Grading Every Premier League Team’s January Transfer Window
Every Premier League team managed to do some sort of move with the expectation to aid them be it now or for the future.
While the start of the month and most of it was very quiet the end was actually mental and one move after the other lined up each more fun and enticing than the other.
And while Newcastle definitely stole the show with just how quickly they managed to turn from Mike Ashley’s prolonged negotiations to sealing three transfers in the last week, other clubs also made deals that saw their squads change for the better or worse and this article will try to breakdown and grade just that.
A lot of talk and hype surrounded the side’s January transfer window once David Ornstein’s article stated that Arsenal will pursue a deal for Dusan Vlahovic immediately.
The transfer window has slammed shut in Europe's major leagues, capping off a jam-packed January full of moves.
In this (mega) thread, we'll be taking a look at some of the biggest transfers in the winter window, as well as some under-the-radar moves. pic.twitter.com/zEtdfDdYUC
— Breaking The Lines (@BTLvid) January 31, 2022
After that ship sailed as Juventus ended up snapping him up, The Gunners did not make any moves despite some glaring weaknesses in their side but then again the right move likely wasn’t there.
As much as fans love to speculate on who will cost how much, January usually isn’t an ideal month to try and snap up better players of certain sides which Arsenal definitely need, rather just backups/rotational options.
This is far from praise, but a lot of criticism was thrown the North Londoners’ way due to their lack of moves and likely rightfully so as the side who’s battling for top 4 became even thinner following some departures.
And while Champions League football is key for every top side, it could be argued that Arsenal’s decision to keep letting go of players who affect their wages and budget going forward is something that aids them in the long run even without the lucrative CL money.
I feel that as the side let go of Sead Kolasinac, Callum Chambers, Pablo Mari and most notably Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang they are now in a position to carry on their project freely without the financial burden of these.
Some questions still remain and yes it wasn’t ideal that no striker[or any player to improve the side] was acquired which hinders a potential big speed up in the aforementioned project hence why the grade remains low but this may very well turn out to be one of the better January windows. Time will tell – for now, C-.
Undoubtedly one of the teams that occupied the headlines as they carried on with their ambitious moves from the summer. Aston Villa managed to agree deals for both Philippe Coutinho and Lucas Digne [one on loan, one on a permanent, respectively] which immediately upgraded an already strong starting XI.
Whilst Callum Chambers will likely provide backup to Matty Cash and the center-backs, the Birmingham outlet didn’t lose anyone of enormous importance in particular with their only notable departure being Anwar El Ghazi who moved on loan to Everton.
Excluding all the youngsters who got loans, the only other senior departure was that of Wesley who’s long been out of the club’s plans.
Following the arrival of Gerrard as well, Aston Villa have carried on building a solid squad that is capable of breaking through the hurdle of the top 10, and at least being a Leicester City, it’s just down to gradual improvement.
Their methodic approach to deals and identifying these potential options has seen them calmly stray away from the relegation dog-fight they were in two seasons ago.
While not absolutely surreal all of Villa’s deals made sense as they have struggled a little with Buendia filling in the creativity hole that Grealish’s absence has “provided” and Digne being a fantastic upgrade on Matt Targett.
Robin Olsen and Calum Chambers add much-needed depth and managing to hold on to Douglas Luiz was also a plus. Overall – B+.
Not much happened in West London really. Brentford opted to focus primarily on outgoings with bit-part players such as Charlie Goode, Mats Bidstrup, Marcus Forss, and others leaving the club.
The only two incomings the side opted for were Jonas Lossl who sits in between the third and second choice keeper and the other one was Danish playmaker Christian Eriksen.
Now a year ago, Eriksen at Brentford would have made some headlines and to a degree, it still did but after the player suffered a cardiac arrest at the Euros it’s seen as a red flag. Largely due to the player’s health, not the ability but the issue still remains.
Undoubtedly, Eriksen’s ability puts him immediately on the same level as Ivan Toney in terms of importance, if not even higher but questions remain on his fitness following such a long break from football coupled with the undoubtful question of whether he is not taking a risk after such a heart problem?
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If all goes well, however, he may prove to be the difference-maker in the potential relegation battle so B- seems best.
For years now Brighton have made very shrewd signings based on their fantastic scouting and analysis department.
Barring the obvious names of Leandro Trossard, Tariq Lamptey, and Marc Cucurella you have guys such as Yves Bissouma, Alexis McAllister, and Enock Mwepu. And The Seagulls didn’t disappoint yet again even if they only officialized two moves.
For one, they didn’t look far from home. Feeder club Union-Sant-Gilloise striker Deniz Undav signed for just 6 million pounds as Brighton finally aim to add that “goalscoring striker” that every pundit has stated they should.
They loaned him back for the remainder of the season in order to finish his “mission” in Belgium where he’s already netted 20 times in 26 games and bagged another 10 assists to boot.
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The other signing who is also one for the future was that of young Polish wonderkid Kacper Kozlowski for 8 million pounds. Kacper is just another product of the famous Polish approach where teams are obliged to field a U21 player in their starting XI.
He burst onto the scene in November of 2020 and hasn’t looked back since, becoming a regular in the Pogon lineup and even often getting caps for Poland some of which came in at EURO 2021. It’s hard to realize he’s just 18 years of age.
There is something to be mentioned however which in the short-term will likely prove to be an issue. Dan Burn was let go off with no replacement and Aaron Connolly was allowed to leave on loan to Boro in the Championship so they effectively weakened their squad a little. Hard to say how much this will affect the side but I think it will be an issue to an extent so C+.
For years now Burnley have been ridiculed for their persistence with British players who would likely only fit under a manager as pragmatic as Sean Dyche.
Despite all that laughter Burnley have steadily kept their spot amongst the 20 best teams in England whilst operating on a much smaller budget compared to other sides.
That issue came up once again as they didn’t do much in the January window even if they finally look to be stuck in quite the relegation battle.
What’s even worse is that they only had one departure [bar two odd loans of youngsters] but that was their star striker Chris Wood whose clause was paid for by Newcastle and he jumped ship.
However, towards deadline day Burnley arguably upgraded on Wood by bringing in Dutch striker Wout Weghorst for just 12 million pounds from Wolfsburg.
Now obviously you can look at Burnley’s window one way – the side desperately needed quality in order to beat the drop and they’ve only replaced a departure.
On the other hand, as stated they might have just upgraded on Wood, and if things go their way they can still avoid relegation especially if Weghorst exceeds expectations and forms a partnership with Cornet. I feel because of this potential “double-edged sword” it’s best to say C+.
I wrote a whole piece about Chelsea’s January window so I’m not planning on changing my stance that the Blues did the right thing by not rushing into any deals that may not appease Thomas Tuchel.
The side passed up on Lucas Digne for the LWB spot and Ousmane Dembele for the AM positions as they are stacked in both even if injuries and inconsistency have plagued their options there.
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Any potential gigantic departures could have seen the side struggle in times where COVID could exclude a couple of key men in a matter of minutes and it seems as if the entire focus has been placed on the summer both outgoing and incoming.
Chelsea did end up recalling Kenedy in order to provide a body in both areas while also looking at youngsters Dylan Williams and Mason Burstow, respectively from Derby and Charlton but those look to be more for the academy rather than anything else.
While the sound is optimistic above, there is still the feel that Chelsea’s issues may see them get dragged into a top 4 battle again and if somehow that ends up biting them then we’d come back to this and argue they should have done some business in the window. Due to that – C-.
Palace really didn’t do much but is that really bad? Their squad was already quite big and not reliant on any major deal to aid them going forward. Not one that would happen in January at least when everybody knows the budget on which Palace operate.
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Despite being ostracized for most of his loan spell, Patrick Vieira has started using Jean-Philippe Mateta recently and although it’s a mixed bag the Frenchman opted to make his move permanent. The side also singed youngster Luke Plange from Derby and loaned him back.
Other than that they fought off any interest for Benteke and anybody else and kept their squad, which has already been impressive in the Prem, intact. Nothing else needs to be said. C.
Everton were one of the more active clubs on the market as they’re quite in a bad spot. On top of bringing in Frank Lampard as manager, they made a total of 5 transfers all of which could go either way.
While a lot was made of the decision to let Lucas Digne go a week before eventually firing Rafa Benitez, the reason Digne was on the market, his eventual replacement is someone who has been highly rated by analysts and scouts across Europe.
Vitaliy Mykolenko is one of a few players touted highly from the recent Ukrainian crop and Everton did well in identifying him as the Frenchman’s replacement.
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And yet…this is where the praise ends.
The side brought in Dele Alli for a fee that may rise up to 40 million pounds and Donny Van de Beek on loan from Manchester United – two players that largely occupy the same area on the pitch and share similar play styles, relying more on movement off the ball. The side still doesn’t have a pure creative midfielder bar Andre Gomes and he’s been well below par.
On top of that, they brought in Anwar El Ghazi on loan before Lampard’s arrival and vastly overpaid for Nathan Patterson from Rangers who whilst undeniably having potential and showcasing it in Scotland is a big risk at 16 million pounds and has a couple of players ahead of him depending on the tactical plan.
A lot hinges on where Lampard takes this team and how the signings do kick on but D+ is best.
Leeds deserves praise but not really for any business both incoming or outgoing. No. Leeds deserves praise for managing to fight off big-money offers from West Ham for their two star men Kalvin Phillips and Raphinha.
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Overall, Marcelo Bielsa’s side didn’t do anything and I really mean anything bar the mentioned above, and as they sit 15th and still in danger of being dragged into a relegation battle that was arguably their best move. Not much else needs to be said. C+
Another team who wasn’t active on the window. Bar the odd departure the side didn’t do much and again, did they really need to? Yes, the Foxes aren’t in the best form but you could argue that that’s not a personnel issue.
They are where they are but given just how many options they have on pretty much every position it made little sense to overreact to a rough patch of form. They also poached Arsenal for one of the better Hale End products – Amani Richards so overall Leicester kept it quiet when it was needed to. C+.
There’s no surprise that Liverpool once again made headlines for some good piece of business. They waited in the shadows only pouncing on the deal to take Luis Diaz to Merseyside once Tottenham had managed to lower the fee for him after months of negotiations.
The Colombian, who this year was unanimously the best player in the Liga NOS joined the club for a total fee of a little below 50 million. Given just how many games Liverpool have yearly questions were raised as to how adequate their depth is due to their reliance on both Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah.
Over the last year and a half, they went from having Xherdan Shaqiri, Takumi Minamino, and others as backups to Luis Diaz and Diogo Jota who are tailor-made for Klopp’s system.
As far as departures go they managed to only let go of Natt Philips and Neco Williams on loan so Liverpool once again look like a strong contender for a deep run in the Champions League coupled with challenging City at least to where they can.
Obviously, Diaz could still have his issues transitioning his game from the Liga NOS to the Premier League but as Mane has downed tools a little compared to his 2020-self, the Colombian is a fantastic option to have. B+.
Let’s face it – City is one side that definitely didn’t need any major upgrade. And yet they still did some notable business. They managed to sell Ferran Torres for a total of 55 million to Barcelona while securing one of South America’s hot commodities in Julian Alvarez.
The Spider, as he’s called has made quite an impression in Argentina shining for River Plate with 24 goals and 15 assists to his name in less than double the appearances – 46.
Dubbed “The next Aguero” due to the similarities in stature and style of play, City secured a smart deal reminiscent of the way they bought Gabriel Jesus years ago from Palmeiras.
Although there is still talk of them being very aggressive in the pursuit of Erling Haaland, Alvarez seems a perfect fall-back option even if that doesn’t materialize.
On the other hand, the departure of Ferran Torres for the money that was given for him was a masterstroke!
This was a player who was largely a rotation option at City, arrived in the summer of 2020 from Valencia for a little over 20 million, and to sell him for 55 a year and a half later when he never really seemed that valuable to Pep’s juggernaut…Bravo! B+.
The Red side of Manchester didn’t have much to smile for compared to their “Noisy neighbors”. Signing absolutely nobody yet losing assets left and right seems a bit silly even if they have the depth to compensate. Anthony Martial finally left the club on loan to Sevilla.
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Amad Diallo, who is seen as a huge prospect, also left the club on loan..which isn’t bad until Ralf Rangnick opted to use Anthony Elanga who whilst also quite a promising player could have just as easily been the one on loan instead of United’s 20 million investment.
As mentioned above, Donny van de Beek also left the club on loan making United’s options in midfield even less.
Arguably the biggest issue however was the side not moving in for a midfielder. As seen numerous times and especially this season, United struggles defensively with so many wingers not providing enough on the defensive end.
Even if players such as Bruno Fernandes and Fred for example work hard and try and provide on both ends, as much as they can, their focus remains to contribute more offensively [especially Bruno whilst Fred is more of a box-to-box] and therefore the only real holding midfielder the side have is Nemanja Matic and to an extent Scott McTominay.
While maybe it’s a setup issue it has to be said that addressing that should have been a priority for United and to be fair to them they have been heavily linked with Declan Rice for the summer of 2022 but the lack of such a profile may prove to be vital in their battle for top 4. F
All eyes were on Newcastle who were reported to be able to spend over a billion pounds and still be able to comply with FFP rules after all the years under Mike Ashley. To be honest, they delivered.
You have to realize that this was a team sitting in the relegation zone at the start of January, nobody expected Robert Lewandowski and Kylian Mbappe. However, Newcastle almost pulled off one of the best January windows of all time.
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They brought in Kieran Trippier from Atletico to start at right-back, Chris Wood from Burnley, Matt Targett, Dan Burn but obviously, the one that made the most headlines was Bruno Guimaraes. The Brazilian sealed a move to Tyneside after a 40 million pound deal was agreed with Lyon.
And yet somehow this was the least Newcastle could do. Instead of Dan Burn, the Geordies almost managed to seal a move for Benoit Badiashile with talks breaking down on Monaco’s end due to their reluctance to lose the player as they fight for European football.
Diego Carlos from Sevilla was also linked but the Spaniards were in a similar situation[to Monaco – potential title challenge] and despite Carlos’ desire to move to Tyneside talks were shut down.
Another close call was youngster Hugo Ekitike who has burst onto the scene this year setting the Ligue 1 on fire for minnows Reims. Undoubtedly, Newcastle had a fantastic window for what they could have done but given just how much they could have pushed it – A-.
It has to be said that Norwich also surprised as they seemed to ignore January given the situation they are in.
While yes, Dean Smith revitalized the side as they aren’t rock bottom anymore after picking up wins v Watford and Everton and most recently drawing v Palace they still needed extra quality wherever possible…and yet they only loaned Todd Cantwell out to Bournemouth.
Cantwell has been in what some might call a “Mitrovic role” – too good for the Championship but fails to replicate the numbers/performances at the highest tier of English football but that still is no excuse for losing one of your better attacking options when struggling for creativity and goals on a consistent basis. [Norwich currently have the lowest number of goals in the Prem] F.
As Ralph Hassenhuttl’s team is sitting calmly in mid-table Soton opted against making moves in January and rightly so.
The side didn’t need anybody coming in with the emergence of players like Armando Broja and Valentino Livramento while guys like Kyle Walker-Peters, Mohammed Salisu, and others elevating their game even more.
Ralph’s tactical plans have been executed almost to perfection so there was no need in overcomplicating things with anything additional and the side also didn’t lose anybody of significant importance. C+.
Spurs’ January window was a mixed bag and as stated by reputable journalists there is a reason Antonio Conte is still not seen as 100% committed to the club.
The Italian ultimately got his wish for additions as the side sealed moves for Juventus duo Dejan Kulusevski and Rodrigo Bentancur who will ultimately add to this Tottenham squad in terms of quality.
However, those were the only moves made and on the other end, Spurs let go of more first-team players which ultimately results in a thin squad becoming even thinner.
Tanguy Ndombele, Giovani Lo Celso, Dele Alli, and Bryan Gil all left the club albeit on loan which also goes to show that the club might still value these players if Conte’s to leave which potentially speaks of a clash in vision between manager and management.
What made Tottenham’s January window worse is the fact that they missed out on other players, some of which were their top targets. Adama Traore didn’t want to play wing-back but also opted to join Barcelona despite Spurs working on a deal for two windows now.
Negotiations over Luis Diaz’s price went on for months until Paratici finally managed to lower his price only for Liverpool to swoop in and snatch him from the North London outlet. On top of all that, someone like Ousmane Dembele didn’t see the side as big enough for his ambitions and opted against a move to the club.
While both Bentancur and Kulusevski are shrewd options the “what could have been” factor stains this window too much. D-.
A bit of leeway comes Watford’s way as they already had quite a bloated squad to begin with. The side only managed to bring in squad players with the likes of Samuel Kalu, Edo Kayembe, and Samir.
Their best signing came in the likes of Hassane Kamara who was a bit of a diamond in the rough[for a club of Watford’s stature] from Nice. Although eventually replaced by youngster Melvin Bard, Kamara was a regular for the French outlet for some time and has instantly become an upgrade on Danny Rose at Vicarage Road.
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Nothing much else could be said about Watford. They still remain heavy outsiders in the battle to avoid relegation but it was hard to upgrade the quality of the squad given just how many players were already on the books. C+.
West Ham’s window is a classic sum-up of a tough January window. They spent their time yet again identifying a striker that would finally take a little bit of the load off of Michail Antonio’s shoulders.
The Hammers also attempted ambitious moves for Leeds duo Kalvin Phillips and Raphinha seemingly willing to let go of 100 million pounds to bring the two in.
Unfortunately for them, Leeds rejected both bids. In the dying days of January they tried to seal a deal for Benfica striker Darwin Nunez but that also failed to materialize. Manchester United also weren’t ready to let go of Jesse Lingard following the departures of Anthony Martial and Amad Diallo and Mason Greenwood’s legal troubles.
It wasn’t so much that West Ham didn’t want to make moves or weren’t ready to pay for them, it’s just that certain sides weren’t ready to let go of key players even if the offers were lucrative. Due to that, the side’s top 4 battle is in jeopardy and Declan Rice’s supposedly been left frustrated – D-.
Despite their ambitious project years ago, COVID has really taken its toll on Wolves and this January was no different as they kept it “short and sweet”.
Hwang Hee-Chan’s loan move from RB Leipzig was made permanent as he has been rather impressive for the side while they also managed to find a decent replacement for Adama Traore who departed for Barcelona in the face of Chiquinho.
After impressing at Estoril this season, the then 21-year old became yet another player in the Portuguese contingent that has occupied Wolverhampton in recent years.
While he’ll still take his time to adjust to the league he’s undoubtedly a shrewd addition having come in for about 3 million pounds while Adama’s deal is close to 35 meaning Wolves have made a hefty profit.
After José Sá, João Moutinho, Pedro Neto and many more, Wolves have added an 11th Portuguese player to their squad with the arrival of Chiquinho, who joins from Estoril for a reported fee of £2.9m that could rise to £4.2m with add-ons.@ZachLowy on Chiquinho: pic.twitter.com/Qpa2T1sIXx
— Breaking The Lines (@BTLvid) January 25, 2022
Last, but not least were two players who will remain at Grasshoppers in Switzerland until the end of the season – Hayao Kawabe and Jeong Sang-Bin.
Kawabe has been at the Swiss outlet since July 2021 and has become a regular there scoring 4 and assisting 2.
He’s also a Japanese international and seems to have impressed Wolves’ analytics department a lot in a dynamic championship such as the Super League. At just 600 k there is little to no risk with him. Sang-bin Jeong is unlikely to be known by many.
Kawabe made his professional debut in the K1 League in 2020 with Samsung Suwon Bluewings and has since gone on to manage 24 appearances scoring six and assisting 2 at just 18 years of age. Obviously exploring the Asian market, Wolves snapped him up and loaned him to Grasshoppers with an eye for the future.
Overall, as a famous saying goes “Not great, not terrible” – C+.
By: Peter Pankovski / @23Pankovski
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Isaac Parkin – PA Images