Transfer deadline day: Phil McNulty’s verdict on the big deals
An unprecedented transfer window closed with a record £815m January spend and Chelsea’s British record £107m signing of Enzo Fernandez.
At the other end of the scale, struggling Everton spent nothing despite being rooted in the relegation zone – only increased the sense of uncertainty around Goodison Park.
It was the traditional transfer deadline day full of intrigue and late deals – so what were the big questions to take away?
Will Chelsea’s big gamble pay off?
Chelsea’s fans were left with mixed feelings of euphoria and disbelief as new owner Todd Boehly continued his astonishing high-spending assault on the markets throughout January.
Boehly made his mark after succeeding Roman Abramovich with a £270m outlay in the summer, a record for a British club, then eclipsed it in January by spending £288m to take the total new incomings to 17 new players.
Long contracts have been handed out as Chelsea work around Financial Fair Play so there is no doubt there is an element of gamble to the process and added pressure on these deals to be successful within this high-risk strategy.
The spending will also bring added pressure for manager Graham Potter, who will surely be expected to get pretty much instant results in the wake of such cash support, even with reassurances from above that he is part of a long-term plan.
The number of arrivals is certainly at odds with the careful manner in which Potter built at Brighton but he is living in a different world at Stamford Bridge. If he did not know that before, he does now.
Chelsea have certainly brought some thrilling attacking talent to west London with 22-year-old Argentina World Cup winner Fernandez, along with £88m Mykhailo Mudryk from Shakhtar Donetsk and Joao Felix on loan from Atletico Madrid.
They currently lie 10th in the Premier League, 10 points off the top four, but a place in next season’s Champions League must be essential after this eye-watering January.
It will not be dull but there will now be huge pressure of Potter, the players and owner Boehly to bring success.
- Analysis: How can Chelsea keep spending?
- Enzo Fernandez: What are Chelsea getting in Benfica and Argentina star?
Have Arsenal done enough?
Arsenal are in their strongest Premier League title position for years, five points clear of Manchester City with a game in hand. There was no shortage of ambition to try and strengthen but the really big deal just eluded them.
Mudryk seemed destined for Arsenal to join Ukraine team-mate Oleksandr Zinchenko until Chelsea trumped them. Brighton then simply refused to lift the “Not For Sale” sign on midfield man Moises Caicedo despite a £70m offer and the player’s clear design to join The Gunners.
Manager Mikel Arteta still appeared to do sound business in paying Brighton £21m for Leandro Trossard while experience and trophy-winning pedigree came with Jorginho at £12m from Chelsea. He can be a starter as well as security against any injury to the vital presence of Thomas Partey.
Arsenal may not have got exactly who they wanted but there is plenty of room for optimism.
Bournemouth & Southampton spend for safety
Bournemouth’s new owner Bill Foley and those now in charge at Southampton recognised their perils at the foot of the Premier League and backed managers with hard cash.
Whether it works remains to be seen, but neither club could be accused of holding back on transfer deadline day to give respective bosses Gary O’Neil and Nathan Jones a crack at staying up.
Saints, currently bottom, beat Everton to the signing of Rennes’ exciting 20-year-old Ghana forward Kamaldeen Sulemana in a club record £22m deal and added giant Nigerian striker Paul Onuachu from Genk.
Jones has seen signs of improvement recently but wants Southampton to play in a more positive, aggressive manner and hopes the pair will achieve his aim.
The Cherries were busy in many areas, ending up signing Ukraine defender Illia Zabarnyi from Dynamo Kyiv for a reported £24m while Ivory Coast midfielder Hamed Traore, 22, joined from Sassuolo on loan on deadline day. A five-year deal will be completed in the summer.
He was their sixth January signing, joining £10m Antoine Semenyo, winger Dango Ouattarra – a £20m arrival from Lorient – along with keeper Darren Randolph and Uruguay full-back Matias Vina, who joined on loan from Roma.
If the strategy of Bournemouth and Southampton fails, it will not be down to a lack of ambition.
Liverpool waiting for Bellingham?
Liverpool struck first in the January transfer window with the £45m signing of Cody Gakpo from PSV Eindhoven but the rest of the window was quiet, especially given the obvious need for midfield reinforcements and their struggles in the Premier League. They currently lie ninth in the league and suffered an FA Cup fourth round exit at Brighton.
Manager Jurgen Klopp has struggled with loss of form and injuries in that key midfield area but his and Liverpool’s past history – and perhaps the fact the summer loan move for Artur Melo was wrecked by injury – suggests their refusal to move means they have sights firmly fixed on one main target.
The main conclusion to reach is that Liverpool are determined to throw all they have at trying to sign Borussia Dortmund’s brilliant England teenager Jude Bellingham in the summer.
The risk in this approach is that Liverpool will be a lot less appealing if they are not in the Champions League. They are also likely to be fighting for his services against Real Madrid and Manchester City – and presumably Chelsea.
Can Newcastle United push on?
Newcastle United’s big January buy Anthony Gordon got a taste of the current euphoria on Tyneside as the £45m signing from Everton watched Eddie Howe’s side reach their first Wembley showpiece since the 1999 FA Cup Final by beating Southampton in the EFL Cup.
Gordon was the one marquee acquisition by Newcastle this month. The big indicator of their progress was that Howe and the club’s Saudi Arabian owners felt no need to go too big in the markets. There is also no guarantee the 21-year-old will just walk into a thriving team.
Howe will now hope he has enough at his disposal to continue an unlikely push for a place in next season’s Champions League, with Newcastle currently third after only one loss in 20 games. They also have that EFL Cup Final against either Manchester United or Nottingham Forest on 26 February.
Man City serene after Cancelo exit
There was some surprise that Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola was willing to let defender Joao Cancelo go on loan to Bayern Munich ahead of a £61.5m summer move given his significance in their recent successes.
Guardiola, however, feels confident in his defensive resources given the form of Nathan Ake and the emergence of the outstanding teenager Rico Lewis. Cancelo had already started to fall from favour somewhat, the 28-year-old having only started three games since the World Cup.
- Cancelo’s Bayern loan is Guardiola ‘flexing muscles’
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