Arsenal’s big gamble
Image: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has left Arsenal for Barcelona
Would the last one out of the Emirates Stadium please turn off the lights?
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s Deadline Day departure to Barcelona capped a bizarre transfer window for Arsenal in which they cleared the decks without bringing in a single replacement.
Aubameyang became the sixth member of the first-team squad to leave either on loan or permanently, the striker following Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Folarin Balogun, Sead Kolasinac, Pablo Mari and Calum Chambers through the exit door.
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His departure makes sense from a business perspective. Aubameyang had fallen out of favour since being stripped of the captaincy following a disciplinary breach in December and his free transfer to Barcelona should save Arsenal around £25m in wages.
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But supporters are entitled to wonder where exactly the goals are going to come from in the second half of the season. Their only remaining options up front, Alexandre Lacazette and Eddie Nketiah, have scored three between them all season in the Premier League.
Arsenal did try, pushing hard to sign Dusan Vlahovic from Fiorentina only for the Serb to join Juventus instead, but it is not just up front their squad looks worryingly thin.
Mikel Arteta now has just 18 senior outfield players to choose from and that includes several, such as Nicolas Pepe, Mohamed Elneny and Cedric Soares, who he does not appear to trust.
Perhaps it is better to do nothing than panic buy. Perhaps Arsenal feel they can manage their relatively light schedule in the second half of the season with what they have. But it is still remarkable they have reached the end of the transfer window with a weaker squad than they had at the beginning of it.
Liverpool succession planning
Image: Liverpool confirmed the signing of Luis Diaz from Porto
It seemed Liverpool were set for a quiet transfer window but that changed after it emerged Tottenham were attempting to lure Luis Diaz from Porto. Suddenly, a signing they had earmarked for the summer had to be brought forward.
They could not risk missing out on a player they regard as a potential successor to Sadio Mane and if their acquisition of Diogo Jota is anything to go by, they are right to trust their judgement.
Jota, of course, has been outstanding since his £41m arrival from Wolves in September 2020, usurping Roberto Firmino in the centre of Liverpool’s front three and scoring 27 goals in 58 games.
Diaz is the same age as Jota at 25 and, like his new team-mate, he looks tailor-made for Jurgen Klopp’s attack. “He is a fighter, no doubt,” said Klopp after the deal was confirmed. “He’s a skilful team player who always has the goal in mind.”
That has certainly been the case this season. The Colombia international arrives at Anfield having scored 16 times in 28 games for Porto in the first half of the campaign, helping them open up a six-point lead at the top of the Portuguese Primeira Liga.
Like Mane, he is explosively fast, immensely powerful and absolutely deadly in and around the opposition box – as Liverpool experienced first-hand in the Champions League earlier this season. “We saw what a danger he is, how fast he is, and how his mentality was to help his team,” added Klopp.
If Mane is not already worried about his place, then he will be soon. Liverpool ran out of time to finalise a deal for Fulham’s 19-year-old attacker Fabio Carvalho on Deadline Day – that may be a deal to revisit in the summer – but Diaz is ready to make an impact now. “Luis is a player we believe will make us better now and in the future,” added Klopp.
Newcastle flex their muscles
Image: Bruno Guimaraes joined Newcastle from Lyon
Dan Burn’s £13m arrival from Brighton on Deadline Day pushed Newcastle’s overall spend for the January transfer window past £90m. As Sky Sports News’ Julian Warren put it: “This was the window when Newcastle turned from bystanders to big spenders.”
The deal for Burn followed the signings of Kieran Trippier, Chris Wood, Bruno Guimaraes and Matt Targett. The window closed with the Magpies having spent nearly twice as much as any other Premier League side. Perhaps it is a sign of things to come.
Their new owners can be satisfied with their work. Their squad looks much stronger than it did at the start of the window. But there is an air of frustration too, even with all the money spent.
After all, Newcastle only turned to Burn having failed with bids for defensive targets Sven Botman, Diego Carlos and Benoit Badiashile, while an agreed £33m deal for Hugo Ekitike collapsed when the highly-rated striker decided to stay at Reims.
There is disappointment, too, that they were unable to prise Jesse Lingard away from Manchester United. The forward was keen on the move, but his club were unwilling to sanction his departure for fear of leaving themselves short in attack.
It remains to be seen whether their recruitment will be enough to haul them out of the relegation zone but it has already provided a buzz of excitement for a fanbase who tasted nothing like it under their previous owner. The first transfer window since the takeover showed the transformation is already under way.
Everton make late push for Lampard
In his first interview after being confirmed as the new Everton manager, Frank Lampard says it is a huge honour to manage a club with such great traditions
Everton’s search for a new manager took longer than many supporters would have liked but there was no hanging around when it came to strengthening the squad following Frank Lampard’s appointment.
A loan deal for Donny van de Beek was already at an advanced stage when Lampard’s arrival was confirmed on the morning of Deadline Day and it soon emerged Dele Alli was on his way too.
Van de Beek arrives with plenty to prove in the Premier League following a difficult spell at Manchester United and the same is true of Alli, whose career had stagnated at Tottenham.
Who better than the highest-scoring midfielder in Premier League history, though, to unlock the duo’s potential?
Everton have desperately lacked goal threat and creativity from midfield this season but the prospect of Van de Beek and Alli finding form at Goodison Park is a tantalising one for the club’s supporters. Lampard’s challenge is to make it happen.
Another show of ambition from Villa
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Like his old team-mate in England’s midfield, Steven Gerrard received generous backing from his new club in the January window. Aston Villa were bolstered by the arrivals of Phillippe Coutinho, Lucas Digne, Calum Chambers and goalkeeper Robin Olsen.
Gerrard was instrumental in the loan deal for Coutinho, who sensationally scored on his debut against Manchester United just days after his arrival at the club, while Digne, a £25m signing from Everton, also revealed the manager was the “main factor” in his decision to make the move to Merseyside.
Gerrard’s pull is new for Villa but the outlay on signings is not.
In fact, the latest round of recruitment takes their overall spend since their return to the Premier League in 2019 to £375m. The spending is offset, in part, by the £100m sale of Jack Grealish to Manchester City last summer, but it is an eye-watering sum nonetheless.
It now falls to Gerrard to fit the expensively-assembled pieces of the puzzle together. A late-season surge up the table would provide optimism for what the future holds but the club’s 17th and 11th-placed finishes in the last two years show money spent does not automatically equal success.
Eriksen’s heart-warming return
Christian Eriksen says he cannot wait to get started after making a return to the Premier League by signing with Brentford
One of the biggest stories of the transfer window – and certainly the most heart-warming – saw Christian Eriksen return to the Premier League just seven months after suffering a cardiac arrest.
The former Tottenham midfielder, whose collapse during Denmark’s Euro 2020 clash against Finland in Copenhagen shocked the footballing world, signed a six-month loan deal with Brentford which feels like a triumph in itself given what he has been through.
Brentford boss Thomas Frank described the deal for Eriksen as an “unbelievable opportunity” to sign a “world-class” player and while the 29-year-old’s most recent spell at Inter Milan proved a frustrating one, there can be no arguments about his credentials.
Between his arrival at Tottenham in 2013 and his departure seven years later, the Dane created more chances (571) and registered more assists (62) than any other player in the Premier League. There were also 51 goals in his 226 appearances, the highest total by any midfielder in the competition during that period.
The numbers are extraordinary and so too are the circumstances of his return. Eriksen has been fitted with an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator since his cardiac arrest and will become the first player to play with one in Premier League history.
The device is a reminder of the trauma behind him. Eriksen said recently he “died for five minutes” before being revived by medics at the Parken Stadium last summer. His return is a testament to his bravery and determination. It merits celebration regardless of what happens next.
Conte begins Spurs overhaul
Dele Alli says he’s excited to work under Frank Lampard at Everton as he signed a permanent deal with the Toffees, after seven years at Tottenham
Tottenham endured no shortage of frustration over the course of the transfer window. Adama Traore chose Barcelona. Luis Diaz opted for Liverpool. Even Ollie Tanner, a winger from non-League Lewes, had a change of heart about moving to Spurs.
Deadline Day, though, brought some much-needed relief for Antonio Conte.
The Italian has overseen a dramatic upturn in form since his appointment in November, steering Spurs back into top-four contention after a dismal start to the campaign under Nuno Espirito Santo, but the need to overhaul the squad was clear and a busy end to window allowed him to begin the process.
Spurs fans may feel frustrated there were not more arrivals to offset the departures but there will be few complaints about those the club chose to let go. Dele Alli had long stagnated. Tanguy Ndombele, Giovani Lo Celso and Bryan Gil, meanwhile, had come to look like expensive mistakes.
It remains to be seen whether the latest round of recruitment will yield better results but Dejan Kulusevski and Rodrigo Bentancur certainly have pedigree. Crucially, there are also Conte’s picks.
The window was another reminder to Conte of the scale of the task he has taken on at Spurs, but his impact is already evident on the pitch and the hope now is that the late round of squad surgery could help him build on their progress in what’s left of the campaign and beyond.
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