The January transfer window tends to be about the deals which didn’t happen. However, Premier League clubs got plenty of business done this year and some bumper deals at that.
The Gunners were arguably the window’s big winners. As well as Mkhitaryan they signed Borussia Dortmund forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for a club-record £60million, reuniting the pair from their time at the Westfalenstadion.
That enabled Olivier Giroud to end Chelsea‘s long and varied search for a big striker which, in turn, freed Michy Batshuayi from the Blues bench long enough to sign for Borussia Dortmund on loan for the rest of the season.
But who had the best transfer window? Football Whispers tried to make sense of it all by ranking every Premier League club’s business in January.
AFC Bournemouth – U
Major ins: None
Major outs: Benik Afobe, Lewis Grabban, Ryan Allsop
The Cherries were the only Premier League club to not complete any business in January.
Eddie Howe is evidently happy with his squad as it stands and, after beating Chelsea 3-0 at Stamford Bridge on deadline day, who can blame him?
Arsenal – B
Major ins: Konstantinos Mavropanos, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
Major outs: Francis Coquelin, Alexis Sánchez, Theo Walcott, Olivier Giroud, Marcu McGuane, Mathieu Debuchy
The Gunners were the club who dominated the headlines throughout January with high-profile incomings and three notable outgoings.
Sánchez was always going to leave the Emirates when his contact expired. The money Arsenal could have recouped by selling the Manchester City transfer target would have made little difference to a cash-rich club, so getting Henrikh Mkhitaryan in a swap with Manchester United was shrewd business.
Where will he play? What does his arrival mean for Alexandre Lacazette? Would that £60million not have been better spent on the holding midfielder and centre-back Arsène Wenger‘s side so desperately need?
Meanwhile, Theo Walcott, having been frozen out in the first half of the season, finally moved onto pastures new by joining Everton. The £20million pocketed for his services a good return for someone who had not made a Premier League start.
And Giroud, who had made just a single league start this term, was offloaded to Chelsea. Aubameyang’s arrival meant it simply wasn’t logical keeping him around, even with his remarkable record from the bench.
The other piece of headline business saw Manchester United transfer target Mesut Özil sign a new deal until 2021 to make him the highest-paid player in the club’s history on £350,000 per week. The challenge for Wenger is to turn the German into someone who consistently justifies that enormous salary.
Major ins: Jürgen Locadia, Leonardo Ulloa
Major outs: Jamie Murphy, Kazenga Lua Lua
The Seagulls had one aim going into January: bring in a goalscorer. In the event, Chris Hughton managed to sign two.
The £15million acquisition of Jürgen Locadia from PSV Eindhoven is a gamble. The 24-year-old has not hit double figures in the league since the 2013/14 campaign when he scored 13 times in 26 starts.
However, he has only made more than ten Eredivisie starts in a season twice since and one of those occasions was the current campaign when he bagged nine in 15. Locadia is not the finished product but, when you’re a newly-promoted side, there is a limited pool from which you can shop.
The return of former fans’ favourite Leonardo Ulloa on loan from Leicester City will be popular and if the Argentine can replicate the form he showed in keeping the Foxes in the top flight before their incredible title win – 11 in 29 starts – his signing could be a masterstroke.
Burnley – B
Major ins: Aaron Lennon, Georges-Kévin N’Koudou
Major outs: None
Depth was probably the order of the day for Sean Dyche, who has steered his unfancied side into the top half of the Premier League against all expectation.
The Clarets have failed to win in nine games in all competitions and injuries to key men James Tarkowski, Steven Defour and Tom Heaton have not helped. None have been replaced with the focus, instead, on getting cover for widemen Jonathan Walters, Stephen Ward and Robbie Brady.
The loan arrival of Georges-Kévin N’Koudou, who has something to prove after featuring sparingly for Tottenham, and experienced campaigner Aaron Lennon from Everton should inject some much-needed pace and creativity into the flanks at Turf Moor.
Chelsea – C
Major ins: Ross Barkley, Olivier Giroud, Emerson Palmieri
Major outs: Diego Costa, Kenedy, Charly Musonda, Michy Batshuayi, Kasey Palmer
“I do not aim high with my requests, especially as in my history I’ve rarely been given the players I asked for,” Antonio Conte said in January. “I always ended up at clubs who were running an austerity programme.”
The Italian was unimpressed at the club’s failure to deliver the players he wanted and he made sure everyone knew. Andy Carroll, Peter Crouch, Ashley Barnes and Edin Džeko were all Chelsea transfer targets before the Blues finally settled on Arsenal’s Giroud.
If Conte has signed off on the £15.3million arrival of the Frenchman and trusts him that is a good piece of business. The 31-year-old needs to play his way into France’s World Cup squad and is level with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as the Premier League’s leading scorer off the bench.
The £15million signing of Ross Barkley could prove to be a steal but the former Everton man has not played for the best part of a year and is not going to improve Conte’s starting XI overnight. Nor is former Roma wing-back Emerson Palmieri, but the left-sider does at least offer a much-needed alternative to Marcos Alonso on the left.
In summary, Chelsea have spent the thick end of £50million this month improving their squad, not their starting XI. That is unlikely to satisfy Conte or aid the club’s desire for silverware.
Crystal Palace – C
Major ins: Jarosław Jach, Edral Rakip, Alexander Sørloth
Major outs: Keshi Anderson, Freddie Ladapo
Having done an impressive job of taking the hapless and winless Eagles out of the bottom three, manager Roy Hodgson needed to bolster his squad and sign a striker in January.
And he has done just that, demonstrating his impressive knowledge of the European market once more to sign Polish defender Jarosław Jach from Zagłębie Lubin, Swedish midfielder Erdal Rakip on loan from Benfica and, most excitingly, Norwegian forward Alexander Sørloth from FC Midtjylland for around £9million.
At 22, Sørloth is a prospect. Standing at 6ft 4.5ins he has the frame to thrive in England and scored ten times in just 19 Danish Superliga outings in the first half of the season. He already has 12 caps for his country and if anyone knows Scandinavian football it’s Hodgson. The only question marks are over how quickly he can adapt.
There was further good news in Palace’s holding onto Tottenham transfer target Wilfried Zaha. How much longer that remains the case, though, is open for debate and rumours of a move away will return in the summer.
Everton – A
Major ins: Cenk Tosun, Theo Walcott, Eliaquim Mangala
Major outs: Ross Barkley, Aaron Lennon, Ademola Lookman, Kevin Miralles, Mo Bešić, Sandro Ramírez
Despite going big in the summer by splashing £130million on nine new players, the Toffees were one of the sides who needed the January transfer window most.
Sam Allardyce wasted little time in putting his mark on things, spending £27million to bring Besiktas striker Cenk Tosun in. The Turkish international is yet to get off the mark but his record in his homeland suggests he will bring the goals the Toffees so desperately need.
Pace was the other thing Everton badly lacked in the first half of the season and Walcott provides that in abundance. At £20million the former Arsenal forward could be considered a snip. He is in his prime at 28 and with a point to prove after stagnating at the Emirates. Two goals and an assist in his first two games suggest his was a good signing.
Finally, 45 minutes after the deadline, the loan arrival of Manchester City‘s Eliaquim Mangala was confirmed. The Frenchman ranged from the sublime to ridiculous at the Etihad but without a hefty price-tag weighing him down he could finally thrive.
Their spending for the season now at nearly £200million, Allardyce will be expected to deliver a top-half finish.
Major ins: Alex Pritchard, Terence Kongolo
Major outs: Martin Cranie, Joe Lolley
Teetering just a point above the Premier League relegation zone and without a league win since thrashing Watford 4-1 on December 16, the Terriers’ slide has gone under the radar somewhat.
Clearly likeable head coach David Wagner is either not concerned by his side’s slump or feels he has the players to keep Town in the top flight for a second season because it was a quiet month for Huddersfield.
Former Tottenham prodigy Alex Pritchard is highly rated by Norwich City fans who were unimpressed after losing him for just £12million. The ex-England Under-21 cap will bring creativity and unpredictability to the John Smith Stadium and that is hard to find near the bottom of the league.
Equally, Dutch international Terence Kongolo is an upgrade at centre-back or left-back. He has joined on loan from Monaco but it will take more than his arrival alone to tighten up a defence shipping an average of 1.76 goals per game.
Leicester City – B
Major ins: Adrien Silva, Fousseni Diabaté
Major outs: Islam Slimani, Andy King, Ahmed Musa, Leonardo Ulloa
The main point of order for the Foxes was going to be holding onto Manchester City transfer target Riyad Mahrez. The tricky Algerian winger waited until deadline day to hand in a transfer request and refused to train.
However, in the face of interest from the champions-elect, Leicester stood firm and Mahrez will remain at the King Power until the end of the season. Beyond that is anyone’s guess and although they won’t be able to demand such a large fee in the the more open summer market, they will be able to replace their star man.
Adrien Silva, signed 14 seconds after the summer window shut, was finally allowed to make his debut while winger Fousseni Diabaté, recommended by Puel’s son, joined from Gazélec Ajaccacio and has made an encouraging start. The new Mahrez? Maybe.
Liverpool – D
Major ins: Virgil van Dijk
Major outs: Philippe Coutinho, Ryan Kent, Jon Flanagan, Daniel Sturridge, Lazar Marković
The Reds dominated the early proceedings, signing van Dijk from Southampton at long last for a fee of £75million to make the Dutchman the most expensive defender of all time.
But van Dijk was never going to be Liverpool’s panacea and there are still big issues for Jürgen Klopp to fix, most notably between the sticks where he has thrown his weight behind Loris Karius. The German remains unconvincing and Klopp had been in the market for a new keeper with Roma’s Alisson reportedly a Liverpool transfer target.
The other long-running saga from the summer saw Coutinho exit for Barcelona in a £142million deal. But Liverpool failed to replace the Brazilian playmaker and are weaker for his departure, however it is dressed up.
Attempts to bring Naby Keïta – who has already agreed to move to Anfield from RB Leipzig in the summer – early also fell flat on their face. The initial optimism about the signing of van Dijk quickly gave way to frustration for Liverpool.
Manchester City – B
Major ins: Aymeric Laporte, Jack Harrison
Major outs: Eliaquim Mangala, Jack Harrison
What do you do when you’re already romping away with the Premier League, in the Carabao Cup final and odds-on to go deep in the Champions League and FA Cup? Spend, of course.
Pep Guardiola attempted to re-unite himself with want-away Arsenal forward Sánchez but was pipped to the Chilean’s signing by Manchester United. Even so, City emerged with some credit for refusing to pay over the odds, namely the £500,000 United have committed to Sánchez each week for the next four years.
In truth the 29-year-old would have been a luxury signing; there is little City need as they cruise towards their third Premier League title and even the pursuit of Mahrez was a reaction to the news Leroy Sané would be out for a few weeks after Joe Bennett’s appalling challenge in the FA Cup tie at Cardiff City.
One area where the Citizens genuinely needed another option was centre-half. The £57million paid to Athletic Bilbao for their classy defender Aymeric Laporte makes him the club’s most expensive player. Yet with John Stones and Nicólas Otamendi for company, he isn’t guaranteed a starting berth every week.
Major ins: Alexis Sanchez
Major outs: Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Axel Tuanzebe, James Wilson
José Mourinho would have been grinning like a Cheshire cat at his January business, if only because he feat rival Guardiola to the signing of Sánchez.
Although United’s new No.7 will pick up a fat cheque worth £500,000 per week until he is 33, weakening one rival (Arsenal), getting one over another (City) and offloading dead wood (Mkhitaryan) in one fell swoop is a good piece of business by anyone’s barometer.
While Sánchez does not fill a gaping hole on the field positionally, he brings the star quality, unpredictability and sheer force of nature that United have lacked this season. For those reasons alone, he is an A-star signing.
Newcastle United – D
Major ins: Kenedy, Islam Slimani, Martin Dúbravka
Major outs: Jack Colback, Alesksandar Mitrović, Henri Saivet, Freddie Woodman
Rafa Benítez was quite clear he needed a new goalkeeper and a new striker last summer. In the end Newcastle spent the princely sum of £5million on Joselu and failed to land a No.1 worthy of taking over from Rob Elliot and Karl Darlow.
However, with the Premier League relegation zone in sight, the Spaniard was finally permitted the resources to bring three players in, though none of them have joined on a permanent basis.
Slimani hit 40 league goals for Sporting in little over two seasons before joining Leicester where his return of seven in just 13 Premier League starts last season should not be sniffed at. The 29-year-old has a wealth of experience and while he might not be the most inspiring name, he will get the backing of the Magpies faithful on account of not being the hapless Joselu.
At the other end of the field, keeper Martin Dúbravka has arrived on loan from Sparta Prague where he had been first choice until this season. The 29-year-old is a Slovakian international and should add some much-needed authority to the backline.
Chelsea loanee Kenedy has already impressed, winning a penalty on his debut against Burnley in midweek, and it is make-or-break time for the Brazilian who has never convinced at Stamford Bridge. He should provide greater quality going forward than either Paul Dummett or Javier Manquillo at left-back.
Overall, though, the Magpies’ recruitment only underlines Mike Ashley’s chronic lack of investment in the team. Time will tell whether they have done enough.
Southampton – D
Major ins: Guido Carrillo
Major outs: Virgil van Dijk
The Saints’ record of appointing managers in recent years has been the envy of many a Premier League club. The decision to sack Claude Puel and replace him with Mauricio Pellegrino has not worked out thus far but, credit where it’s due, Southampton have backed their under-fire manager with cold hard cash.
Pellegrino was allowed to sign his former charge at Estudiantes, Guido Carrillo, for £19million and the former Monaco striker simply must score the goals his new team-mates have failed to find or it will be curtains for his new boss.
This season Southampton have tumbled from the comfort of mid-table security to a fully-blown relegation battle, so they could have done with more than a striker who has not hit double figures since 2014.
At the back, van Dijk is a big loss even if he spent the first few weeks of the season sulking but the Saints feel they have already replaced the Dutchman with countryman Wesley Hoedt from Lazio in the summer.
Another Dutchman, Quincy Promes, could not complete a move from Spartak Moscow. But Southampton will return for the winger in the summer – hopefully it won’t he too late.
Stoke City – C
Major ins: Moritz Bauer, Kostas Stafylidis, Badou Ndiaye
Major outs: None
The big change at the Bet365 Stadium saw Mark Hughes‘ reign end with the ignominy of an FA Cup exit at the hands of League Two side Coventry City. The appointment of Paul Lambert as his replacement might not have whetted the appetite of Potters supporters but the Scot was seen as one of the outstanding managerial prospects in England not that long ago.
The signing of right-back Moritz Bauer from Rubin Kazan was lined up before Lambert was appointed and the Swiss-born Austria international will plug a gap where Glen Johnson has been missed through injury.
With 50 goals conceded in just 25 Premier League games, blocking up a porous defence was the order of the day for Lambert who snapped up Augsburg’s left-back Kostas Stafylidis on loan. The Greek knows English football having spent an unconvincing season with Fulham in 2014/15 so it will be interesting to see whether he has improved in the intervening years.
The big signing, though, was the deadline day capture of Galatasaray’s Senegalese international Badou Diaye. The £15million signing has been likened in style to Liverpool-bound Naby Keïta. If he can have anything like that impact on an extremely pedestrian midfield made up of Joe Allen, Darren Fletcher and Charlie Adam, his signing could prove pivotal to Stoke’s survival hopes.
As could keeping hold of Peter Crouch. A surprise Chelsea transfer target, the 37-year-old’s advancing years are irrelevant. Even though he is no longer a regular starter, the former England international has scored three times this term – all goals which earned points.
Swansea City – C
Major ins: Andy King, André Ayew
Major outs: Roque Mesa, Jay Fulton, Oliver McBurnie
After re-signing Wilfried Bony from Manchester City in the summer, the Swans decided it was Back to the Future again in January, splashing a club record £18million to land André Ayew from West Ham United less than two years after selling the Ghanaian to the Hammers for £20million.
It’s fair to say Ayew, who links up with younger brother Jordan at the Liberty Stadium, had a better time of it in South Wales – scoring 12 times in 34 starts during the 2016/16 campaign – than in London. But he has never been prolific and Swansea need goals.
The club’s other January addition, after pulling out of the race for Liverpool flop Lazar Marković, saw Andy King join on loan from Leicester City in one of the least inspiring pieces of deadline day business. The 29-year-old is neat and tidy but, like much of the rest of Swansea’s midfield – doesn’t excel in one aspect.
The decision to loan Roque Mesa – six months after he joined from Las Palmas off the back of a fine season – to Sevilla was not well received. The moustachioed midfielder was afforded just nine Premier League starts before joining a side in the Champions League. Go figure.
On the flip side, keeping hold of Watford, West Ham and Everton transfer target Alfie Mawson was a pleasant surprise. The centre-back might not be the finished product, but he is an excellent defender on his day.
Major ins: Lucas Moura
Major outs: Georges-Kévin N’Koudou, Marcus Edwards
The Brazilian winger has been restricted to just five Ligue 1 outings from the bench this season but it his importance last term is quickly forgotten. He bagged 12 goals in just 29 starts as PSG finished runners up to Monaco and Mauricio Pochettino will hope to see that goal threat return in north London.
As ever, improving Spurs’ first XI is tricky and Pochettino’s record of buying squad players has been patchy at best. So, on this occasion, less was probably more for Tottenham.
Watford – B
Major ins: Gerard Deulofeu, Didier Ndong, Pontus Dahlberg, Dodi Lukebakio
Major outs: Ben Watson, Isaac Success, Pontus Dahlberg
The Hornets had said prior to sacking Marco Silva that they saw January as the time to correct mistakes, rather than making signings for the sake of it. In the end they sacked the Portuguese boss, appointed Javi Gracia and made four signings in the final 48 hours of the window.
Gerard Deulofeu joined on loan from Barcelona in time to make his debut in the deadline day draw at Stoke City. The Spaniard has plenty to prove in the Premier League but shone on loan at Milan in the second half of last season and that will give the Hornets hope.
Belgian Under-21 international Dodi Lukebakio also joined from Anderlecht and will give Gracia more options in the wide areas where, until now, Liverpool transfer target Richarlison and André Carrillo were the only senior players available.
The other arrival made for now was Sunderland midfielder Didier Ndong. The fact he has been part of a miserable season on Wearside has to be overlooked, but the Black Cats paid a club record £17million for the Gabonese midfielder two summers ago and Watford shouldn’t pay anything like that if the deal is made permanent.
The Hornets also managed to ship out a lot of young players and some dead wood, including the once-promising Isaac Success who has pitched up on loan at Málaga after an injury-hit first half of the campaign.
Major ins: Ahmed Hegazi, Ali Gabr, Daniel Sturridge
Major outs: Tyler Roberts
With impressive Egyptian centre-back Ahmed Hegazi having made his move from Al Ahly permanent for a bargain £4.5million in December, the focus was on keeping his defensive partner, Jonny Evans, at the club.
The big piece of business, though, saw Daniel Sturridge join on loan from Liverpool. The England international has a point to prove and a fight on his hands to get into Gareth Southgate’s World Cup squad.
On form, there are few better finishers in the Premier League. But Sturridge has mustered just 30 Premier League starts in the last four seasons and just five this under Jürgen Klopp. However, the reminder of those 21 goals as Brendan Rodgers‘ side almost won the title in 2014 looms large. Which Sturridge have the Baggies signed?
West Ham United – C
Major ins: João Mário, Jordan Hugill
Major outs: André Ayew, Reece Oxford, Diafra Sakho, Reece Burke
Having improved the Hammers immediately, January was David Moyes‘ chance to build on his initial impact and push the club forward with a few shrewd signings in key areas.
One glaring hole was in the centre of midfield. That was, eventually, solved by the arrival of Internazionale‘s Joao Mario on loan. The Portuguese has already made a good impression, catching the eye against Crystal Palace on his debut, and should add some much-needed quality.
The club’s other signing, £8million forward Jordan Hugill is a gamble. The former Preston North End striker has never been prolific – netting eight in the first half of the season for Championship side – but brings the hustle and bustle Moyes needs after Andy Carroll‘s injury.
Keeping Carroll in the face of interest from Chelsea could go either way. On his day the former England international is the finest Plan B in the Premier League. But you have to be able to get him onto the field first and that is an all-too-rare occurrence these days.