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Premier League: January Transfer Window

The January transfer window is never usually a noisy one. It doesn’t bring huge moves akin to the one in summer. But January is a little calmer; players tend to prefer jumping ship once a season is over or after their contracts have expired.

However, in 2022, the start of the year was key. With clubs pressured by Covid, injury and international commitments, January provided a chance to plug the gaps and energize teams with new blood. Here’s a rundown of the moves that mattered.

Brand-new Newcastle

The recently taken-over Newcastle United were expected to splash the cash throughout January, and that they did. Not only did they spend £93 million, the most of any Premier League club (including the ‘Big Six’), but made sure to sign big names that would both fix existing weaknesses within the side and bolster overall squad strength.

Kieran Trippier, brought back to England from a very successful title-winning stint at Atletico Madrid, will lend experience and leadership, and has already proven himself in their 1-0 win at Leeds United recently. They also managed to snap up Bruno Guimaraes from Lyon. To successfully make the signing, Newcastle have signaled their potential, and ability to compete with the established, wealthy super clubs.

However, they’ve equally been careful to balance the international signings with home-grown talent. Chris Wood – taken from Burnley – was a regular scorer for his former side, and the board will hope his reliability at finding the net will help the club’s elevation to both domestic and international silverware. Targett, on loan from Championship Aston Villa, is a flexible player who can be used at wingback or as part of a back three.

These carefully targeted signings are a testament to how well Eddie Howe has settled into the managerial job at St James’ Park. The players are intelligent choices; Howe did not opt to use newfound wealth to spend huge sums on international superstars in a bid to attract attention. Instead, the aim is to take a path similar to the one Manchester City took after their 2008 takeover. Slow and steady wins the race.

Arsenal bid farewell to Auba

It feels like the end of an era for fans of the Gunners. After four tumultuous years, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has moved on a free transfer to Barcelona. The deal was feared dead in the water in the middle of deadline day due to disputes over pay and contract clauses, but resurrected by midnight.

Arsenal’s relationship with one of its best recent signings dipped as the pandemic took hold. Since signing a big new deal in September 2020, he scored a fraction of the goals he had previously. He clashed frequently with manager Mikel Arteta and was dropped from the squad for disciplinary reasons on a number of occasions before being stripped of the captaincy late last year.

It’s little surprise therefore that he has chosen to start again elsewhere in Europe. Therefore, Arsenal fans might question why Arteta failed to make any signings to compensate for his loss up front. The club faces the problem of surviving the rest of the season with only two central strikers until the summer transfer window opens. An injury to either Lacazette or Nketiah could seriously damage Arsenal’s hopes of a top four finish this season for the first time since 2015/16.

Lampard hits sweet spot for Toffees

Everton’s managerial hiring process makes winning The Apprentice look like a piece of cake. However, midway through deadline day, Frank Lampard agreed to undertake his first role since his former club Chelsea sacked him this time last year.

Having been heavily rumored for a couple of days, his confirmation set off a flurry of signings for the side, with many keen to play under his managerial side. Everton sit dangerously low in the table and have been plagued by poor luck with injuries; the window was a key chance to re-energize a side whose fluctuating fortunes can be seen in the fact they have had six permanent managers in as many years.

Why Manchester United didn’t make more use of Donny van der Beek is impossible to understand. Signed in 2020 for £35 million, he played a meager 27 appearances for the side and finally decided enough was enough. Lampard’s signing was apparently the deciding factor to go for a loan move, having already turned down a similar offer from aforementioned Newcastle. Game time for the mid- fielder will be almost guaranteed at Goodison Park, with Sigurdsson suspended and Delph, Doucouré and Davies all missing due to injury.

But how will he play alongside another (permanent) signee, Dele Alli? Like van der Beek, a talented player getting little play time at his former club because, similar to Aubameyang, of conflict with the managers. Everton will be happy to have an attacking, high-scoring player of his caliber on their books.

The return of Ramsey

The departure of Welshman Aaron Ramsey to Juventus in summer 2019 was seen as his opportunity to kick-start a new chapter in his career. But thirteen separate injury issues left him unable to give his all for the Italian side, and he saw 90 minutes only once in a Series A game.

So, why head to Rangers? And why for so short a period of time? Rangers have a history of scooping great deals from Italian clubs (remember Paul Gascoigne?), and Ramsey at his best is a desirable force to have on a team. The club are reigning Scottish Premiership Champions, but currently sit just behind Celtic after a spell of sub-par form. The four month deal lasts until the end of the season, and their possession-based style of football is compatible with his. It’s not as though Ramsey has been unfit for nearly three years – through- out his spell in Italy he was still a key figure for his national team, in the Euros and the World Cup qualifiers. The Scottish side will hope to make the most of limited time with a player who provides the necessary goals and always brings the team with him.

Tottenham playing catch-up?

Some might say it was a case of ‘not quite’ for the Spurs this time around. They missed out on Luis Díaz to Liverpool, Hugo Ekitike to Newcastle (despite the move collapsing at the last minute) and Adama Traoré to Barcelona, all reliable players who would have added squad depth after the departure of Alli and loss of Ndombele and Lo Celso on loan.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom for the north London club. Their signings were a pair of players from Juventus who both lifted the Coppa Italia last season, midfielders Rodrigo Bentancur and Deja Kulusevski. Kulusevski is still proving himself on pitch – perhaps partly why he’s only on loan at the moment – but Bentancur can support current Spurs midfielders Højbjerg and Skipp, maybe boosting the team’s chances of a top four finish under manager Antonio Conte.

Plus, it’s often not all about the on-pitch side of things; those leaving the club, especially Alli, will have significantly eased Tottenham's wage bill. Finances will be at the forefront of chairman Daniel Levy’s mind as they continue to pay off their state-of-the-art £1 billion stadium.

City clear-out

Title favorites Manchester City used the January window to ease their squad numbers, signing only one player, 22-year-old forward Julian Álvarez, and letting eleven go, including Ferran Torres to Barcelona.

Many have been eyeing Torres’s progress at City, where he has scored in every competition he has taken part in – FA Cup, Champions League, Premier League, Carabao Cup, you name it. This time last year, City granted him a five-year deal in an attempt to make him stay, but Barcelona will be happy to poach his talent, despite the hefty £46 million price tag for a club in such dire financial straits that it decided it could not pay Messi’s wages last summer.

Any predictions?

It’s hard to know how great an impact a player will have when they sign with a club; take van der Beek as an example. Sometimes it’s some of the least-reported deals at the time that go on to be some of the greatest. Personally, I think eyes should be on Everton. After a tricky 18 months, Lampard presents a great opportunity to put the club back on its feet, into the top ten and European competitions, too. Newcastle’s signings too are high-caliber. Can either of them take it to the top six? Only time will tell.

Image: [Wikimedia Commons]

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