Now that we’ve all remembered to breathe after the first ever transfer deadline day to actually live up to the hype that Sky tries to ram down our throats we can try and pick over the pieces and see who won and lost after the January bloodbath:
Aston Villa: Martin O’Neill apparently left due to Lerner being unwilling to spend. If that is the case either the American has changed his mind or the Irishman was demanding some astronomical investment. With the arrivals of Makoun, Bent and Michael Bradley the Villains have managed to strengthen some crucial areas while avoiding the loss of any key players despite strong interest in Ashley Young. At the time Bent was regarded as wildly overpriced but with Torres setting a new standard in British football, followed by Andy Carroll and Suarez who is untested in England, £18m possibly rising to £24m now seems reasonable for a proven goalscorer and a man who can lead the line. Bradley is a smart acquisition, the only surprise being that he hadn’t moved before now. A strong showing at the World Cup added to an already burgeoning reputation and he will hopefully be a big player for the Midland club.
Newcastle: The size of that transfer fee should be prising almost any player away. Carroll is a local boy turned club talisman and it’s very understandable why fans were depressed to see him leave but assuming that Ashley holds to his promise to reinvest all the money into the club and that the Toon avoid relegation then the future looks rather bright. As Moyes showed at Everton with his clever spending of the Rooney money one big transfer can fund some major squad development.
Manchester City: They got their man in the end. Dzeko could be the final piece of the puzzle. The Blues will be in the Champions League next season but after gelling this season and with the additional firepower of the Bosnian being the champions of England in 2012 is no mere pipedream. Mancini needs to shed some of the deadwood, a process already underway with the jettisoning of Roque Santa Cruz, Adebayor and Bridge but he has a very impressive squad at his disposal and Dzeko offers some very interesting tactical options either as the lone front man or with a variety of partners.
AC Milan: Looking forward to the resumption of the Champions League, Milan have done what Spurs couldn’t (see below) and brought in a shiny new striker in Antonio Cassano as well as Urby Emanuelson from Ajax and van Bommel from Bayern. Despite a phenomenal injury crisis facing the leaders in midfield ‘Arry will be ruing the different fortunes of the two clubs prior to their European engagement. Cassano has already made significant contributions and has left Ronaldinho a distant memory in the minds of Rossoneri fans.
Tottenham Hotspur: Just how big an impact will the failure to bring in a new striker have on Spurs? The scatter-gun approach of bidding for Rossi, Forlan, Aguero, Carroll, Nilmar and anyone else with the slightest eye for goal was hardly edifying but it showed how desperate the need is for someone to lead the line ahead of Bale and co. South African arrivals Khumalo and Pienaar add squad depth but fail to address the most crucial issue.
West Ham: Wayne Bridge and Robbie Keane will be pulling in a combined wage of £160,000 a week. Gold and Sullivan’s promise to ‘end the mad spending’ echoes hollow after two less than convincing players have been brought in on such phenomenal sums. Regardless of whether West Ham are relegated this season, there needs to be a mass clearout of deadwood and a restructuring of the wages to prevent the insanity of the Icelandic regime from continuing in the future. Bridge and Keane may prove inspired purchases but the smart money wouldn’t bet on it.
Stoke: The loss of Gudjohnsen, Liam Lawrence and Tuncay leaves the Potters with a serious creative gap. Three years after promotion and Pulis has not evolved his style of football on iota. While it is undeniably effective and has maintained their place in the top flight it would not be called entertaining in any language. Depressing.
Ajax: Once again the heart of a promising Ajax team has been ripped out mid-season. The loss of Suarez and Emanuelson looks set to be followed by the departure of Stekelenburg to Manchester United in the summer. For a side with such wonderful and romantic history it is so sad to think that the four times European champions are relegated to the status of a feeder club. Good money has been extracted for both but that cannot disguise the sorrow at knowing that another chance at building a team for Europe has vanished.
Time Will Tell: On the Chelsea and Liverpool transfers. Carroll is a huge gamble given the sums involved and fans will be expecting fireworks from the eighth most expensive player of all time. While he may well dovetail well with Suarez in a classic “big ‘un, little ‘un” partnership replacing Torres is a huge ask. Ancelotti meanwhile now has to figure out how to incorporate both Torres and Drogba and whether his favoured 4-3-3 formation will be sacrificed. That issue has been covered in many other places and so no more on that. Whatever else January achieved it has set up one of the most eagerly anticipated Liverpool vs. Chelsea clashes in a long, long time.