Easily the most eventful and enjoyable January window ever in football. Let’s look at an XI that I’ve put together, containing the best bits of business.
GK – Inigo Martinez
This is solely based on no stand out goalkeeper moving last month. After selling Laporte, Bilbao had a difficult task of replacing a player who has a been a mainstay in their side for years. Because of Bibao’s very traditional transfer approach, only buying players from the Basque country, it makes options for players very limited compared to other clubs (Laporte being an exception, with his grandparents from the country). Looking at Martinez’s stats, it’s clear to see why they bought the Spaniard. He has very similar stats to Laporte. Laporte averages 1.8 tackles and 1.4 interceptions per game, while Martinez averages 1.2 tackles and 1.9 interceptions per game. Usually a player who intercepts more than tackles can usually read the game better, but his tackle numbers are way too low. It is obviously not his speciality but those interception numbers might be what they want. The real issue will be whether he can do the creative work that Laporte did. The Frenchman averaged 7.5 longballs per game and with a 84.4% pass accuracy. He really benefited Bibao with his long passing ability. With the huge players like Adruiz and Garcia upfront, both excellent in the air, it would be so beneficial to have a player who is able to transition the play that quickly up he pitch. Martinez does actually have a decent 5.1 longballs per game. It’s just it isn’t the same insane amount of number as Laporte managed but I’d still good. Bibao are definitely weakened, but for the amount of money they earned and were able to get a very good player as well.
RCB – Aymeric Laporte
I’ve already mentioned many of his abilities while talking about Martinez, so let’s keep it short. While I think he is an amazing signing and will be brilliant for City, they already have 2 other players just like him in Kompany and Stones, both sweepers who are good on the ball. He is guaranteed minutes I think he’s a player who is too good to be on the bench and I just hope Pep doesn’t stagnate his career. They should have tried to find a player similar to Otamendi. He is turning thirty soon and is the only defender in that city team who is able to run out and make the crazy tackles. Samuel Umtiti is the kinda player I mean. He is similar to Otamendi but would be almost impossible to take from Barcelona. While an incredible signing, I just hope he is given plenty of games.
CB – Virgil Van Dijk
It’s as if I’ve spoken about Van Dijk for so many months on end. Even though he is still a pretty brilliant defender, his attitude throughout all the season has been a disgrace. Looking at Mahrez, Sanchez and Coutinho, they all kept playing and performing instead of complaining. By now everyone knows why Liverpool have signed. I still believe he is a huge risk. It’s strange to say this but it’s mainly because he was the only defender they were linked to. It’s as if someone at Liverpool had a real obsession with the Dutchman. They’ve put all their hope on one guy to solve their defensive issues. It’s just a lot to take in for someone. I do think he’s a great signing, but Klopp is the main reason why they can’t defend, it isn’t all the players fault.
LCB – Emerson
I’ve been hearing everyone call Emerson by his last name, Palmeri. It doesn’t sound right to me so I’ll be Emerson. With Chelsea not signing a left back in the summer, Alonso was forced to play a lot of games. By December it was clear he was exhausted. He wasn’t able to play at such high energy in the champions league and premier league. So buying a left back who plays mostly as a wing back makes a lot of sense. I’m not going to say I am an expert on Emerson, but I have seen him in a couple of games and plays like a real wingback. Like Alonso, he is able to run the length of the pitch and contribute going forward. I remember him having one standout game against Lazio last season, because of his brilliant ability going forward. He is obviously signed as depth and not a first team regular. With the links to Dzeko as well, it made me think that Emerson was arriving as a full back who played in a system build on crossing the ball. Chelsea this season in the market had some obsession with tall strikers. They were linked to sensible players like Dzeko and Giroud, to crazy players like Crouch and Ashley Barnes. You could argue the biggest weakness of Marcus Alonso’s game is crossing, where he only averages 0.5 crosses per game. Emerson hasn’t played much at all this season, but last season he averaged double what Alonso has this season. Adding Emerson to the squad gives Conte another option, and to progress in any competition, multiple options are needed. A good signing overall.
RM – Lucas Moura
Spurs aren’t usually a club who make signings half way through a season, but with Alli just being a shadow of his former self this season, Lamela not coming back as planned, and Nkoudou going out on loan to Burnley, another option was needed. Son is the only player in the Spurs team with any sort of pace, so adding Lucas, a player whose main asset is his pace, is some brilliant business. Moura was actually brilliant last season but didn’t really get any credit for it. He started more games than Di Maria, and finished with 20 goals in all competitions. Buying a player who is still only 25 for only £25m is some real good business. He will add another dimension to the spurs team. One issue that I’ve had with Tottenham over the last couple of years is their over reliance on Eriksen. If he is taken out of the game, their killer instinct in the final third is gone as well. Adding another creator and goal scorer takes a lot of pressure off of Eriksen and Kane, to help spread the goals around. A very good signing over all from Tottenham.
RCM – Henrik Mkhitaryan
Part of me is very sad that our first Armenian at Manchester United left this way. A player who I had such high hopes for when he arrives, has left as a player who occasionally showed brilliance, but didn’t do it enough. I think Mhiki and another player are definitely short term signings, to help Wenger get champions league football in one big gamble. I do think Mhiki will work better under Wenger. He won’t have the same over reliance on creating as he did in Manchester, and will be able to actually look for more space instead of having to drop deep to get the ball. In reality, Mhiki is much more of a Wenger player than Sanchez ever was. He is selfless, magical, good in the final third, and most importantly he can play in multiple positions.
LCM – Philippe Coutinho
The second most expensive player has to make this list. Question marks over Barcelona’s midfield has been asked ever since Iniesta began to drop off. Coutinho is a player currently producing the numbers of his career. I personally do not think he is worth the money they paid, but he will definitely improve their squad. I still have a few issues with this transfer. Mainly with where does he fit in this current team. Barcelona have been playing a 4-4-2, with Busquets and Paulinho is central midfield, and Iniesta and Rakitic operating the wide positions. But with Dembele back from injury, he will obviously fit on that right side. It makes obvious sense to put Coutinho on that left side, but Iniesta has been very good this season, so there isn’t a guarantee he will start. Valverde has a problem, but it’s a good problem. No player in those wide positions is a guaranteed starter, so it means they will have to fight for their place and prove they are the best out of the other players. Coutinho also isn’t illegible for the Champions League, meaning he is guaranteed more games in the league, with Iniesta needing a rest.
LM – Alexis Sanchez
Some brilliant business done between the red devils and the gunners here. Both got rid of players they didn’t fancy and brought in players that would improve their squad. Manchester United do easily get the better deal here. Sanchez is one of the best players in the league, so getting for almost nothing is brilliant. He adds a winner, a guy who will drag the other players and expect better from the worst players at the club. He will help change the mentality from accepting mediocrity to only expecting trophies.
AM – Olivier Giroud
Chelsea were linked to some real low quality players throughout January. Players like Peter Crouch, Andy Carroll and Ashley Barnes all seemed to be linked because they are all tall players. When they were first linked to Dzeko, I finally thought they were getting linked to players of a higher quality. In the end they signed Giroud. A player who divided many in the Premier League. I like him. He might not be good enough to start, but football is a squad game, so having another option is always useful. He will add someone who is much better with his back to goal. Morata is a good player, but he doesn’t seem fully settled. Having someone who knows the premier league is always useful.
LS – Michy Batshuayi
The Batsman was struggling to get Chelsea, even though he practically scored every time he played. Batshuayi was clearly not suited for what Conte wanted. He doesn’t want to drop deep to get the ball or make long runs out wide. He is a classic poacher. Dortmund are a team that create a lot of chances. He will be able to play his game, and get on the end of chances. It’s a perfect move for both player and clubs. Chelsea get rid of a player they aren’t playing, Batsman gets playing time, and Dortmund get a short-term solution until they find their ideal replacement. Just a great deal all around.
RS – Pierre- Emerick Aubameyang
Arsenal finally decided to splash the cash on a player they have been constantly linked to. I think Aubameyang is a great player. A penalty box specialist. Many, because of FIFA, believe he is some pace machine who makes crazy runs. It’s not true. He’s a great poacher. He’s only scored one goal outside the box at Dortmund. He has an incredible first touch and is great one on one. Lacazette has struggled throughout this season, and bringing in a guy who knows how to score goals is perfect. The only issue is he’s 28. Spending £50m on a player who only has another 3 years at the top is very risky. He will probably turn out fine.