So that’s that. The January transfer window has closed, leaving happy clubs and despondent fans alike in its wake. Iain Macintosh rounds up the Heroes and Villains of “Deadline Day” and the month that was.
Once again, Chelsea proved themselves to be one of the shrewdest English clubs in the transfer market. It was enough that they kept Diego Costa by cleverly engineering the win-win scenario of either hanging onto him or luring a Chinese club into paying a billion dollars for his signature. But they also brought in £6 million for Patrick Bamford, who had never played for Chelsea, they got John Obi Mikel off the wage bill and they wangled £52m for Oscar, who barely featured this season. In a post-Financial Fair Play world, that’s good business.
Ronald Koeman has had six months to thoroughly examine his Everton squad. His judgement has been brutal. Out go Gerard Deulofeu, Tom Cleverley and Oumar Niasse, all on wage-saving loans. Out go Brian Oviedo and Darron Gibson too, off to the unenviable challenge of saving Sunderland. In comes one of the brightest young striking talents in England, Ademola Lookman, who popped up off the bench and promptly scored against Manchester City on his debut. And welcome to Goodison Park, Morgan Schneiderlin, who may not fit in with the other lads because he can actually tackle. Everton are now a better team.
It has been three-and-a-half years and Mark Hughes is still trying to shake the misplaced notion that Stoke City are a long-ball team. Perhaps that perception will finally change now that he has snapped up Saido Berahino. If the young striker can rediscover his form, and if he can avoid trouble behind the scenes, this could be an outstanding signing. He has the potential to play for England, though admittedly that’s not the compliment it used to be.
What a night for Burnley. Two new players, three more points and the summer’s relegation favourites move into ninth place. Assuming he can shake off his memories of life at Aston Villa, Ashley Westwood should prove a competent option in midfield, but Robbie Brady looks an excellent acquisition. He played as a left-back for Norwich in their victory over Birmingham at the weekend, but he can play further forward too. Now, if Sean Dyche’s men can only figure out how to replicate their home form on the road, they’ll really be getting somewhere.
And it hasn’t been a bad window for Crystal Palace, either. At the sixth time of asking, Sam Allardyce finally delivered a win and lifted the Eagles to, well, 18th place. But it’s a start. Off the field, it was clear what Palace had to do in January. They needed a left-back … they ended up with two in Jeffrey Schlupp and Patrick van Aanholt have arrived. Now Joel Ward can finally return to right-back, where he’s far more comfortable. But it’s the arrival of Liverpool’s Mamadou Sakho that will bring the most hope. He’s not a perfect centre-back by any means, but a dominant, aggressive presence who might just shake things up.
Let’s be fair. The real damage to Hull‘s survival hopes was done in the summer when a tiny squad was left to fend for itself under the aegis of a man in his first managerial role. Despite their extraordinary start, the Tigers were always up against it, which rather raises the question: What have they been doing since? They’ve sold their best player, Robert Snodgrass. They’ve sold Jake Livermore, a fine midfielder. And they’ve done little more than bring in stack of loan signings. New manager Marco Silva has impressed in his short time in England and he looks pretty good. He needs to be.
Bravo, Jurgen Klopp, for his refusal to be caught up in the Premier League’s unbridled worship of money. His commitment to old-fashioned values like coaching and youth development is to be applauded. And yet … was there really nowhere that Liverpool could have strengthened this winter? You know, like, another swift attacking midfielder, perhaps, to help cushion the blow of Sadio Mane’s absence? Or maybe a decent defender so they don’t keep having to use Lucas or Ragnar Klavan? Or a goalkeeper? All those home defeats in 2017 indicate that they could certainly have done with something.
At a club where there are already rumours of widespread discontent, the last thing you need is a rebellious player radiating discontent. When it’s a player who has had only a bit-part role over the past 18 months, there’s only one thing to do: sell him. Sunderland made a perfectly good offer of £7.5m for Leonardo Ulloa and Leicester still turned it down. They may live to regret that course of action. They should have got him out the door as soon as possible.
After much deliberation, the jury is still out on Sunderland. Yes, it’s easy enough to laugh at the acquisition of Darron Gibson and Brian Oviedo but maybe David Moyes is on to something. Maybe it’s not such a bad idea to surround himself with players he knows and trusts, players he has worked with before. But at what cost? No one is pretending that Patrick van Aanholt is Roberto Carlos, but he is one of only four men to score for Sunderland this season. Moyes & Co. have taken a big gamble here.
Thank goodness there was Actual Football to watch because Transfer Deadline Day itself was the dampest of squibs. Remember when things used to happen? Not just transfers, mind you, though few of us will ever forget the Fernando Torres/Andy Carroll night, but … you know? Other stuff. Ryan Babel in a helicopter. Peter Odemwingie sitting forlornly in his car. Recreational products in the ears of outside broadcasters. Those were the days, my friend. There’s none of that now, which, I guess, makes us, the fans who sat in front of the telly all night, the real losers.