07 February 2019
It’s fair to say the January transfer window may not have the same glitz and glamour surrounding it when compared to its Summer counterpart. However, it is no less important either as teams up and down the country look to make some all important changes to their personnel.
If the Summer window is all about ongoing transfer saga’s, then the turn of the year is perhaps a little more relaxed. Usually the teams at the top of the table, who hog the headlines in the off season feel that they don’t require any major business come the start of the year.
Instead the January window is more the preserve of teams at the bottom end of the table, for club managers and chairman it is all about whether to roll the dice and spend in a bid to keep your side out of the bottom three.
Ultimately it is nothing more than a gamble, do you speculate to accumulate, or do you hold fire and brace yourself for the impact of relegation. Any of the bottom seven would love a star striker to get themselves out of trouble, but they are particularly hard to find at this time of year.
Not only that, but if you do manage to find one, then more often than not it is going to cost you a lot more than you would have first bargained. That said, that doesn’t mean that an astute purchase is impossible in January.
If we look at the business from the Premier League as a whole then it was a much quieter window, this time around. £180m was spent in the month of January, with £50m of that coming on transfer deadline day.
That may sound a lot of money, but it is dwarfed by comparison when you compare it to the expenditure of last season. Last January saw a total of £430m spent across the month, £150m spent on deadline day alone.
Almost as much was spent on the final day of the January 2018 transfer window then was in the whole of last month, so why was there a perceived reluctance to spend in regard to the 20 English top flight clubs?
One argument is perhaps that good business was already made in the Summer – Tottenham of course notwithstanding, as their steadfast refusal to sign anyone this season has continued into the turn of the year.
Whether this transfer strategy does actually pay off for the club we will have to wait at the end of the season. If they do manage to secure another top four finish, then you would have to say it was a job well done by Mauricio Pochettino.
Tottenham fans could and probably have argued that if they signed players this season they could be even further up the table, at the same time though signing a player is never really a cast iron guarantee of success.
If we look at the ‘big six’ then very little business has been concluded by this elite band of clubs, again the reasons could be two fold. First, would targets actually be available and second, do they actually need anyone to come in and do a job.
The answer is not necessarily an emphatic no on both counts, but when you see what business has actually been done, then you can begin to see just why there has been such an apprehension to spend money at the start of the year.
Arsenal manager Unai Emery went on record to say that the club does not have any money for permanent signings and the former Sevilla boss was true to his word, as the only player he managed to pick up was the loan capture of Denis Suarez.
And it is Sevilla where the two have worked together previously back in the 2014/15 season – one that saw the Spanish outfit win the Europa League. Could the arrival of Suarez be something of a lucky omen for the Gunners?
Arsenal are not out of the race to finish in the top four by any stretch of the imagination, at the same time you do get the feeling that with that single addition to their squad in the shape of Suarez they do have the weakest squad of the ‘Big Six’.
Add the fact that Manchester United are now fully resurgent under interim Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and that task has just got a little bit tougher and even though the Red Devils have not made any new major signings they have certainly be transformed under their new manager.
The logic in United not spending money in January would have been that they don’t know who their manager will be come the start of the next season, as much as they would have liked to have given funds to Solskjaer it would have made little sense to either.
At the same time, it almost feels like United do have some new signings at the moment when you consider the transformation of some of their players. Paul Pogba being the prime example of this, but he is not the only one to have found a new lease of life.
And it is that galvanisation which is going to be a real shot in the arm for United as they look to book a place in next season’s Champions League, the question is can they get the better of a Chelsea side who were the biggest spenders in the top six?
Early in the window the Blues completed the most expensive singing of the month, one that came in the shape of American international Christian Pulisic, who joined from German giants Borussia Dortmund.
It was a move that perhaps caught a lot of people unaware and the surprise did not stop there as he was immediately loaned back to his former club until the end of the season. A move that has also got tongues wagging.
Many are now believing that Pulisic is going to be the heir apparent to Eden Hazard, if and when the Belgian makes his long expected move to Real Madrid in the Summer. There’s not a place at Stamford Bridge for Pulisic just yet, but his time is just around the corner.
And although they have a new forward in waiting, they did also finally manage to deliver the forward that Maurizio Sarri has been asking for and the man in question is none other than Argentine international Gonzalo Higuain.
Like Suarez and Emery who now link up again at Arsenal, the signing of Higuain at Stamford Bridge means that the fearsome forward gets to work once more with the man who oversaw his incredible goalscoring spell at Napoli.
The capture of the 31 year old is only on loan until the end of the season and depending on how Higuian adjusts to life in the Premier League, it will decide if the West London outfit want to make the deal permanent.
On the other hand, even if he does produce a respectable goal tally of say 9-10 league goals between now and the end of the season, Sarri could well decide that he has been used as a perfect stop gap before buying another big name central forward in the Summer.
Again, though the decision or for that matter even the ability to buy another big name, could well depend on whether Chelsea end up playing a second consecutive campaign in the Europa League next season.
Therefore, we’ll only really be able to measure Higuain’s true influence come the end of the season when we know how many goals he ended up scoring and just how where Chelsea finished in the Premier League table.
And when we talk of finishing in the Premier League table, then we cannot forget the race for the title. One that sees Liverpool in the red corner and Manchester City in the blue as the battle to the heavyweights of English football intensifies.
Now neither of these two main rivals decided to bring any players in, again this could be down to a number of factors. As mentioned before, these can be lack of perceived value or decent business completed in previous windows.
But there is another factor that may well have been taken into consideration when we look at both Liverpool and Manchester City and that is the fact that perhaps neither Jurgen Klopp or Pep Guardiola wanted to upset the apple cart.
Buying a new player in January always comes with an element of risk, because quite simply as a manager you are hanging your hat on that person or persons to fulfil the objective that you need them to complete.
But at the same time there is always the risk that a new signing could upset what is perceived to be good squad harmony, could one bad apple end up derailing a title tilt? You only have to mention the name Faustino Asprilla to Newcastle fans for them to come out in a cold sweat.
He may not have been the sole reason why Kevin Keegan’s men blew a 12 point lead in the 1995/16 season, but the arrival of the Colombian certainly upset the balance that this swashbuckling Newcastle side had.
He was the flair player of the early 90’s and a fantastic talent on his day, but ultimately he turned out to be just an expensive square peg in a round hole and one that Keegan try as he might just couldn’t fit into his team properly.
Results then went south for Newcastle and so did all their hopes of winning a first Premier League title, as the red machine of Manchester United under Sir Alex Ferguson eventually took its usual place at the summit.
With history showing us how it can all go wrong with a late addition to the squad, you can begin to understand just as to why both Klopp and Guardiola decided to keep their millions of pounds in their proverbial pockets.
Although in terms of Liverpool it could well be the departure of a player that actually hampers them the most. The sale in question is that of Nathanial Clyne, who returns to the South Coast after moving to Bournemouth on loan.
And how the club could do with a right back at present. Joe Gomez and Trent-Alexander Arnold’s injuries have come at just the wrong time, something that could seriously derail their tilt at a first English championship title since 1990.
So much so that the likes of Jordan Henderson and James Milner have had to fill in at right back and although they have not done the worst job in their new stand in positions, you do get the feeling that Clyne would have been a better choice to deploy.
There are always big ‘what if’ moments in football and come the end of the season, will Liverpool fans look back at dropped points against both Leicester and West Ham as pivotal moments in their race for the title.
Points that if they had a recognised right back among the starting eleven may not have been dropped, of course it’s all crystal ball time when you make statements such as this and also Klopp must have felt that he still has enough options at right back to approve the departure of Clyne.
This means with none of the top three making any additions to their squad in January (or in Tottenham’s case all season) it means bar the odd fringe exit, it’s pretty much as you were in the race to be crowned champions.
But what about at the other end of proceedings, Huddersfield have been cast adrift at the bottom of the table and the appointment of Jan Siewert as their new manager is not in the usual firefighter mould of Sam Allardyce or David Moyes.
This means that the club are not prepared to hand out a six month contract on the hope of an unlikely survival, they would rather take the option of long term planning for a proper crack of winning next season’s EFL Championship.
This is reflected in the fact that the Yorkshire outfit have signed just three players in January. Two of those on a permanent deal and only one of them resembling anything in the way of actual expenditure.
Just £2m was spent by the Premier League’s basement boys last month, with Charlton being the recipients of that minimal spending. Former striker Karlan Grant now swaps the Valley for the John Smith’s Stadium.
And although Huddersfield are languishing at the foot of the table, it’s definitely quite the upturn in career trajectory for Grant. This time last season he was on loan at League Two minnows Crawley Town.
Whether he can do anything in the way of a great escape for his new employers this season is perhaps unlikely, but he is a perfect example of being purchased for August and the Championship in mind.
In terms of clubs bagging themselves a new forward, we mentioned that although it is difficult to find a top name at this time of year, it’s not impossible either. Something that Crystal Palace have proved to the footballing world after their deadline day signing.
Their capture of Michy Batshuyai with just seconds of the transfer window remaining could go down as one of the shrewdest January captures, especially if he can provide the goals that keep Palace clear of the drop zone.
The perennial Chelsea loanee cut short a spell at Valencia for another tilt at the Premier League and he could well be the man that Eagles fans are crying out for, after a number of forwards have flattered to deceive.
It is arguably a move that works for both parties, especially if Batshyai gets the goals that confirm Palace’s survival. Should he manage to do this, then he will definitely put himself in the shop window.
From there it can go one of two ways, either Chelsea decide that he really is too good to lose and that they actually make more of a concerted effort to have 25 year old feature in their matchday squads next season.
Or his stock rises further, and Chelsea know that they have a saleable asset in demand. One they can then cash their chips in come the end of the season and of course it could well end up being Palace who end up signing him on a permanent basis.
It may become a very similar situation to that of when they eventually signed French international defender Mamadou Sahko on a permanent basis after such an impressive half season stint at Selhurst Park back in 2017.
Apart from shrewd business at Crystal Palace, the only real headline grabber at the bottom of the table was the fact that Rafael Benitez was finally given some pocket money by Newcastle’s owner Mike Ashley.
The Magpies broke their club record fee to land the Paraguyan international Miguel Almiron from Atlanta United, costing £20m in the process. Admittedly that’s not a great deal in today’s day and age, but Newcastle fans must have forgotten what it’s like to see money spent on transfers.
The South American certainly arrives on Tyneside with plenty of promise, not to mention the expectation that comes with being a club record signing. If he can contribute to Newcastle avoiding the drop, then he’ll be worth every single penny.