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January transfer window: Grades for each Premier League club

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How did each Premier League fare in the January transfer window?

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Let’s just say some did remarkably better than others…

Below is a grade and a brief assessment for each PL club based on their transactions in the transfer window after it slammed shut on Jan. 31.

Time will tell who did the best business, but here’s our assessment.


Arsenal: C — Gunners didn’t have to do any business and they shipped out a few youngsters such as Zelalem and Akpom on loans. Still, I’m sure Arsenal fans wanted to see one more defender for cover.

Bournemouth: D — The Cherries failed to replace Nathan Ake after he went back to Chelsea and also couldn’t force through a deal for Asmir Begovic. Eddie Howe‘s men looking a little bit suspect in defense now.

Burnley: B+ — A wonderful window for the Clarets as they picked up Joey Barton on a free transfer, plus experienced campaigners Ashley Westwood and Robbie Brady for a combined fee of $22 million. Money well spent as they look set to fight off relegation for the first time ever.

Chelsea: C – The Blues brought back Ake and kept hold of Begovic and Diego Costa, plus they sold Oscar for an astronomical fee. Conte didn’t get the experienced striker he wanted as cover for Costa but that was the only stumbling block. Overall the squad was trimmed significantly and the Costa situation was handled. For now…

Crystal Palace: A – The Eagles finally got what they needed. Patrick Van Aanholt and Mamadou Sakho (on loan) will add plenty of quality to their defense and Serbian midfielder Luka Milivojevic will be an instant starter. Jeffrey Schlupp adds pace and power out wide and Palace should be much tougher to break down. A nice flourish saved their transfer window.

SUNDERLAND, ENGLAND - JANUARY 23: Patrick van Aanholt of Sunderland celebrates scoring his team's first goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Sunderland and A.F.C. Bournemouth at the Stadium of Light on January 23, 2016 in Sunderland, England. (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)
(Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

Everton: B – The Toffees probably could have added one more defender to make it a perfect window but Morgan Schneiderlin was the biggest buy in January at over $29.2 million. Ademola Lookman looks a handful and Koeman got rid of plenty of fringe players in Cleverley, Kone, Niasse, Oviedo, Deulofeu and Gibson. Solid window.

Hull: D – Hard to know how this will go for Hull. They sold Jake Livermore and Robert Snodgrass for big money and Marco Silva has brought in plenty of unfamiliar faces. Evandro, Niasse and Omar Elabdellaoui have already made a big impact, while Ranocchia and N’Diaye have quality pedigree. Did the Tigers really need to sell Snodgrass, their top scorer, now?

Leicester City: D – Not a good window for the Foxes as they gambled on more players based in Europe. Although Wilfried N’Didi looks a good player, can he really help them battle against relegation? They needed more help in defense than they got (they took a gamble on Molla Wague on Deadline Day) and after refusing to let Leonardo Ulloa to leave they now have a player sitting there unwilling to play. 

Liverpool: C – Jurgen Klopp should have moved for a central defender in the window but there was a lack of quality out there in January. No incomings at all tells us that Klopp is happy with his squad. They are in the top four mix and have trimmed their squad accordingly.

Manchester City: C – Another big club which didn’t really do anything. Gabriel Jesus finally joined but that deal was done in the summer. Surely Pep Guardiola had to buy some new defenders in January? If he had done, they could have kicked on and mounted a title challenge. Now it’s all about the top four or bust.

Manchester United: C – See above. United didn’t really need much in January and managed to move on some of their fringe players such as Memphis and Schneiderlin for big money. Job done. Like City and Liverpool, their long-term target remains a top-class center back.

NAPLES, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 17: Manolo Gabbiadini of Napoli in action during the Serie A match between SSC Napoli and Bologna FC at Stadio San Paolo on September 17, 2016 in Naples, Italy. (Photo by Francesco Pecoraro/Getty Images)
(Photo by Francesco Pecoraro/Getty Images)

Middlesbrough: F – A really bad window for Boro. They brought in Gestede, Bamford and Guedioura who are all solid players but they needed extra quality in attack. You can understand why manager Aitor Karanka looks so frustrated at the Riverside. Deals for Snodgrass, Bojan and Jese Rordiguez fell through to compound their misery.

Southampton: B – Saints brought in a talented striker for a club record fee in Manolo Gabbiadini, but they didn’t add the center back they wanted after letting Jose Fonte leave. Claude Puel can be happy with his squad who now don’t have a plethora of games to deal with. Holding on to Virgil Van Dijk, for now, is massive for their chances of winning the EFL Cup and finishing in the top 10.

Stoke City: B – A pretty decent window for the Potters as Saido Berahino finally arrived from West Brom to give them the forward presence they needed. They also added Lee Grant on a permanent deal. Bojan went out and Mark Hughes did a little bit of trimming.

Sunderland: F – It turned in to a bit of a nightmare window for the Black Cats. It’s obvious David Moyes didn’t have much money to spend and he’s lent on his old clubs to bring in Gibson, Oviedo and Lescott. Losing Van Aanholt was a blow and Sunderland really need to spend big on strikers to help Jermain Defoe. A potentially fatal decision not to strengthen this month with relegation looming.

Swansea City: B – Really good window for the Swans who have have added four key starters in Olsson, Carroll, Narsingh and Ayew. Three wins in four games in January also helps with Paul Clement‘s new-look squad. Keeping hold of key players like Gylfi Sigurdsson and Fernando Llorente was also key.

Tottenham Hotspur: C – Another meh window for a big club. Spurs have had a few defensive injuries but they have cover. With an expensive new stadium to pay for this was always going to be a quiet window.

Watford: B – A decent enough window, especially getting $25 million for Ighalo at the end of it. Cleverley, Zarate and Niang will all contribute right away Walter Mazzarri moved on six players. Tidy.

WEST BROMWICH, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 17: Dimitri Payet of West Ham United during the Premier League match between West Bromwich Albion and West Ham United at The Hawthorns on September 17, 2016 in West Bromwich, England. (Photo by Stephen Pond/Getty Images)
(Photo by Stephen Pond/Getty Images)

West Bromwich Albion: C – Jake Livermore was a surprise buy considering all of the midfielders the Baggies already have. Another striker was high on their list to replace Berahino but they couldn’t quite get Jay Rodriguez.

West Ham United: C – Fonte and Snodgrass came in and Dimitri Payet went out. The latter will be a huge loss but after he refused to play, what more could they do than take the $25 million? Slaven Bilic‘s team have improved since Payet has been out of the team so that’s promising. Adding another striker would have been ideal.

Chelsea 1-1 Barcelona: Messi makes impact

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Nas only needs one mic. Barca only requires one chance.

Lionel Messi scored on Chelsea’s lone mistake of the night, as Barcelona came back to score a potentially vital away goal in Barcelona’s 1-1 draw in the first leg of the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 meeting with the Blues on Tuesday at Stamford Bridge.

Willian scored Chelsea’s opener after hitting both posts in a Man of the Match performance.

The second leg is March 14.

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Chelsea played without a true “No. 9,” keeping Alvaro Morata and Olivier Giroud on the bench to start.

Both teams had chances in the first 15 minutes, with Jordi Alba having plenty of work on Barca’s left side and Paulinho missing a header for the Blaugranas at the other end.

Willian, ever dangerous, broke against the run of play and drew a foul from Ivan Rakitic to earn a free kick five yards beyond the arc of the 18.

The attempt was Marcos Alonso territory, though Willian also stood over the ball. Alonso’s swooping kick dipped toward the near post but Marc-Andre ter Stegen got low to collect the ball.

Willian then cranked a shot off the far post after cutting quickly past Sergio Busquets. Five minutes later, he ripped one off the near post.

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Willian did his damage in the 62nd minute, getting a Hazard cross atop the 18 and pending it around six bodies and inside the near post.

And Messi. I mean, what can you say? Chelsea went from 1-0 to level with an away goal conceded when Iniesta cut the ball back for Messi off an Andreas Christensen error and mistimed desperations slide from Cesar Azpilicueta.

Three things we learned from Chelsea v. Barcelona

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LONDON — It was honors even at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday as Chelsea and Barcelona battled to a 1-1 draw in an intriguing UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first leg.

The familiar foes (this was their 13th meeting in the Champions League) played out a tight game with Willian hitting both posts in the first half with sumptuous curling efforts before scoring the opener in the second half, while Lionel Messi equalized late on to grab a crucial away goal.

Chelsea are unbeaten in eight Champions League games against Barcelona, who have won just once in their seven trips to Stamford Bridge, yet Barca are among just four teams who remain unbeaten in the UCL this season and they’ll fancy their chances of getting by the Blues at the Nou Camp on Mar. 14 in the return leg with a vital away goal in the bag.

Here’s what we learned from another massive European night between the clubs in west London, as Chelsea need a score draw 2-2 or higher or a win at the Nou Camp to advance to the UCL last eight for the first time since 2013-14.


WILLIAN, HAZARD DAZZLE

This wasn’t the Messi and Luis Suarez show. Chelsea’s dynamic duo of Eden Hazard, and particularly Willian, took charge early on Tuesday.

Hazard has yet to really carry Chelsea in the UEFA Champions League and it was his job to take the game to Barcelona in the first leg. He did the best he could, and although he had little support, he caused problems for Barca on the break.

With Olivier Giroud and Alvaro Morata both left on the bench from the start, Hazard was asked to play a role he has rarely flourished in. His talents are much better suited to playing in a No.10 role floating off a front man or cutting in from the left flank.

Hazard, 27, flashed an effort over the bar early on and wriggled free of Barca’s defense on a few occasions as he slammed another effort over the bar. Then Willian took over.

The Brazilian continued his fine form after two goals last time out against Hull City and he smashed each post with trademark curling efforts from outside the box. Antonio Conte stood with his head in his hands on the sidelines, but deep down he knew he’d got his tactics spot on.

It was a case of third time lucky for Willian as in the second half he hit a low shot into the bottom corner to put Chelsea ahead. Chelsea’s dynamic attacking duo of Hazard and Willian had delivered.

Suarez’s drought in front of goal was now his worst in the Champions League, while Messi’s peculiar lack of potency against Chelsea looked to be continuing…


MESSI’S CHELSEA CURSE IS OVER

A moment in the first half acted as a precursor to Messi’s magic. It was a warning for Chelsea that they didn’t heed.

The Argentine magician is a joy to watch in the flesh and the way he simply glided past N'Golo Kante and Antonio Rudiger summed up that his gearbox us more than capable of cranking up five gears at a time with minimal fuss.

Yet Messi didn’t get too many chances to click through the gears as Barcelona’s pragmatic approach saw both he and Suarez left isolated for much of the game as the La Liga leaders struggled to get going until late on. He only needed one chance to grab the all-important away goal.

Barca’s defensive record was the best in the Champions League this season going into this game and although Ernesto Valverde has added steel to their swashbuckling style, too often they lacked cutting edge in the final third.

Messi, now 30, may not come up against Premier League clubs many more times in his career but he provided a dagger of an away goal 15 minutes from time to end the talk of him struggling against Chelsea.

It took over 730 minutes, but Messi finally has a goal against Chelsea and it was a hugely important strike.


CONTE GETS TACTICS SPOT ON

The decision to not start with Alvaro Morata or Olivier Giroud up top was a bold one from Conte and it paid off brilliantly.

Some may call it boring. Some may criticize him for not playing with a recognized striker. Yet Conte’s tactical masterplan to have Hazard, Pedro and Willian charging at the center of Barca’s defense whenever they could worked to perfection.

Ahead of this clash Conte admitted he didn’t sleep well because he was concocting a plan to stop Messi and Co.

“I must be honest… it was a bit difficult to sleep well,” Conte said. “When you have to play this type of game, you have to prepare. You have to prepare everything. You have to prepare big things, but the smaller details too.”

He got the small details spot on as the Blues retreated into a 5-4-1 formation at times with Conte screaming at Thibaut Courtois for lumping the ball long to Hazard and Willian. He wanted the Blues to keep the ball, give it to Cesc Fabregas and have Hazard, Pedro and Willian running behind Gerard Pique and Samuel Umtiti.

They launched several counters in the second half but could only finish one of them off, while one mistake from Andreas Christensen cost them dear in defense.

That said, Chelsea will use this same gameplan in the second leg at the Nou Camp with confidence they can at least take the game to extra time.

LIVE, UCL – Chelsea vs. Barcelona; Bayern Munich vs. Besiktas

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Two can’t-miss matchups are on display as the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first legs continue on Tuesday afternoon.

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Chelsea and Barcelona continue its terrific recently rivalry over the past two decades with Ernesto Valverde’s side traveling to Stamford Bridge to face Antonio Conte and co. At the same time, Bayern Munich hosts Turkish giant Besiktas at the Allianz Arena.

Lionel Messi, who has yet to score against Chelsea in eight games, will be looking to break his own five-game goal drought while also keep Barcelona’s Champions League hopes alive against one of his club’s toughest opponents. Messi will be playing up top alongside Luis Suarez, with both Paulinho and Sergio Busquets sitting deep behind them to keep Chelsea from posing too much of a threat on the counter attack.

For Chelsea, the Champions League remains the last trophy the club can theoretically win, and Conte has named a strong side, though without a recognizable No. 9, with Eden Hazard playing as a false nine.

Bayern Munich is looking to reach the Champions League semifinals for the seventh time in the last nine years, and they’re facing a side who’s in the knockout stage for the first time. Vagner Love leads the line for Besiktas with Ricardo Quaresma and Anderson Talisca looking to create behind. Former Real Madrid centerback Pepe starts on the backline, and will look to stop Robert Lewandowski.

Click on the link above to follow live commentary of the two UCL last 16 games, while we will have you covered for analysis and reaction from both games right here at Pro Soccer Talk.


Tuesday’s UEFA Champions League Round of 16 schedule

Chelsea vs. Barcelona – 2:45 p.m. ET
Bayern Munich vs. Besiktas – 2:45 p.m. ET

Report: Tottenham prepare $70 million summer bid for Zaha

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In a statement of intent, Tottenham is reportedly preparing to bring in one of the Premier League’s most electrifying wingers.

The Times in London reports that Spurs are set to offer Crystal Palace a $70 million transfer fee to sign Wilfried Zaha, bringing the Ivory Coast international back to a big six club for the first time since 2014. Zaha famously was the last signing of Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, but by the time the now-25-year-old arrived, David Moyes was the manager and Zaha never found a place in the Man United first team.

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Since returning, Zaha has found his form and this season has four goals and an assist for Crystal Palace in 20 Premier League matches as the club is now treading water above the relegation zone. Last season, Zaha scored seven goals and dished out nine assists in 34 starts in the league.

Zaha’s potential signing likely means either a change in formation or the departure of either or both Son Heung-min and Erik Lamela, both who play on Zaha’s preferred left side regularly.

The report states that the signing could be a way to galvanize some of the supporters for next season in which the club will play in the re-built White Hart Lane.