January Transfer Window: Premier League Winners and Losers
To no one’s surprise, the 2017 January Transfer Window closed with a bang across Europe’s top leagues on Tuesday, with a myriad of
desperate highly motivated clubs leaving it to the last possible moment to buy, sell, and loan players with the next four months in mind.
But as we’ve become accustomed, for all the conjecture surrounding big money moves this past month, the headline transactions were few and far between.
Yet despite a lack of marquee signings, the business done -- or in some cases, not done -- across the English Premier League could have a decided impact on matters at both the top and bottom of the table.
With that in mind, here’s a look at the EPL’s biggest winners and losers from the latest transfer period.
To put it mildly, Sam Allardyce has struggled in his attempt to revive Palace’s fading survival hopes since taking over for Alan Pardew two days before Christmas.
In his first month in charge of the South London club, the man who famously has never tasted relegation oversaw a return of just one point in five league matches, pushing the Eagles deeper into the tangled quagmire that is the Bottom Three.
But as Big Sam has done many times before, the former England manager has sought salvation in the January market and appears to have made his team better and deeper, bringing in a quartet of reinforcements who could all slot directly into his starting XI.
The addition of Patrick van Aanholt and Jeffrey Schlupp from fellow strugglers Sunderland and Leicester City provide pace (and options) on Palace’s left, while Liverpool castoff Mamadou Sakho is a keen loan pick-up at the back after falling out at Anfield.
van Aanholt has already made an impact upon arrival, terrorizing Bournemouth’s flank from the start in Palace’s 2-0 win over the Cherries on January 31. More performances of that nature for the 26-year-old left back could prove vital in the resuscitation of Palace’s season.
Luka Milivojevic is the only new signee that doesn’t have Premier League experience, but the 25-year-old defensive midfielder has featured in the UEFA Champions League in each of the last three seasons for Greek giant Olympiakos, has 19 senior caps for Serbia, and should provide steadiness in the center of the park to free up the likes of Yohan Cabaye to push farther forward.
There are no guarantees that these four men will save the Eagles from the drop, but their arrival -- and the ability of Palace to keep in-demand Wilfried Zaha -- should provide reason for optimism around Selhurst Park.
Amidst the departures of familiar names and the lack of a true star addition, some might scoff at Chelsea being mentioned as one of the biggest success stories of this window.
But while the league leaders didn’t buy anyone and allowed three longtime servants to leave the club, the Blues still pushed all the right buttons in January.
Antonio Conte smartly recalled Nathan Ake from a successful loan spell at Bournemouth that saw the 21-year-old Dutchman net three times in eight league starts since November. Ake’s versatility to play fullback or centrally in defense make him an ideal candidate to find a place in Conte’s back three, possibly even this season.
The return of Ake allowed for the departure of old warrior Branislav Ivanovic, who was allowed to leave for Zenit after nine seasons and 377 appearances for the West London giants.
Dismissing someone as experienced as Ivanovic -- a Champions League and Europa League winner and a three-time EPL champion with the Blues -- is no small loss, but the Serbian had only started six league games this season and was deemed surplus to requirements.
The biggest departures for Chelsea in this window, however, were to clubs situated much further east than St. Petersburg.
The mammoth sales of Oscar ($75 million) and John Mikel Obi (undisclosed fee) to Shanghai SPG and Tianjin TEDA have given the Blues ample resources to work with in the summer months while offloading two players with a combined nine appearances between them.
Not to be forgotten amidst the sales, Conte kept -- and apparently mended ties with -- the league’s leading goal scorer, Diego Costa.
Even if a sale might be pending for the volatile hit-man this summer, having an in-form Costa for the final four months of the season is a transfer window win in itself.
Honorable Mention: Everton
In one of the more expensive moves of the window, the Toffees splashed $25 million to reunite Morgan Schneiderlin with Ronald Koeman, the man who helped mold him into one of the best defensive midfielders in Europe only two seasons ago at Southampton.
It feels like a hefty price for someone who’d fallen so far down the pecking order at Man United -- the Frenchman made three total appearances for Jose Mourinho this season -- but the 27-year-old feels like a prime candidate for rejuvenation in a new environment.
Koeman also did some house cleaning, letting little-used Bryan Oviedo and Darron Gibson go to Sunderland, and added promising 19-year old attacker Ademola Lookman from Charlton Athletic with an eye to the future.
You’d have thought a side currently in last place in the league and five points away from safety would’ve done more to strengthen in the fight for Premier League salvation.
David Moyes and the Sunderland brass, however, seemed to have waved the white flag.
As you’d imagine, the aforementioned $17.5 million sale of firebrand Patrick van Aanholt to fellow relegation strugglers Palace left many on Tyneside scratching their heads.
After all, the 26-year-old Dutch international was second on the club in scoring and in shots and led the side in passes completed over the first half of the season from left back.
The fact that van Aanholt ranks so highly on this team offensively is more of an indictment on Sunderland’s bland attack, which at 0.87 goals per game is currently tied with Hull as the second-least prolific side in the EPL, but it doesn’t mask the fact that David Moyes sold a productive player in the prime of his career to a direct competitor for top flight survival.
Half of the money brought in by the PVA sale was splashed out for the recruitment of Everton duo Bryan Oviedo and Darren Gibson as well free agent Joleon Lescott. While the 26-year-old Oviedo will act as a serviceable -- albeit more defensive-minded -- replacement for the young Dutchman, it’s hard to imagine Gibson or Lescott adding the punch needed to stave off the drop.
For the record, Gibson had featured just once all season for the Toffees, while Lescott’s contract was terminated by AEK Athens in November after playing in only four matches for the Greek side.
But in the words of David Moyes, “I had to try something.”
…We’ll just leave it at that.
It was a miserable January in every way imaginable for Jurgen Klopp’s side.
In the nine matches the Reds played across all competitions in the first month of 2017, they won just once -- a tepid 1-0 victory over fourth-tier Plymouth in an FA Cup 3rd Round replay -- and lost and drew four times apiece.
Not exactly the results expected or needed from a side challenging for an EPL title.
To make matters worse, despite various links to reinforcements in both attack and defense, no new blood was added to strengthen a side hit by injury and national team duties.
Philippe Coutinho’s contract extension and the loan departure of Mamadou Sakho to Palace were the only “bright” spots for the club, though as the Brazilian was already inked through 2020 anyway and as Sakho very well might be a better central defender than anyone currently at Anfield, neither offer cause for celebration.
As just one point separates second from fifth in the table, fourth-place LFC are still very much in the hunt for a Champions League spot for 2017-18, but the lack of activity in the market this past month feels like a missed opportunity to improve the Reds’ chances.
The only positive lies in the fact that Liverpool's main rivals for UCL football -- Arsenal, Spurs, Man United, and Man City--- also did little to strengthen their squad in this window.
With that in mind, expect a furious fight near the top this spring followed by a spending spree from all parties in the summer.
Dishonorable Mention: Leicester City
You’d have hoped a club going through the ultimate identity crisis -- in the Champion’s League knockout stage while fighting for their Premier League lives at the same time -- would’ve made a stronger push to stay alive in both competitions.
Instead, they arguably got weaker by selling the out-of-favor Jeffrey Schlupp and only adding Nigerian midfielder Wilfred Ndidi from Genk.
Ndidi’s an undeniable talent who might be able to fill the N’Golo Kante-sized hole in the Foxes’ engine room eventually, but it’s a stretch to expect the 20-year-old to hit the ground running from the Belgium first division to the EPL.
Immediate dividends shouldn’t be expected, and Foxes fans will have to hold their breath at home and in Europe in the weeks ahead.
Held Hostage: West Ham
Slaven Bilic did what he could, but when your club’s best player literally won’t play for you anymore, you have no choice but to take what you can get.
Sadly for Hammers fans, $31 million seems a paltry return for a guy who has done the spectacular on a regular basis for club and country over the last 18 months.
The additions of Robert Snodgrass from Hull and Jose Fonte from Southhampton look to be good business, but their capture only marginally softens the blow from losing a player of Dimtri Payet’s caliber.
It's a harsh reminder that in the current climate of world soccer, the players -- and their agents -- seem to wield the most power.