’. Maitland-Niles also provided cover at both full back positions, whilst the departure of Callum Chambers and Pablo Mari leaves Arsenal’s central defense wafer thin. That, though, pales in comparison to the forward line.
Wantaway captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang got his wish with a move to Barcelona and youngster Folarin Balogun was loaned to Middleborough, leaving Alexandre Lacazette and impressive youngster Gabriel Martinelli as the only two central strikers in the squad.
That said, Arsenal are out of Europe and both domestic cup competitions. They have 17 games to play this season so can perhaps dole out their minutes a little more judiciously whilst hoping to avoid the injury bug or a COVID outbreak.
This was always going to be a tough market for Newcastle. When you’re the newly minted Richest Club In The World, yet up to your neck in a relegation battle, each and every transfer you make is going to come with a few not-so-hidden taxes.
The Magpies were not able to secure all of their targets: Jesse Lingard remains at Old Trafford; centre backs Diego Carlos and Sven Botman are still with Sevilla and Lille respectively. They were able to significantly strengthen a poor squad, though.
Kieran Trippier returns to England after a successful spell with Atletico Madrid, Dan Burn stiffens the centre of a deplorable defense whilst giving some cover at left full back to fellow new signing Matt Targett. New Zealander Chris Wood will provide a reliably physical presence up front. Their most important signing could be the Brazilian midfielder Bruno Guimarães from Lyon. The 24 year old is a genuine playmaker from deep. He’ll provide a level of class and guile not seen at St James’ Park in a long time.
Time will tell if these signings will help Newcastle escape a disastrous relegation, though on paper they’ve certainly improved.
Loser: Jesse Lingard
This time last year Lingard joined West Ham on a six month long loan, making a monumental impact on the Hammers late season late season push for European qualification. He wanted to join the London outfit permanently but was rebuffed by former United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer who wanted to keep him around for reasons that remain unclear, playing him just 88 minutes so far this campaign.
This time around it was Newcastle that wanted Lingard to, rather than push them into Europe, help the stay in the top division. Despite lengthy negotiations, United’s asking price of a £10 million loan fee proved too steep even for the deep pocketed Magpies.
Now, with just six months remaining on his Old Trafford contract and the move to Newcastle falling through, it appears that the 29 year old will walk away from the club he joined as a seven year old to little fanfare. Though in that sense Lingard may come out a winner, free to choose where he the next chapter of his career unfolds.