So, once again, the winter transfer window has closed for another season. No more purchases or sales can occur until the summer. And if I’m honest, this window was just about the tamest I’ve ever seen. There was no Manchester City splashing the cash for a backup striker. We didn’t have an Andrei Arshavin move to Arsenal, holding up Deadline Day in a titter. No club spent outrageous money in trying to rebuild their club’s heart. Castoffs from major clubs didn’t appear at new clubs all of a sudden. Let’s take a quick look at what did happen.
For the big clubs, it appeared as if the status quo was fine. This could be further split amongst two groups. For group 1 — the group consisting of Arsenal, Tottenham and Liverpool — only minor changes occurred as they appeared comfortable with what they had. Arsenal added midfielder Mohamed Elneny while Liverpool bought teenage midfield sensation Marko Grujic but loaned him back to his parent club. And they brought in defender Steven Caulker on loan to give them a warm body to throw into the back four. New boss Jurgen Klopp seemed to hold to his statements of not overhauling his roster this January. As for Spurs, they were happy to ship the unwanted out — Andros Townsend to Newcastle and Federico Fazio to Sevilla among others — and keep their team intact. If they stay as healthy and firing, Mauricio Pocchetino will look a genius. If Harry Kane misses any time, he’ll have to hope someone else can step up though.
As for group 2 (Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City), there seemed to be a collective decision to hang onto their gunpowder for the summer when a new manager will take over — or could take over in the case of Manchester United. Chelsea made some small additions; bringing in striker Alexandre Pato on loan and buying MLS’ young defender Matt Miazga. Both moves seemed more about the future than the now. Pato is getting, in effect, a trial, while Miazga will join the large cadre of Chelsea youngsters hoping to break into the first team at some point. As for the Manchester clubs, one is for certain changing managers while the other is expected to — but we’ll touch upon that later. This meant that neither was willing to do anything of substance. With City, that seems okay given their talent and how they’re playing. It’s more mysterious why United didn’t at least make a play for some talent to help score more goals.
So with the big clubs out of the spending frenzy, it was left to the rest of the Premier League to pick up the slack. And pick it up they did. Incentivized by the promise of a massive new TV deal — 5.1 billion pounds or 7.4 billion dollars for the next three years — clubs went looking to ensure their Premier League lives and the guarantee of getting some of that sweet cash. Some spent only enough to bring in a key player or two. Southampton spent just 4 million pounds to bring Queen Park Rangers’ striker Charlier Austin over — the Saints willing to meet his 100,000 pounds-a-week salary. He instantly repaid them with a winner against Manchester United. Leicester City looked to shore up their title challenge by bringing in midfielder Daniel Amartey and winger Demarai Gray and, more importantly, kept hold of the core of their team from the big clubs.
But other clubs splashed the cash like it was going out of style. Everton spent almost 17 million pounds on forwards Oumar Niasse and Shani Tarashaj. Norwich City added a bunch of players, most notably Everton’s striker Steven Naismith, West Ham’s winger Matt Jarvis and defenders Timm Klose from Wolfsburg and Ivo Pinto from Dinamo Zagreb for over 21 million pounds. Even clubs fighting relegation got into the act. Newcastle went and spent 29 million pounds to shore up their midfield with Jonjo Shelvey from Swansea and Andros Townsend from Tottenham and Henri Saivet from Bordeaux. Meanwhile Sunderland spent close to 15 million pounds bringing in talent from the continent — Bordeaux’s Whabi Kahzri, Lorient’s Lamine Kone’, Bayern Munich’s Jan Kirchhoff, Trabzonspor’s Dame N’Doye — while shipping out players like Steven Fletcher, Jordi Gomez, Sebastian Coates and Costel Pantilimon.
And that doesn’t even cover the clubs that broke their own transfer records this window. Stoke City brought in Porto midfielder Giannelli Imbula for just over 18 million pounds to add to their shiny collection of talent. New boys AFC Bournemouth moved quickly to add striker Benik Afobe from Wolves for 9 million pounds and then followed it by bringing back striker Lewis Grabban for another 7 million. Afobe has already started scoring for them. Watford managed to break their transfer record twice: first buying Malaga’s winger Nordim Amrabat for close to 7 million pounds then following it up with the 8 million pounds buy of Rennes midfielder Adalberto Peñaranda, who was quickly loaned to Granada since they couldn’t register him due to Premier League limitations. Then Watford went out and tried to state that they hadn’t broken any record for some strange reason.
Why not? For clubs like Stoke and Watford, whose season has gone rather well so far, it’s all about securing a high finish and pushing for a possible European competition spot. Meanwhile, clubs like Bournemouth and Swansea are trying to shore their Premier League survival and keep from sliding into the relegation battle while Newcastle and Sunderland are doing all they can to climb out of that very relegation hole. If they manage it, it’ll be money well-spent. If not, then they can look to dump all these salaries during the summer. It’s what Aston Villa’s already begun to do. Nailed to the bottom of the table and almost certain to drop, the Villans sought only short-term loans in and eventually brought no reinforcements in. Meanwhile, they shipped out 8 players by loaning them out or releasing them outright.
Without any major transfer surprises in the player side, this left the shock to come in the managerial ranks as the Deadline Day was highlighted by the worst-kept secret in football being revealed. Pep Guardiola, long sought by English clubs, had agreed to a 3-year deal to take over Manchester City after Manuel Pellegrini’s contract expires. Everyone expected this to be the move after Guardiola had announced he wouldn’t continue managing Bayern Munich this past December. However, with openings at both Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge, there was some pause as to if the Etihad club would be his destination. With that being confirmed by both Pellegrini and Manchester City, it now creates an interesting situation throughout the other power brokers in the Premier League.
Put simply, who do Manchester United and Chelsea seek to take over their managerial positions? There’s every expectation that Louis Van Gaal will not continue at Old Trafford given the stop-start nature of their season and the continuing malaise. With reports that LVG has already tried to resign and been talked out of it, it’s doubtful that he will seek to finish his contract out with another year of mediocre results and booing crowds. It’s easier at Stamford Bridge as Guus Hiddink is only a caretaker and one that’s managed to stem the losing in his few weeks at the job. This means that they are likely already seeking the long-term replacement for Jose Mourinho. But as both clubs look for new men to lead, it brings up the question of who is available and what it would take to bring him on. Could Chelsea convince Diego Simeone to abandon his work at Atletico de Madrid to take over in East London? Would someone like Masimiliano Allegri leave Juventus to move to Old Trafford? Or what about Joachim Low after the Euros? Could one of them convince Manuel Pellegrini to stay in England? Will United finally bite the bullet and hire Jose Mourinho?
Finally, just a short word on Arsenal. The word at the start of the window was that they had targeted FC Basel’s Mohamed Elneny and were hoping to bring him in quickly. This, sadly, was delayed due to work permit issues relating to Egypt’s fall in FIFA’s World Rankings. By the time it was sorted out, the schedule prevented him from starting – no way was his first game going to happen at the Britannia Stadium or against Chelsea. There were rumors of a move for Dynamo Kyiv’s Andrei Yarmolenko amidst the usual waffle of rumors and links that pepper every paper. In the end, only Elneny arrived while Mathieu Debuchy finally got his wish and left London Colney for Ligue 1 and Bordeaux.
That less than 24 hours after the window closed, Arsenal punctuated their worst run of form with a third draw in 4 games seemed to only fuel the disappointed Gooners who wondered why no move was made to bring another striker in to complement Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott. It’s always the nature of Arsenal: they appear most hapless the moment no reinforcements can be obtained. That doesn’t mean they cannot get things going in the right direction again – and with games against Leicester and Manchester City and a North London Derby to come, they will have plenty of chances to get things right. It simply means they will look to their returning players — Francis Coquelin, Danny Welbeck, Santi Cazorla, Jack Wilshere — to provide the spark to get the season finished in the right way: with a first Arsenal league title since the Invincibles.
So that’s it then. Teams are set and only 12 games remain between now and the end of the season and some club’s eventual crowning as the champions. Who will it be? Only time and the crazy nature of football will reveal that.