7 good, 7 bad: Analyzing the PL January deals

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With a record $596.7 million spent on new players by Premier League clubs in January, there are plenty of new faces who are either settling in at their new clubs or they’re about to.

[ MORE: Latest January transfer news ] 

Bearing that in mind, let’s focus on seven deals which were good and seven deals where they jury remains well and truly out.

[ MORE: January transfer grades for each club ] 

Remember: the term “panic buy” was invented for the January window…


7 GOOD SIGNINGS

1. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Dortmund to Arsenal, $79.6 million) – The big man should be a big player for Arsenal for many years to come and he joins as the reigning top goalscorer in the Bundesliga with a reputation for holding the ball up and finishing chances clinically. Auba’s arrival is a big boost for the Gunners and it will be intriguing to see if Lacazette lines up alongside him.
2. Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool to West Brom, loan) – Could prove to be the signing of the January window, if he stays fit. Sturridge’s pedigree as a supreme goalscorer is undoubted but he had no chances of regular minutes. Fair play to him for rolling up his sleeves in a relegation battle at West Brom rather than joining Inter Milan or Sevilla. He needs to play well, and scored goals, to work himself into England’s 2018 World Cup squad.
3. Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal to Man United, swap) – We all know about Sanchez’s quality and once Mourinho finds the perfect place for him in the lineup, he will flourish. He could perhaps do his best work centrally behind Lukaku before drifting out wide. Huge wages, but a swap deal for Mkhitaryan represented a wonderful deal for United.

4. Lucas Moura (PSG to Tottenham, $32.6 million) – This one flew under the radar on Deadline Day but could be the biggest bargain of them all. The former Real Madrid winger can rip opponents apart but was out of favor at PSG despite his best mate Neymar urging him to stay, The Brazilian winger will expect to start right away at Spurs.
5. Theo Walcott (Arsenal to Everton, $28.4 million) – Two goals and an assist in his first two games for Everton is a very tidy return and Walcott is another player hungry to get back into the England squad ahead of the World Cup. That’s good news for Everton and he’s made a flying start.
6. Fousseni Diabate (Ajaccio to Leicester, $2.55 million) – Another gem from France’s second tier for the Foxex as Diabete scored twice during his debut in the FA Cup and could be a replacement for Riyad Mahrez, long term. Pace, power and trickery, Diabete should slot into life in the PL very easily.
7. Joao Mario (Inter Milan to West Ham, loan) – Looks like an inspired loan deal until the end of the season with Mario being named Man of the Match on his PL debut. The Hammers may have finally replaced Dimitri Payet


7 BAD SIGNINGS

1. Cenk Tosun (Besiktas to Everton, $38.3 million) – It appears that Besiktas have had a bit of a touch with this deal. Everton were desperate to bring in a new striker at the start of the window and they overpaid for Tosun. The Turkish striker has 64 goals in 124 games for Turkey but in his first few appearances for Everton he has looked off the pace.
2. Andre Ayew (West Ham to Swansea City, $25.5 million) – Bit of a strange deal this one. Andre Ayew didn’t want to move back to Swansea for most of the window, then all of a sudden he did. Swansea have paid a club-record fee for an injury prone striker who scored nine PL goals in 43 appearances for West Ham over the past two seasons. Hardly prolific.
3. Henrikh Mkhitaryan (Man United to Arsenal, swap) – Something about this just tells me it won’t quite be the success we all think. Yes, Mkhitaryan has his buddy Aubameyang with him, but there’s a lot of expectation on his shoulders. Failed to take games by the scruff of the neck at United over the last 18 months.

4. Guido Carrillo (Monaco to Southampton, $27.1 million) – A little harsh based on two sub appearances for Saints, but he didn’t exactly rip it up at Monaco. It appears the Ligue 1 club were quite surprised to see Saints spend a club-record fee. Pellegrino is desperate for goals but Carillo averages 1 every four  games in his career.
5. Ross Barkley (Everton to Chelsea, $21.3 million) – Looks a shadow of the player he was at Everton 18 months ago and Barkley’s career is in serious danger if it carries on in this trajectory. Is he going to be another promising Englishman who ends up on the Chelsea scrapheap?
6. Alex Pritchard (Norwich City to Huddersfield, $15.6 million) – Lot of pressure on his shoulders as the club-record signing and has so far struggled to settle into a struggling Terriers side.
7. Leonardo Ulloa (Leicester to Brighton, loan) – This move seems to be all about nostalgia. Yes, Ulloa is an aerial presence, but is he really better than Glenn Murray and Tomer Hemed? Probably not.

U-20 World Cup Rewind: Italy tops Mexico, host Poland falls on Day 1 (video)

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Italy opened the FIFA Under-20 World Cup with a bang, knocking off fellow Group B favorite Mexico, 2-1, in Gdynia, Poland.

It only took Italy three minutes to get on the board, as Davide Frattesi found a pocket of space in front of the El Tri backline and dribbled in on goal. The Sassuolo midfielder then decided to fire on goal from distance, hitting a rocket into the corner to give Italy a 1-0 lead.

Later in the first half Gianluca Scamacca also took a rip from outside the box, but his strike sailed just wide.

A defensive error on a corner kick gave Diego Lainez and Mexico life. In the 37th minute, AC Milan product Alessandro Plizzari committed a howler, coming out to punch away the curled corner kick. Plizzari missed the ball and it went right to the head of Roberto De La Rosa, who calmly made it 1-1.

El Tri however suffered a blow late in the match as Italy took back the lead. In the 67th minute, Luca Ranieri collected the ball on the edge of the six yard box and from a tight angle, he scored past Mexico goalkeeper Carlos Higuera.

For Mexico, it’s a rough way to start the World Cup, having to go against a perennial power in Italy and playing on European soil. Not all is lost for Mexico, but it has to rebound with a win in its next game against Japan.

Elsewhere, Colombia defeated host Poland, 2-0, Japan tied Ecuador 1-1, and Senegal beat Tahiti, 3-0.

Saudis, Bahrain, UAE join to bid for FIFA’s U-20 World Cup

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GENEVA (AP) Middle East neighbors Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates are jointly bidding to host the Under-20 World Cup in 2021.

FIFA says the Gulf plan is among five to express interest in bidding, including Brazil.

Indonesia, Peru and a Myanmar-Thailand joint bid are the others.

FIFA announced the contenders Thursday, one day after dropping a proposal for Qatar to share hosting duties for the 2022 World Cup with regional neighbors.

The 2021 U20 contenders must submit a formal bid by Aug. 30. FIFA’s ruling Council will pick the winner, likely in October.

The 2019 edition kicks off Thursday in Poland.

Putin awards medal to FIFA president Infantino

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MOSCOW (AP) Vladimir Putin has given FIFA president Gianni Infantino a medal.

The Russian president awarded Infantino the Order of Friendship at the Kremlin on Thursday.

Infantino has often said last year’s World Cup in Russia, where the host nation surprisingly reached the quarterfinals, was the best of the 21 editions of the tournament.

Putin thanked the FIFA leader for “your glowing assessment of our efforts.”

Infantino says of Russia’s “bonds of friendship” with soccer “is not the end, it is only the beginning of our fruitful cooperation and interaction.”

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Why Derby deserve Premier League promotion

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With the Championship playoff final at Wembley Stadium on May 27, the richest game in soccer will see one of Aston Villa or Derby County promoted to the Premier League.

[ MORE: Latest Championship news ]

Which club deserves a spot in the English top-flight, and the estimated minimum $120 million it will generate, more?

You can use metrics such as fanbase, stadiums, players, historical success and quality of coaches to try and sort this out, but the fact of the matter is, the playoffs are always a complete, and utterly brilliant, lottery.

The path Villa and Derby took to get to the final this season proves that.

We’ve already focused on why Villa deserve to return to the PL after a three-year absence, so now it is time to see why Derby should return after an 11-year absence…


The Rams are on a roll and Frank Lampard, in his first season as a manager, has led Derby to Wembley to play Aston Villa with the latter the favorites to win.

Like Villa, we are talking about a team which has some magical moments in its history. Derby were Champions of England under Brian Clough twice in the 1970s but since then success has been hard to come by. A five-season spell in the Premier League from 1996-2002 was followed by a miserable season in 2007-08 (the worst in PL history) and the Rams haven’t been back to the top-flight since.

Owner Mel Morris, a local businessman who is behind gaming apps such as Candy Crush, has led their crusade back towards the PL in recent seasons but Derby have come up short in the playoffs time and time again, with the Rams failing in the playoffs in three of their previous five campaigns.

Heading into the final weeks of this season Derby were in the chasing pack after a poor second half of the campaign. For most of the season it seemed like Frank Lampard’s youngsters were nailed on for a top six finish, but then they wobbled and it seemed like they may miss out on the playoffs altogether.

But a run of four wins in their last six to finish the season gave them extra momentum heading into the playoffs.

Then came that incredible night at Leeds.

1-0 down from the first leg, then 1-0 down on the night in the second leg, Derby had a mountain to climb with a 2-0 aggregate deficit at Elland Road as Leeds’ fans started the party… Then Derby scored three unanswered goals in a wild 13-minute spell to turn the game on its head before Jack Marriott added his second and Derby’s fourth of the game late on to stun Leeds and send them to Wembley.

With the backdrop of the spygate scandal — which saw Leeds and Bielsa punished earlier in the season for spying on Derby’s training sessions — and the fact Leeds were heavy favorites to get past Derby, this was a sweet moment for Lampard and his adoring squad and fans.

Derby don’t have a lot of cash to work with. They have relied this season on Lampard’s contacts as some of the best young talents at the Premier League level (Mason Mount and Harry Wilson) wanted to learn from him and that is why they arrived at Pride Park on loan. Lampard has translated his knowledge as a player who had an amazing career to several of his Derby players, and it is exciting to think what he can go on to do.

This Derby squad is made up of youngsters from the likes of Chelsea and Liverpool and veterans like Richard Keogh, Ashley Cole and Bradley Johnson who are desperate for one last chance to play in the Premier League.

Lampard has galvanized the entire club and the Chelsea legend regularly bounces in celebration with the Derby fans after games. Runs in both the FA Cup and League Cup saw them beat Manchester United and Southampton on penalty kicks, while they also pushed Chelsea close to show they are capable of competing with PL clubs regularly.

Derby are full of guts and their young stars Wilson and Mount have the ability to win games with one swipe of their foot.

Lampard is a loveable character and if Derby do beat Villa to clinch promotion, he can work his magic to secure some big names signings and they will be an intriguing squad who, like Villa, will play open, expansive soccer. If Derby don’t get promoted then Lampard is already being lined up for Premier League jobs, even at the club where he became a legend, Chelsea. If the Rams do go up we will get to see Lampard and this exciting attacking side put on a show.

That is why Derby deserve promotion to the Premier League.