I know I had said that I would do this roundup before Saturday’s matches but I didn’t say which Saturday ! Seriously though I do apologize for not posting this sooner but things got busy in arranging and finalizing my own “transfer”. As I mentioned in my last transfer update, my wife and I just bought our first home and were quite busy last week with the move. However, things are starting to calm down and though I do not have my office setup yet, I am back to posting more regularly.
Anyhow, enough about that. The January transfer window ended with its usual frenzy of activity and while only one Premier League club (West Ham) chose not to make any signings in January, a few other clubs only made minor moves (Arsenal, Manchester United) while the rest of the league went wild with more than £100m being spent – setting a new winter transfer window record in the process.
This post will run through each team’s activity during the January transfer window and assess whether they came out as winners or losers.
Arsenal: Winners Signed 15-year-old prospect Luke Freeman, a striker who had been playing with Gillingham and sold off Lassana Diarra to Portsmouth for £5m. Diarra has the tools to succeed and has often been compared to Claude Makelele in both stature and style but he I think he was too quick to want a move away from Emirates. His time would have come but he was continually in the press about playing time and it was good for Arsenal to move him on and keep team harmony. Arsenal have been ticking along nicely and there was no need to change the team just for the sake of change as seems so often to be the case at other clubs.
Aston Villa: Losers This was a tough call but selling a young defensive prospect like Gary Cahill when you only have 5 other experience defenders could come back to haunt them. While he does not have a wealth of first team experience, Cahill has at least played Villa did manage to bring in Wayne Routledge from Crystal Palace but are still lacking in depth. Whether Routledge can add something to the squad remains to be seen.
Birmingham City: Winners The Blues were able to add some help up front with the signing of James McFadden from Everton. They also added some depth to the backline by acquiring David Murphy from Scottish club Hibernian. Fellow relegation scrappers Wigan and Bolton were also in the hunt for Murphy but Alex McLeish’s determination paid off. He had clear transfer targets and stuck with it to bring them into the club.
Blackburn Rovers: Winners Their major move was selling off Robbie Savage to Derby for £1.5m. That seems like a good deal for Blackburn.
Bolton Wanderers: Winners I can already hear you saying “But they sold Anelka…he was their top scorer!”. They did indeed sell Anelka for £15m, which represents quite a tidy profit on their £8m investment. They also managed to sign the versatile, and in my books undervalued, Matthew Taylor from Portsmouth and young defensive prospect Gary Cahill from Aston Villa. A good bit of building by Gary Megson.
Chelsea: Losers I feel they’ve paid over the odds for both Anelka and defender Branislav Ivanovic. There’s no doubting that Anelka has helped ease the loss of Drogba but was he really the only option? Surely the extra millions Chelsea are paying in transfer fees could be plunged into a scouting network on par with Arsenal or Manchester United. As for Ivanovic, he has been a solid defender for both Moscow Lokomotiv and Serbia but £9m ? Seems steep even for a billionaire.
Derby County: Losers Talk about sending mixed messages. Manager Paul Jewell admitted that the team were as good as relegated but then brought in older veteran players like Robbie Savage, Alan Stubbs and Laurent Robert. Signing Argentinian striker Emanuel Villa was good business but not enough to compensate for the dollars wasted on older players. Jewell should have been looking to next season and tried to sign some young talent to deepen the squad.
Everton: Winners They offloaded two players who were not being used (McFadden and Stubbs) and picked up young prospect Dan Gosling from Plymouth. To cover Stubbs’ loss, they signed Anthony Gardner on loan from Tottenham. They also signed Manuel Fernandes on loan from Valencia. Fernandes had a successful loan spell with the Toffees last season and so far looks like he repeat that success. Very careful moves by Moyes who did not disrupt the core of his team.
Fulham: Losers Another boatload of new faces at Craven Cottage but will the results really get better? New faces include permanent signings of Norwegian defender Brede Hangeland, American striker Eddie Johnson, Danish midfielder Leon Andreasen and Finnish defender Toni Kallio. Short-term or loan deals for Jari Litmanen and Canadian international right-back Paul Stalteri were also done. Fulham did win their last game out but it was more due to the return of old faces (Jimmy Bullard, Brian McBride) than the contribution of the new boys.
Liverpool: Winners They offloaded Momo Sissoko, who had been underachieving, for £8m, which was more than enough to cover the £7m fee for Slovak international defender Martin Skrtel. Skrtel has been named Slovakia Player of the Year for 2007 and made his full league debut on Saturday as Liverpool ran out 3-0 winners over Sunderland. Jamie Carragher has been shifted to right-back to make room for Skrtel but in the long-term it is Sami Hyypia who might be benched in favour of the Slovak. They did splash out an apparent £18m to make the Javier Maschareno loan deal permanent but he is already part of the squad and won’t upset the balance.
Manchester City: Winners This was another tough call as I don’t know if City did quite enough during the transfer window to keep them in the hunt for a UEFA Cup spot. However, many people will say that a top 10 finish would be enough to qualify as a success, it would be somewhat of a disappointment for their fine start to be wasted. City did move on some players who were not performing well for the club (Samaras, Bianchi, Dabo) and brought in one of this seasons top goal scorers (Benjani) as well as prospect Nery Castillo. They are still a little thin up front as Castillo has already been injured and loan signing Filippo Mancini is unproven.
Manchester United: Winners Like Arsenal, Manchester United are in good shape and have a relatively deep squad already so they chose to stand pat in January. Many fringe squad players were loaned out or sold. I was disappointed to see Phil Bardsley moved on but it was always unlikely that Gary Neville or Wes Brown were going to be moved aside for him. An offer from Newcastle for Brown was apparently rejected which was essentially the final signal for Bardsley to move on. A signing for the future was completed when United scooped up Angolan international Alberto Manucho. Largely unknown before his signing with the club, he had a strong showing at the African Cup of Nations scoring 4 goals in 3 games.
Middlesbrough: Losers They did bring in one of their long term targets in striker Alfonso Alves from Heerenveen but with his goal scoring record, one has to wonder why a “bigger” club had not snapped him up. In 2006-07, he was the Dutch top flight’s Player of the Year and top scorer with 34 goals in 31 league games. This season he had added another 11 goals in just seven appearances, though seven of those goals came in a 9-0 win over Heracles in October. Was his price to high for other clubs? While the fee was not disclosed it is widely believed that Boro have spent at least £12m for Alves. If he produces goals at the same rate that he has the last couple of seasons it’ll still be a bargain but anything less than a prolific rate will seem like a disappointment. Leaving Teeside was defender Jonathan Woodgate, who cited the lack of progress made during his time at the club as the reason behind his desire to move on. It’s not the first time we’ve heard this from a player departing Boro, so one has to wonder if there is some actual truth to the “lack of ambition” angle or if its just a way for the players to excuse their pursuit of a more “glamorous” team. Either way, his departure leaves Boro’s backline a bit thin for the stretch run.
Newcastle United: Losers One could argue that the squad got a bit weaker rather than stronger. Newcastle shipped defender David Rozenhal off to Lazio and did not bring in a replacement. Rozehnal had been playing in midfield since Kevin Keegan returned as manager and the 27-year-old wanted to revert to a central defensive position. Many said he was “error-prone” but during his brief stint at Newcastle I don’t think he got a fair shake at things. He was asked to play centre-back, right-back, then left-back, then in right midfield, then as a central defensive midfielder. It’s a bit much all at once for a player who had been accustomed to being a centre-back for the bulk of his career. Beyond that, Newcastle did not make any moves at a time when they could have used one or two faces to spark the imagination of the fans. The “King Kev” bit is going to wear thin if the results don’t start improving soon.
Portsmouth: Losers Would you trade Benjani for Defoe? I wouldn’t but that’s what Pompey has essentially done. Benjani was sold to Manchester City for a fee that could rise to as much as £7.75m should the 29-year-old striker make sufficient appearances for his new club. Coming in for an approximate £7m fee is strike Jermain Defoe from Tottenham. Defoe is capable but for me does not offer the same work ethic and link-up play that Benjani does. Both have similar goal rates over their careers so it’s these other aspects of their play that differentiate them.
Pompey also brought in Lyon’s Milan Baros on loan but have first option on signing him on a permanent basis after his loan deal. Baros has not been able to find a partner that he has been able to work with a partner as well as he does at international level when he is most often paired with Jan Koller. He has not been able to recreate his impressive Euro 2004 run of goals and has bounced around a bit in recent seasons. Baros had played significantly less under new manager Alain Perrin in the 2007/8 season and needed to move in order to keep alive his chances of playing in Euro 2008. It’s possible that he and Defoe will form a partnership but if they do not, Pompey’s chances of European football will quickly evaporate.
Another big signing for Pompey was Lassana Diarra who was unhappy with his role at Arsenal. The 22-year-old French international has joined Pompey on a three-and-a-half year contract for a rumoured £5m fee. Harry Redknapp was excited to sign him saying “In my opinion, he’s already one of the best midfield players in the Premier League and has the ability to be one of the best there is.” However, Diarra has already stated that he is looking at Portsmouth as a stepping stone to move back to another “big” club.
Leaving Portsmouth was the versatile Matthew Taylor and the unhappy Djimi Traore who was not prepared to sit on the bench. Taylor has gone to Bolton while Traore has moved to French club Rennes. I felt Portsmouth were moving in the right direction and needed a period of stability in the first-team in order to really make a push in the second half of the season. Whether they can do that now is questionable.
Reading: Winners They were able to hang onto Nicky Shorey and Stephen Hunt, two players who were mentioned in many rumours. The Royals only added one player Marek Matejovsky from Czech side Mlada Boleslav. He has made a couple of substitute appearances thus far and will be eased into the lineup. The message here is that Reading were not pressured into panic buys even though they are in the heart of the relegation battle. They have enough quality in their side to get themselves out of trouble and now it is up to the core group of players to make it happen. It’s all too easy to think “If only they bring in that one or two players to turn it around” but more often than not it fails to work.
Sunderland: Winners This was a tough call as Sunderland brought in five new players in January and the squad has repeatedly changed since Keane’s reign began in August 2006. Here again, some stability may have been a good thing but there was cover needed at a few positions. The Black Cats are in the thick of the relegation battle and need to find a stable core of players to send out each week. They did need to find a replacement for Ross Wallace, out for the season with a knee injury, and Andy Reid should be able to fill that void. However, Keane brought in three more defenders and what the back four will be is anyone’s guess though Phil Bardsley has looked decent since switching from Manchester United. They also picked up yet another forward in Rade Prica from Aalborg. I don’t know a lot about him other than his stint at Hansa Rostock of the Bundesliga but he did score on his debut for Sunderland.
Tottenham Hotspur: Winners Renovations at White Hart Lane did not come cheaply as the spent around £20m but were able to recoup half of that with players that were moved on. The biggest improvement was in defence where they picked up three defenders Woodgate, Alan Hutton from Rangers and Brazilian left-back Gilberto from Hertha Berlin for £1.8m. To keep the numbers down Spurs sold winger Wayne Routledge to Aston Villa, allowed Anthony Gardner to go to Everton on loan while Paul Stalteri joined Fulham. They also managed to sell off spare part Jermain Defoe for at least £7m (though some sources say it is as much as £9m). Defoe was not going to start ahead of either Berbatov or Keane in the near future so it was good business for Spurs. They also signed young defensive prospect Chris Gunter from Cardiff City.
West Ham United: Winners They’re in a good spot in the table and really didn’t need to make any moves. Curbishley will have “additions” to his squad as he continues to welcome a number of first team players back from injury.
Wigan Athletic: Winners They bought exactly what they needed — a striker and another defender. Wigan scooped up Marlon King for £5m when his deal with Fulham fell through and they also signed fromer Spurs left-back Erik Edman from Rennes for a paltry £500,000. The Latics also used the transfer window to make their loan deal for Antonio Valencia permanent and to bring in utility player Eric Hagen on loan from Zenit St Petersburg. Wigan sold defender Fitz Hall to QPR and midfielder Denny Landzaat to Dutch club Feyenoord in a deal worth £1million. It was a suprising move but Landzaat likely wanted a move back to Holland for family or other personal reasons. Taking Landzaat’s roster spot is Honduran international Wilson Palacios who is known as el Mago, meaning “the Magician”, and manager Steve Bruce has referred to him as a “young Paul Ince”. High praise to be sure.