Winter transfer window grades: How each club fared in its January deals

3 Comments

With the January window now closed, it’s time to take an overall look at each club’s deals and give them a general grade. Some teams are on their way up, some were disappointing, but overall it was a very quiet January by recent standards. Let’s go through the list.

Arsenal: B

The Gunners filled their biggest need at central defender, which was priority number 1. That alone gets them a passing grade, although Gabriel Paulista is admittedly a relatively unknown commodity. They also got Joel Campbell out on loan, which is good for his playing time. As much as fans will hate it, loaning out Lukas Podolski and beginning his permanent move out of London was solid business, as he was playing little and the club was wasting wages on him. They get a solid B, with the Paulista deal subject to push that up or down depending on how good he ends up being.

Aston Villa: C-

The Claret & Blue have the worst goalscoring record in Premier League history to this point, and their answer appears to be Scott Sinclair. Ouch. With no creativity to feed Christian Benteke, Sinclair is hopefully going to jumpstart this attack, but Villa looked as lost as ever against Arsenal in their most recent trip out. Also, a club that has 11 goals in 23 games offloaded Darren Bent, which tells you all you need to know about Darren Bent. Overall, Villa failed to make any sort of splash, and if their solid defense begins to wear down, they could be headed down a very dark road.

Burnley: D

A team in 17th did nothing but loan a 22-year-old defender. It seems this small-market club is resigned to its fate at the end of the season, and will only escape relegation with some miracle coaching and a lot of luck. Michael Keane is a highly-rated defender, but the team has won three of 12 since he joined. It’s not helping.

Chelsea: A-

Chelsea managed to use dark magic once again, turning an unused Andre Schurrle and essentially swap him for Juan Cuadrado plus around $8 million in profit. Cuadrado won’t start over Willian or Hazard, but he’ll provide a more than competent third option. Following a wildly successful summer, the Blues did about as well as they could in a January where the available player pool was slim at best. They still have depth issues at defensive midfielder, and any time Matic misses would mean Chelsea fans will have to suffer through more John Obi Mikel, but otherwise one of the strongest teams in Europe remained that way, and made a profit in the process. Oh, and the last-minute completion of a permanent move out for Ryan Bertrand means they profited in the window. Unreal.

Crystal Palace: B-

Yaya Sanogo is a solid addition, with Alan Pardew finding a good goalscoring option that may not be ready for the big stage of Arsenal just yet. The deal for Jordan Mutch is heavily underrated, as the winger proved one of the few bright spots for Cardiff City last year, and Palace have benefited from his knee injury ruining his move to QPR. Pardew also shored up his defense with Senegalese international Pape Souare, and added Bolton’s Lee Chung-Young. Not all these deals will end up a positive, but they have the taste of good business.

Everton: C-

While Everton didn’t do anything damaging to the club by being inactive, they certainly didn’t help. Aaron Lennon is a solid addition, but not a player who can change their fortunes on his own. Samuel Eto’o was a bust, and has left. This was a team that needed a bit of a spark and didn’t get it.

Hull City: D+

See above, except while Everton isn’t in danger of relegation, Hull City is. Steve Bruce got no reinforcements, and instead offloaded Tom Ince on loan. They tried to snatch Lennon, but he went to the Toffees instead. If anyone can avoid relegation, Steve Bruce can, but there was no help in January. They announced the signing of Dame N’Doye from Lokomotiv Moscow, who has four goals in 14 Russian League appearances this year, a very “meh” number for a 29-year-old, but at least he’s good in the air.

source: Getty Images
Andrej Kramaric was a big risk but also a big coup for Leicester City. Their relegation hopes likely rely on it.

Leicester City: B+

Andrej Kramaric is a hell of a signing, and a shocking snatch for Leicester, who beat out the likes of Chelsea for the club-record signing. Leicester went for quality over quantity, and made it happen.

It’s always risky to bring an inexperienced player in for a relegation battle, but if Kramaric starts firing goals, the rest will follow. They also got the experience in Mark Schwarzer from Chelsea, but his best years are well behind him and he looked slow in his first Leicester appearance, a 3-1 defeat.

Liverpool: C-

The Reds didn’t exactly need anyone to come in, with Brendan Rodgers more focused on figuring out who makes up his best 11 from the players they already have. Things seem to be slowly but surely trending back upwards, but there weren’t too many available players who would have made this team much better. Rodgers is starting to get more from Coutinho and Raheem Sterling, and that will bring goals. That being said, a new piece in either defense or midfielder wouldn’t have hurt, and with no winter additions it’s hard not to be a little frustrated they didn’t look to improve. We’ll see who he decides to add from the academy, as he’s said he will tap into the youth system for reinforcements.

Manchester City: B

Wilfried Bony is a fantastic signing, as it’s hard to criticize the addition of Europe’s leading goalscorer in the 2014 calendar year. Manuel Pellegrini is seeing slow improvement from his defense, and therefore his team’s biggest weakness is starting to close the hole on its own. With the striker position looking thin due to injuries, the addition of Bony is a masterstroke, albeit an expensive one. He may not play every game, but he’s a great addition to the squad. It helps that he’s having a stellar AFCON tournament. City looks poised to duke it out with Chelsea all the way to the finish line.

They also offloaded Scott Sinclair, who was doing nothing but eating wages, although the freezing out and subsequent departure of Matija Nastasic is a bit of a head-scratcher, as he looked to be a top up-and-coming young defender.

Manchester United: B

This team didn’t need much. Louis van Gaal has a long-term project on his hands, not a quick fix, and January isn’t the place to find too many long-term projects. He will ultimately have to overhaul the defense, but right now there weren’t very many clear upgrades. The Victor Valdes signing is a very high-quality get, and a stellar backup to David de Gea, who’s in world-class form. Van Gaal has the club in a much higher position than many predicted at the start of the season, and there’s not much of a reason to disturb that. Oh, and they signed a Bolton defender on loan, perfectly summing up this January window of blah.

Newcastle United: F

Oh boy. Mike Ashley went full crazy. This is a team that could be falling fast, and he did nothing about it. In fact, they managed to antagonize Davide Santon on his way out, and still have to deal with Hatem Ben Arfa after his disaster story continued. But don’t worry, Ashley made a cool $8 million for selling Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, so his pockets are doing alright.

QPR: C

The Rangers are still fighting the dirty relegation fight at the bottom of the table, but have something to show for January. Mauro Zarate for some reason was left out in the cold at West Ham, and QPR benefited. They probably need more than just him, but it’s a good pickup. The Jordan Mutch departure is an unfortunate but understandable one given the injury history.

source: Getty Images
Eljero Elia has looked like a solid buy for Southampton, a team who didn’t need much.

Southampton: B

Why fix what ain’t broke? Southampton is having a stellar season, and they didn’t attempt to bungle that with a million signings. They got Eljero Elia who looks a solid addition – if not a spectacular one – so far, and while the Jack Cork sale is somewhat unfortunate, he was out of contract at the end of the year and did well to get some money for his talent.

I like that the club didn’t look to build on their success this year with a crazy window, and instead decided to keep the mojo in house.

Stoke City: C

Not much to see here. They essentially swapped Robert Huth for Phillip Wollscheid, a somewhat like-for-like swap that may have some upside to it. Stoke is headed for another mid-table finish, carry on.

Sunderland: B+

Adding Jermain Defoe has so far been a very bright move. While it’s the club’s only signing, it will likely be enough to at least hold them at 14th position and ensure they remain in the league. Jozy Altidore had to go, and Defoe at first glance appears to be a huge upgrade. Solid January find.

Swansea City: C-

This has nothing to do with the sale of Wilfried Bony. They were never going to be able to keep a player of his talent forever. In fact, his sale probably netted them a great deal of flexibility in the future. However, they proceeded to dump $7.5 million of it onto Kyle Naughton, which is a questionable decision at best. Jack Cork is a bright signing, with Swansea benefiting from Southampton’s failure to meet his demands. The real judgement of this window will come this summer when we see what they do with the Bony money. Early rumors have them using it to upgrade their stadium. Might want to replace his goals first…

Tottenham Hotspur: B-

They got $7.5 million for Kyle Naughton. That’s a win all by itself. Dele Alli is 18 and went right back to MK Dons on loan, so it’s a non-factor this season, but could be a boost for the future. There’s no real need to add anyone this winter, with Christian Eriksen and Harry Kane bursting into amazing form. They also kept Emmanuel Adebayor from going to West Ham, which is good for depth, although Adebayor will likely start whining about playing time soon. They need to improve the defense this summer, but there was little to do there this month.

West Brom: B-

Spending $7.5 million on a Championship player will always come with question marks, but Callum McManaman should be a good attacking option next to Saido Berahino. We’ll see how he fits into Pulis-ball. It’s a bit surprising the new manager didn’t do his usual spending spree, but maybe he’s got something up his sleeve…oh look, he does! Signing Darren Fletcher at the stroke of the deadline is a great move and will certainly help the creativity. The 31-year-old has something left to offer, if not at Manchester United. Still, Alan Pardew beat out Pulis for most exciting first transfer window at a new club.

West Ham: C-

They made little noise, and failed to convince Daniel Levy to send Emmanuel Adebayor their way, which would have been a very big get. The Hammers will be fine with Andy Carroll looking solid up front, but they’re slipping a bit recently in the table and could have used some new blood. It’s unclear how much 21-year-old Canadian Doneil Henry will make noise immediately, but he’s one to keep in mind for the future.

Serie A: Leaders Inter Milan open door for Juve by drawing Roma

Photo by Giuseppe Cottini/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Leave a comment

MILAN (AP) Italian league leader Inter Milan was held by Roma to 0-0 on Friday, giving second-placed Juventus a chance to return to the top.

[ MORE: Chelsea transfer ban reduced; can sign players in January ]

The home draw left Inter only two points ahead of Juventus, which can regain the lead when it visits third-placed Lazio on Saturday.The result also wasn’t good for Roma, which moved from fifth to fourth place in the standings but remained nine points off the lead after 15 matches.

Inter forward Lautaro Martinez had one of the game’s best chances when he got past a defender and entered the area in the 68th minute, but his shot was blocked at the last minute. He called for a handball by the defender but the referee let play continue.

[ MORE: Brendan Rodgers signs new contract at Leicester ]

Inter was coming off five straight wins in the league, with its last setback in all competitions last month against Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League. Its last league loss was against Juventus in October, nine matches ago.

Roma was seeking its third straight league win. It had won five of its last six matches since last month.

Inter visits Barcelona in the Champions League on Tuesday.

Premier League Preview: Man City v. Man United

Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images
Leave a comment
  • Man City (3rd) trail Liverpool by 11 points
  • Man United (6th) eight points out of 4th
  • Last meeting: Man United 0-2 Man City

For the first time in recent memory, Manchester City and Manchester United each find themselves failing to meet expectations — by their own respective standards, at least — as they prepare to meet at the Etihad Stadium in the 179th Manchester derby on Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and NBCSports.com).

Man City, the two-time defending Premier League champions, are looking increasingly unlikely to retain their crown for a third straight season but look a surefire bet to finish in the top-four, which is a place for which Man United would bite your hand off as they currently trail leaders Liverpool by more points (22) than they have points of their own (21).

[ STREAM: Every PL match live

The struggles for United have been all about consistency as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s side hasn’t won back-to-back games all season. The Red Devils haven’t won two in a row in the PL since March. On the bright side, United turned in one of their complete performances of the season on Wednesday, spoiling Jose Mourinho’s return to Old Trafford and beating Tottenham Hotspur 2-1. Marcus Rashford scored both goals and Solskjaer couldn’t rave enough about his 22-year-old forward after the game. From start to finish, United were the better team and looked in majority control, which isn’t something they’ve been able to say often in 2019.

As for City, they’ve simply been “not good enough” without ever actually being “bad” this season, given Liverpool’s scintillating form (14W-1D-0L thus far). Realistically, City likely need to pick up all 69 remaining points this season, and even then they might still come up short.

Injuries/suspensions

Man City: OUT – Sergio Aguero (thigh), Aymeric Laporte (knee), Leroy Sane (knee), Oleksandr Zinchenko (knee)

Man United: OUT – Anthony Martial (hamstring), Eric Bailly (knee), Marcos Rojo (undisclosed); QUESTIONABLE: Paul Pogba (ankle), Nemanja Matic (groin), Diogo Dalot (groin)


Projected lineups

Man City: Ederson — Walker, Otamendi, Fernandinho, Angeliño — Rodri, De Bruyne, Silva — Bernardo, Jesus, Sterling

Man United: De Gea — Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Young — Fred, McTominay, James, Mata, Lingard — Rashford


What they’re saying

Pep Guardiola, on the derby: “It’s Man United. I respect what they’ve done for English football, European, and world football. United have huge history and their quality is always there but we must try to beat them. We play against a good team, try to follow the performances we’ve put in and try to win the game. You know my opinion on the title race.”

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, on his derby memories: “It took many years before I played a Manchester derby myself. Of course, Man City are a better team now than when I was playing. … Confidence is a strange thing in football; you can get performances and results like Wednesday night and it boosts it so much. And I know our boys will be up for it. 24 hours less recovery time [than City] shouldn’t matter, you go on adrenaline.”


Prediction

The win over Tottenham was impressive, no doubt about it, but City remain a challenge of an entirely different class, no matter what their points total says. If the title is well and truly gone for Guardiola’s side, then retaining superiority in Manchester will have to suffice. City 3-1 United.

Premier League Preview: Everton v. Chelsea

Photo by Robin Jones/Getty Images
Leave a comment
  • Chelsea sit 4th, with 29 points
  • Everton sit 18th, with 11 points
  • Last meeting: Everton 2-0 Chelsea

Everton’s start to the 2019-20 Premier League season has been beyond woeful (4W-2D-9L in 15 games) for any club, let alone one that had dreams of breaking into the top-six this season, resulting in manager Marco Silva losing his job on Thursday. Now, fewer than 48 hours later, the Toffees have to pick themselves back up and face a top-four side for the third straight game when Chelsea visit Goodison Park on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and NBCSports.com).

Having lost three straight PL games, including defeats to second-place Leicester City and leaders Liverpool this week alone, the next few weeks will go a long way toward seeing Everton leave the relegation zone in the rearview mirror or sink deeper and deeper into the muck of a season-long relegation battle. A piece of potentially positive news for Everton ahead of Saturday’s game: they are currently three games unbeaten against Chelsea (1W-2D-0L).

[ STREAM: Every PL match live

As for the Blues, this could turn out to be a decisive week in their season. After losing to West Ham United last weekend, Frank Lampard‘s side bounced back with a win over Aston Villa on Wednesday. Then came the best news of all on Friday: Chelsea’s transfer ban has been cut in half and they will be able to sign players in January, meaning their young, thin squad can be bolstered as the look to solidify their Champions League place for next season.

With a floundering side like Everton next up on the fixtures list, the chance to move further clear of the Champions League chasing pack is perfectly ripe. Tammy Abraham (hip) returned for the game against Villa and scored the opening goal to take is season’s tally to 11 (second, behind Jamie Vardy). The 22-year-old has benefited more than anyone from what turned out to be Chelsea’s one-window transfer ban, doing more than enough to secure his place for the second half of the season, no matter what business they do in January.

Injuries/suspensions

Everton: OUT – Andre Gomes (ankle), Jean-Philippe Gbamin (thigh), Fabian Delph (hamstring), Cuco Martina (knee)

Chelsea: OUT – Ruben Loftus-Cheek (achilles), Antonio Rudiger (groin)


Projected lineups

Everton: Pickford — Sidibe, Keane, Mina, Digne — Schneiderlin, Davies, Sigurdsson — Iwobi, Calvert-Lewin, Richarlison

Chelsea: Kepa — James, Christensen, Zouma, Azpilicueta — Kante, Kovacic, Willian, Mount, Pulisic — Abraham


What they’re saying

Interim Everton boss Duncan Ferguson: “I’m a coach at the moment so I don’t think that is something I am considering at this time. It is my dream to be Everton manager but I am also realistic. Who wouldn’t want to be manager of Everton? There will be many top managers who want this job.”

Frank Lampard, on the new-manager bounce: “[Marco] Silva tried everything for the club and I’m sure that he will go on to manage well elsewhere. They might have an extra energy tomorrow as they rally.”


Prediction

Chelsea have far too much balance between defense and attack to hand Everton the glaring opportunities they will need to beat a genuine top-four side. That said, there’s far too much talent in that squad to continue to get beaten every time out, and perhaps seeing someone else take the blame will lift the burden off them and allow them to perform. Everton 2-2 Chelsea.

Klinsmann gets first point as Hertha Berlin manager

Photo by Jan-Philipp Burmann/City-Press via Getty Images
Leave a comment

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) Jurgen Klinsmann claimed his first point since returning to coaching as his Hertha Berlin team let slip a two-goal lead to draw with Frankfurt 2-2 in the Bundesliga on Friday.

[ MORE: Chelsea transfer ban reduced; can sign players in January ]

Hertha was clinging to a 2-1 lead in the 86th minute when Sebastian Rode hammered the ball in from a corner for Frankfurt to deny the Berlin team the win.

Hertha is in the relegation playoff spot in 16th and winless in its last six league games, while Frankfurt is 10th.

Dodi Lukebakio gave Hertha the lead with a shot through Frederik Ronnow’s legs. That goal was assisted by Marko Grujic, who later made it 2-0 with a header from a free kick.

However, Frankfurt almost immediately replied with a header of its own from Martin Hinteregger, the Austrian defender with five Bundesliga goals.

[ MORE: Brendan Rodgers signs new contract at Leicester ]

Frankfurt’s fans expressed their disapproval of the video assistant referee after it ruled out two goals for the hosts. There was a rare disallowed own goal when Hertha goalkeeper Thomas Kraft palmed a cross into his own net but was found to have been pushed while jumping.

Klinsmann took over Hertha last week on a temporary deal until the end of the season, after Ante Covic was fired with the team under threat of relegation. Klinsmann hadn’t coached since being fired in 2016 by the United States, and last worked at a club in 2009 at Bayern Munich.