In The Morning Advertiser’s review of the summer transfer window, we suggested that perversely, the highlight had been the players who had stayed put, rather than those who moved on for mega bucks. It’s a reflection on the Premier League financial landscape in 2018, however, that the five we picked out as having missed the boat in August all moved on at the next opportunity, as the super-rich Premier League clubs led the way to a new record spend during the January transfer window.
The clubs of those five players were all lauded for tough ‘no-sale’ stances in the late summer, but come the winter window, their steely resolve disintegrated. Virgil van Dijk got his switch from Southampton to Liverpool for £75m. Philippe Coutinho could resist no more the lure of Barcelona, earning Liverpool around £142m in the process. Sulking Diego Costa (remember him?) finally forced through his transfer from Chelsea to Atletico Madrid for an undisclosed fee, and Ross Barkley swapped Everton for Chelsea for £15m. Of the famous five, only Alexis Sanchez ended up at a different destination than originally planned, as Manchester City decided his wage demands were too high and let him leave Arsenal and go to their noisy neighbours at Old Trafford.
Arsenal and their constantly under-fire manager Arsene Wenger were at the centre of the last-minute merry-go-round. Having shipped out the want-away Alexis Sanchez and taken Henrikh Mkhitaryan in part exchange, as well as selling long-serving Theo Walcott (who joined Everton for £20m) and Francis Coquelin (Valencia, £15m), the Gunners snapped up Borussia Dortmund striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for a reported £56m and also convinced playmaker Mesut Ozil to sign a new contract. A knock-on effect of the deal for Aubameyang was another sale, that of Olivier Giroud to Chelsea (around £20m), while Chelsea sent another striker, Michy Batshuayi, to Dortmund.
While it’s hard to say these things with any real conviction, given the wages and agents’ fees involved, it appears the biggest financial outlay by a Premier League club in this window was the £57m spent by Manchester City on Athletic Bilbao defender Aymeric Laporte. City have spent £50m plus on several players in the last couple of years, but Laporte now represents their record signing. No pressure there then!
Chelsea also shelled out an estimated £17m on young defender Emerson Palmieri from Roma while at the 11th hour, Tottenham Hotspur also joined the party and paid £25m for Lucas Moura from Paris St-Germain.
Potential or panic?
Not surprisingly most of the serious expenditure took place at the top end of the table and on the face of it, the top six have mostly spent wisely. There were some interesting moves further down the ladder though, many of them loan deals.
Arguably the most intriguing was Daniel Sturridge’s decision to snub Newcastle Utd and join West Bromwich Albion ‘til season’s end. That would seem a potentially sensible decision, but here are 10 more players who have joined the relegation dogfight:
- Gerard Deulofeu – the ex-Everton winger has left the Camp Nou of Barcelona for a loan spell at Watford. The Morning Advertiser verdict - Potential
- Joao Mario – the Portuguese said goodbye to the fashionistas of Milan to temporarily join the bubble blowers of West Ham - Panic
- Andre Ayew – Swansea City have resigned their former forward from West Ham, presumably to play alongside his brother Jordan - Potential
- Guido Carillo – Monaco’s Argentinian striker flew north from the rich people’s playgrounds of Monaco to Southampton, reportedly for around £19m - Panic
- Islam Slimani – Leicester’s goal-shy striker has signed up for a four-month tour of duty with the Toon Army at Newcastle - Panic
- Alex Pritchard - Young starlet who was tearing Championship defences apart joined the Terriers of Huddersfield Town for £11m - Potential
- Aaron Lennon – Made the short trip from Everton to Burnley and joined the Clarets for an undisclosed fee - Potential
- Leonardo Ulloa – having won the title with Leicester a couple of years back, he rejoined his former team Brighton on loan - Panic
- Badou Ndiaye – Senegalese midfielder joined Stoke City from Galatasary for £14m - Panic
- Jordan Hugill – Having missed out on several targets, West Ham were right on deadline witb their £10m signing from Preston North End - Panic
Not every deal got done, of course and no doubt many of you will be shedding a tear for poor Riyad Mahrez, the Leicester City midfielder, who handed in a transfer request at the end of a second successive window, only to see his potential suitors pull out of the deal due to what they felt were excessive demands from Leicester’s owners. To be fair to Mahrez, he has played very well with this hanging over him so far this season, so maybe he can slot back into the team while he prepares a third transfer request this summer.
Every chairman, director of recruitment, first team coach and manager made these transfer calls with the same goal in mind; improving their first team’s performance. And for publicans around the country, the final games of any season will inevitably offer up opportunities to attract additional customers. There is no targeted data available to illustrate this, but the overwhelming anecdotal evidence would of course suggest that a game late in the season with a direct bearing on the title, top 4 or relegation battle will attract more punters than an early-season encounter.
We also selected 10 more for a watching brief – how have they fared?
1) Wayne Rooney (Everton). Early season disciplinary problems helped neither himself or his club, but has scored reasonably consistently. As so often in his career, the doubts remain
2) Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Liverpool). Has not pulled up any trees, but is a regular starter for the Reds and certainly no failure
3 and 4) Marko Arnautovic and Joe Hart (West Ham). Hart lost his place in the side after a string of erratic performances, while Arnautovic recently found some form after a woeful start
5) Alexandre Lacazette (Arsenal). Has flattered to deceive – not enough goals yet and place now under significant threat from new arrival Aubameyang
6 and 7) Bernardo Silva and Kyle Walker (Man City). Silva has struggled to break into a side that tops the table, but Walker has cemented his place with a string of solid displays
8) Wilfried Bony (Swansea). Still a fans favourite, but hasn’t found the volume of goals to pull his side away from the relegation fight
9) Jay Rodriguez (West Brom). Nothing much to write home about until a brace of goals saw off Liverpool in the FA Cup recently.
10) Andre Gray (Watford). Decent start as team rode high in the table, but a drop in form has coincided with Watford plummeting and his manager getting the chop
We’ll stick our necks on the line again. Manchester City will win the league!
Tracy Harrison, Sky Sport’s director of marketing, agrees. She said: “The end of season is always a draw for pubs. There is still plenty of quality sporting action scheduled on Sky Sports over the next few months to attract sports fans to the pub.
“We’ve got more than 50 Premier League games lined up between now and the end of the season, including a number of huge head-to-head clashes such as Manchester City v Chelsea, Manchester United v Liverpool and Chelsea v Tottenham.
“In addition, Sky Sports will be showing all the action from all Manchester City and Manchester United games which take place in the first three weeks of March, in what could be a defining month of the season in the race for the title,” said Harrison.
“Sky Sports still has 25 fixtures of the season to be announced, meaning the title race, fight for top four and battle against relegation will be played out on Sky Sports.”
Sink or swim
One of the more interesting elements of the rest of the season will be who will sink and who will swim at their new clubs. We put our necks on the line at the end of the last window, so let’s see whether the players we selected as our top 10 buys have lived up to expectations.
1 and 2) Romelu Lukaku and Nemanja Matic (Man Utd). Fair to say, these two have been integral in their team’s rise to second place in the league table and a decent showing in the group stage of the Champions League
3) Alvaro Morata (Chelsea). Started off very well, but has tailed off, although there’s every chance he might come again once he gets fully fit
4) Javier 'Chicharito' Harnandez (West Ham). Another man who started well, but his fall from grace was startling as West Ham struggled to find any momentum
5) Gylfi Siggurdson (Everton). After a slow start, the Icelandic midfielder has begun to find his form under Big Sam Allardyce
6) Renato Sanches (Swansea). Has shown very little of the class he exhibited at Bayern Munich and needs to step it up to help save the Swans from the drop
7) Michael Keane (Everton). A dip in form and injury have disrupted Keane’s campaign and only a strong finish will secure him a place in England’s world cup squad
8) Harry Maguire (Leicester). A big hit with his own fans and earning rave reviews from the pundits
9) Fernando Llorente (Spurs). Contributed little, but in no small part this is because he’s behind the irrepressible Harry Kane in the pecking order
10) Mohamed Salah (Liverpool). The signing of the season so far – an unexpected 26 goals already for his new club and many more to come