January transfer window grades

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With the January transfer window now shut, it is time to reflect on which Premier League clubs did the best business as we dish out some grades.

Who doesn’t love to rank which team did the best business? Exactly. Here it goes.

[ TRANSFER TRACKER: Full list of January PL deals


Arsenal: B+
Sensible if not unspectacular signings as Cedric Soares and Pablo Mari arrived on loan. Arsenal needed additions in defense and they’ve done that but the caliber of signings are perhaps a little lower than what many were expecting. Mikel Arteta has had a big impact early on and knew the Gunners defense needed shoring up. Cedric and Mari should have the desired impact. Keeping hold of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who was linked with a move to Barcelona, was also a big plus for the Gunners.

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Aston Villa: B
They made five new signings in January and they were forced to do so after injuries to Tom Heaton, Wesley and John McGinn. Danny Drinkwater and Pepe Reina arrived on loan and bring experience, while Mbwana Samatta is a wild-card signing who may take a little time to settle and Louie Barry is one for the future. Borja Baston arrived on deadline day as they got the deal over the line. A busy and solid January for Dean Smith.


Bournemouth: D-
No new arrivals at Bournemouth and perhaps most importantly, no departures. Josh King, Ryan Fraser, Callum Wilson and Nathan Ake were all wanted but they have stuck around to help Eddie Howe‘s men battle against relegation. Given that is the case, it was surprising that Bournemouth haven’t added reinforcements, especially in defense as they are struggling with injuries. They have plenty of options up top but they’ve struggled to score goals and the Cherries may rue not doing business when the final day of the season rolls around.


Brighton & Hove Albion: D
Graham Potter‘s side have played well all season but have just lacked cutting edge so it is a surprise they haven’t shuffled their strikers around. Aaron Mooy’s loan deal was made permanent and Tariq Lamptey is a very promising player who has arrived from Chelsea but they probably need a couple more players to help drag themselves out of a relegation battle.


Burnley: C
A quiet window for Burnley but that is how Sean Dyche likes it. They brought in Josh Brownhill from Bristol City who will add poise to their midfield, while they brought back Nakhi Well from a loan spell at QPR then sold him to Bristol City. Shrewd business, as usual, from Burnley.


Chelsea: D-
No new signings for Frank Lampard who still hasn’t signed a single player as Blues boss. Lampard looked disappointed when he spoke on deadline day as the transfer ban had been lifted after appeal but Chelsea didn’t make the most of that opportunity. Olivier Giroud didn’t leave after all and Lampard couldn’t bring in Edinson Cavani or Dries Mertens late on to bolster their attack. A poor window for a young Chelsea side who needed a few additions to cement their spot in the top four.

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Crystal Palace: D
Not a great window for Roy Hodgson‘s side after injuries hit them hard over the winter months. Cenk Tosun will score a few goals but his loan move from Everton isn’t really the answer and although Hodgson spoke about Palace spending big and wanting to be backed in the window, nothing was spent. Wilfried Zaha is still around, so that’s the main positive.


Everton: C
The Toffees didn’t do any major business which was a little surprising but new boss Carlo Ancelotti is still getting to know his players and they are far enough away from the relegation scrap to stick with what they have. Youngster Jarrad Branthwaite arrived from Carlisle United. That was it. Richarlison was linked with a big move to Barcelona but that was never really going to happen. Quiet window.


Leicester City: C-
The Foxes swooped to sign Ryan Bennett on loan from Wolves on deadline day and they didn’t really need to do anything in January. Brendan Rodgers has a strong squad with plenty of options and they are in third place in the table for a reason. Many believed they needed extra cover for Jamie Vardy but Kelechi Iheanacho and Ayoze Perez have stepped up.


Liverpool: C
Takumi Minamino came in early on a bargain deal and in truth, how on earth do you strengthen this team? Jurgen Klopp kept hold of some of his squad players as Xherdan Shaqiri was linked with a move away but right now this Liverpool squad is so strong and everybody wants to stay. An easy window.


Man City: C
Getting Aymeric Laporte back to full fitness was like a new signing and Man City and Pep Guardiola rarely do business in January and they didn’t do anything. That said, a new center back has to be the main aim in the summer.


Man United: C+
Bruno Fernandes finally arrived for up to $88 million which is great news for the next few years but why did it take so long? United could have really used him in the last few weeks. Anyway, it is done. A loan deal for Odion Ighalo was struck on deadline day as a short-term option with Marcus Rashford out injured, as they were linked with signing Islam Slimani, Josh King and many others but Ighalo was the man to get a dream move to Old Trafford.

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Newcastle United: B+
You know what, that was a really good window for the Magpies. They had injuries and addressed them with Danny Rose coming in on loan at left back and Nabil Bentaleb will add extra quality in midfield. Valentino Lazaro will add some depth to the wide areas too and the only thing missing was a striker as they missed out on Olivier Giroud.


Norwich City: F
It is clear the Canaries think they are going to get relegated. They do not spend big in the transfer market and they have picked up Lukas Rupp and Ondrej Duda who will bolster their options in midfield and attack. If Norwich were serious about staying up they would have spent $50-60 million in this window but that isn’t their model and the yo-yo club have had enough of saddling themselves with debt when relegation arrives.


Sheffield United: B+
Signing Sander Berge for a club-record fee was a huge surprise and the Norwegian midfielder is one of the brightest young central midfielders in Europe. Chris Wilder made a few other shrewd signings in Jack Rodwell, Jack Robinson plus young Greek defender Panagiotis Retsos and young Dutch striker Zivkovic also arrived. For a newly-promoted team who are pushing for European qualification, this was a great window.


Southampton: C
Their recent form suggests the squad is good enough to be midtable in the Premier League so they didn’t need any additions but after losing Cedric and Yoshida on loan ahead of their contracts expiring (both were good deals as they received loan fees for players they would lose in the summer for nothing) they only brought in Kyle Walker-Peters on loan from Spurs. Ralph Hasenhuttl will be eyeing a big clear out in the summer as Saints have a huge number of players out on loan.


Tottenham Hotspur: B
Jose Mourinho will be fairly pleased with their business but admitted it would have been better had they signed a striker. With Harry Kane injured they pushed hard to sign Edinson Cavani, Willian Jose, Olivier Giroud and others, but couldn’t get them over the line. Exciting winger Steven Bergwijn arrived and Christian Eriksen finally signed for Inter Milan for $20 million in a great piece of business for a player who was out of contract this summer. Gedson Fernandes is on loan with a view to buy permanently and Mourinho has done some decent business.

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Watford: D-
Pretty poor window for the Hornets and that was probably because they were playing so well at the start of it, then Nigel Pearson‘s side suffered a few disappointing results late in January. They could probably have done with adding another defender and they tried hard to sign Ben Gibson on loan. Wide player Ignacio Pussetto did arrive and he looks like he will have a big impact.


West Ham United: C
David Moyes did some business late on and boy did the Hammers need that. Jarrod Bowen and Tomas Soucek arrived in the final days of the window and Darren Randolph provides cover in the goalkeeping department. West Ham needed to do more business but couldn’t get deals over the line for Gedson Fernandes and a few others. Bowen should help deliver the goals they need to get themselves out of trouble.


Wolverhampton Wanderers: C+
Some savvy buys from Wolves as they continue to purchase real quality with their links to Jorge Mendes. Daniel Podence is a great signing and will be an immediate starter while youngsters Leonardo Campana and Luke Matheson arrived and will be ones for the future.

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Solskjaer warns “could have been one of those nights” for Manchester United

Manchester United Solskjaer
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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was clearly relieved after his dominant but wasteful Manchester United finally beat goalkeeper Karl-Johan Johnsson and Copenhagen in extra time of their Europa League quarterfinal in Cologne.

“I think it was just one of those nights,” he said after the win. “I think we deserved to win, that’s clear, but they made it very hard for us.”

Johnsson made 13 saves as United out-attempted the minusM-1000 underdogs from Denmark by a 26-9 margin. The Red Devils blocked several Copenhagen chances in tight, making the Danes’ total of zero shots on target a bit deceiving.

[ RECAP: Manchester United 1-0 Copenhagen ]

“Their keeper was unbelievable and we hit the post a few times,” Solskjaer said. “It could have been one of those nights that you end up with a shootout. We had to block, defend well and they made it hard for us.”

But United was clearly the better team on the day, as expected. Juan Mata entered late in the game and was an influential sub in extra time.

He says the Red Devils were a bit beat up on a hot night in Germany.

“The team is quite tired physically,” Mata said. “At this stage of this season it is important to win games like today and we go through. We stay in Germany for quite some time and hopefully we can win.

“Both teams got a little tired and there were more spaces and more chances. They played some good football and credit to them. We could have scored more goals in extra time but we are through.”

United will meet either Sevilla or Wolves in a dynamite semifinal in one week.

Manchester United breaks through Copenhagen in extra time

Manchester United - Copenhagen
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Manchester United – Copenhagen: The Europa League’s biggest underdogs of the quarterfinals took the tournament favorites to extra time before succumbing 1-0 in Cologne.

Bruno Fernandes highlighted his Man of the Match performance by converting an Anthony Martial-won penalty in the 95th minute for Manchester United, the only way past Copenhagen’s terrific goalkeeper Karl-Johan Johnsson.

But Fernandes gave United a scare, needing care for his hamstring at the final whistle.

[ MORE: Liverpool announces new left back ]

Johnsson made 13 saves, seven from inside the box, to keep Copenhagen within a sucker punch of eliminating the Red Devils over 90 minutes.

Manchester United heads to Dusseldorf for an Aug. 17 semifinal against the winner of Tuesday’s tilt between Wolves and Sevilla.


Three things we learned

1. Copenhagen plays prime tournament soccer: The heaviest underdogs in the quarterfinals, Copenhagen executed a traditional 4-4-2 in a less-traditional low block for much of the match. The low block wasn’t the surprise, but instead of two banks of five, the rows of four with two men hassling up front challenged United for time and helped spring a number of dangerous counters. The Danes opened up in extra time after going behind, but taking it to extra time was more than many expected out of them.

2. VAR denies the Red Devils: A rout would’ve been on if this match was staged a year ago without VAR, as the assistant referee twice allowed United goals to go to video. Harry Maguire was offside before assisting the first would-be Red Devils goal, while Mason Greenwood was off before ripping a rocket off the far post and into the goal.

3. Bruno is a beast: Fernandes was everywhere, cueing up his teammates for chances when he wasn’t smashing them off the frame in a bid to win it himself. The Portuguese playmaker registered three key passes, put three of his five shots on target, and won the majority of his duels on top of scoring the game’s lone goal (SofaScore). Now United must hope his late leg injury was just a product of 120 minutes and nothing major.

Man of the Match

Fernandes, and yes we had him here before he smashed his penalty home. Fernandes is now the Europa League’s leading scorer with seven goals between Sporting Lisbon and United.


Manchester United – Copenhagen recap

United has plenty of the ball in the first 10 minutes but Copenhagen provided legitimate danger that Eric Bailly managed in his own six.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka blocked a cross with his face and needed treatment, looking quite dazed before returning to the game.

Another Copenhagen chance was blocked in the six by Bailly (again), who proved a wise choice over Victor Lindelof.

VAR had a look at an early United goal and rightly chalked Harry Maguire offside in the build-up. And it took Mason Greenwood’s hammer off the far post off the board for offside early in stoppage time.

Copenhagen was in it at the break. Would United pay?

[ MORE: Lukaku leads Inter past Bayer Leverkusen ]

The early stages of the second half remained with the Red Devils, Copenhagen parking all its men behind the ball at times.

Rashford flubbed a chance to shoot or pass to Paul Pogba when Bruno Fernandes spotted him at the back post just after the hour mark.

Fernandes tried his luck from distance in the 63rd, ripping a shot off the far post.

Ex-Everton man Bryan Oviedo nearly put Copenhagen ahead in the 66th only to see Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Bailly clog his shooting lane after Rasmus Falk dazzled to get into the box.

Karl-Johan Johnsson made a flying save on Anthony Martial to force an 84th-minute corner that came to nothing for United.

Johnsson denied Martial again in-tight at the start of stoppage time, but the high was short-lived as the Frenchman was dropped in the box moments later.

Fernandes stepped to the spot and used a stuttering run-up before blasting his penalty home.

Martial nearly had it 2-0 after the restart when he dribbled through the Copenhagen 18 but took it himself instead of laying off to Juan Mata in what would’ve been a fairly straight-forward chance for the Spaniard.

Johnsson denied Fernandes at the end of the first 15 minutes of extra time, United unfortunate to not score on the ensuing corner when Mata’s shot was blocked to Lindelof, who fired off the outside of the post.

Lindelof made a fine intervention to block a close-range equalizer bid in the 116th.

Inter Milan rides early goals past Bayer Leverkusen

Inter Milan - Bayer Leverkusen
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While Manchester United and Copenhagen played chess across the country, Inter Milan and Bayer Leverkusen were staging double jumps all over a checkerboard in Dusseldorf.

Romelu Lukaku and Nicolo Barella scored twice in six first-half minutes before Kai Havertz answered in the 24th to account for all the goals in Inter’s 2-1 defeat of Bayer.

Lukaku has scored in nine-straight UEL matches, a new record.

[ MORE: Liverpool announces new left back ]

Inter now waits for an Aug. 16 semifinal in Cologne, where it will meet the winner of Tuesday’s match between Basel and Shakhtar Donetsk

Bayer now must settle for the Europa League again via its fifth-place finish in the Bundesliga.

The three goals in the nine minutes were highlighted by Lukaku doing his best “Harry Kane versus Leicester City” falling down finish.

Nicola Barella put Inter ahead after a quarter-hour when he made the most of a loose ball outside the 18.

A Manchester United connection saw Inter ahead by two when Ashley Young found Romelu Lukaku and the Belgian striker maintained his composure while being dragged to the ground, beating Lukas Hradecky with a low shot.

Kai Havertz and Kevin Volland’s interplay near the box ended with the transfer rumor mainstay slipping a shot home to bring Bayer back within one.

Lukaku had penalty decisions taken off the board by VAR in each half.

Who’s next for Manchester United if Sancho stays at Dortmund?

Chiesa to Manchester United
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The transfer rumor mill is usually buzzing this time of year, but it’s nearly a cacophony following Michael Zorc’s announcement that Jadon Sancho will be staying at Borussia Dortmund.

[ MORE: Liverpool announces new left back ]

Reports say Manchester United is not quitting on the idea of Sancho at Old Trafford, but here are some other targets if the Red Devils have to look away from the English phenom.

Federico Chiesa, Fiorentina

Linked with United for some time including a Monday nod from Football-Italia, Chiesa’s approximately $80 million price tag is high but half of what Dortmund is asking for Sancho.

The versatile playmaker has often been linked with Juventus, though Fiorentina is loathe to do business with The Old Lady unless absolutely necessary after big sales of Roberto Baggio and Federico Bernardeschi to Juve in the past.

The 22-year-old already has 17 Italian caps and scored 10 goals with six assists for La Viola this season in Serie A play, career bests in both.

Douglas Costa, Juventus

This one could become even more feasible if Juve latched onto Chiesa.

Juve desperately needs to get younger and Costa doesn’t figure to fit into the plans of Andrea Pirlo, a month away from his 30th birthday.

Costa works better on the right side and would be a worker bee looking to set up Rashford and Martial or cut back for Bruno Fernandes. He boasts double-digit assist seasons in the Bundesliga (Bayern), Serie A (Juve), and Ukraine (Shakhtar Donetsk).

TURIN, ITALY – MAY 19: Douglas Costa (Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images)

Raul Jimenez, Wolves

This one still feels like a long shot of long shots given the players’ age and status at Wolves, but the El Tri star has been linked with United in the past.

Jimenez doesn’t solve the wing issue presented by Sancho staying at BVB, and you’d fancy the Red Devils to go after one of Wolves’ wingers before Jimenez.

But Solskjaer enjoys Marcus Rashford at left wing and could use Anthony Martial at right wing a bit more often than center forward. Throw in Mason Greenwood and the boss would have a lot of permutations to use around Bruno Fernandes in a front three or four.

Ivan Perisic, Inter Milan

Mentioned as part of a swap deal for Alexis Sanchez, that’s less on the cards after the Chilean accepted a Man United payoff to move to Inter for free.

The 31-year-old favors the left wing and Inter would be happy to offload him after Bayern declined its option to buy the loanee who managed seven goals and 10 assists in just over 1600 minutes.

That’s pretty good output for a part-time player who kept some tread on the tires.

Perisic to Manchester United
MOSCOW, RUSSIA – JULY 15: Ivan Perisic of Croatia (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

James Rodriguez, Real Madrid

If you’re sensing a thread amongst most of these players, it’s no surprise considering United has a wage scale to meet the needs of many wantaways.

Real desperately wants to get something for Colombian star James, who at 29 played less than 800 minutes for La Liga’s champions this season.

His two-year loan stint at Bayern also saw him as a part-time player, but like Perisic a productive one. James scored 15 times with 20 assists over two seasons with the Bavarians.

Kingsley Coman, Bayern Munich

This would cost a lot of dough.

The 24-year-old has been a part of nine-straight league winners between Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus, and Bayern.

Okay that’s cheating a bit considering his Ligue 1 crowns came off a handful of appearances over two seasons at the Parc des Princes.

But the left and right winger might be on for a change of scenery with Serge Gnabry and Leroy Sane set to dominate the preferential places at Bayern.