Tom Heaton

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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Pepe Reina returns to Premier League with Aston Villa

Aston Villa signs Pepe Reina
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Three-time Premier League Golden Glove winner Pepe Reina is coming back to England in a brand new role.

The serial trophy chaser is joining Aston Villa on loan from AC Milan in a bid to help the Villans stay in the top flight.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Reina, 37, made 395 appearances for Liverpool between 2005-2014, winning the FA Cup, League Cup, and UEFA Super Cup.

His last first team appearance was Oct. 5, a 2-1 win over Genoa. Now he’ll take the gloves for an Aston Villa side missing Tom Heaton for the rest of the season.

From AVFC.co.uk:

“At the start of the summer we were looking for an experienced goalkeeper and brought in Tom Heaton. Unfortunately, his injury has ruled him out for the rest of the season but Pepe fits our criteria not just because of his experience but also because of his leadership qualities.”

Reina is closing in on 800 career senior appearances, all with big European clubs. He began his time with Barcelona in 1999 before moving onto Villarreal, Liverpool, Napoli, Bayern Munich, and AC Milan.

He was on the Spain squads that won the 2008 and 2012 EURO tournaments as well as the 2010 World Cup.

PL Sunday Preview: Watford travel to Bournemouth; Aston Villa host City

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Sunday’s slate of Premier League fixtures won’t be the busiest of all, but it promises to have some drama as bottom-dwellers Bournemouth and Watford face off, while Manchester City travel to Villa Park.

[ STREAM: Every PL match live ]

Bournemouth vs. Watford — 9:00 a.m. ET, on NBCSN

It might be difficult to admit, but Nigel Pearson‘s arrival at Watford has done wonders for the club.

The Hornets secured 10 out of the possible 12 points during the festive period, putting the upwards-trending club two points within reach of escaping the drop zone. Throughout that same stretch of four matches, Pearson and company have outscored opponent’s eight goals to two.

The 56-year-old, who last coached Belgium’s Oud-Heverlee Leuven, is implementing an effective and pragmatic 4-2-3-1 system. But perhaps the reason behind the escape trick isn’t solely based on on-field adjustments, but on the emotional investment that the manager is putting forward.

“I’ve been asked a few times already about whether I had still got enthusiasm or the drive or whatever it is to continue to work, and those are the sorts of questions that I’ve asked myself for sure,” he said leading up to Sunday’s match.

“I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think we were capable of getting out of the situation that we’re in, but I can’t ask people to be committed if I’m not committed myself, so all those things are very important to me and I think this club has got a really strong identity and there’s potential for us to rediscover what we are as a football club.

“I do feel attached to being a part of that and trying to rediscover that.”

Eddie Howe‘s Bournemouth, on the other hand, are on the opposite site of the spectrum, falling instead of climbing up the table.

Ravaged by injuries, the Cherries picked up a sole point throughout the same span of four matches. Howe, desperate to animate his team (and supporters), is urging for Dean Court to get loud and hostile again – like in the past.

“Teams used to really fear coming here, a tight ground and a great atmosphere,” Howe said. “We now need that feeling back, which only we can create as a team.

“We’ve had good battles with Watford and I imagine this game will be tight again – our motivation levels have to be higher than theirs.”

INJURIES: Bournemouth — OUT: Danjuma (ankle), King (hamstring), Stacey (hamstring), Brooks (ankle), Daniels (knee) | Watford — OUT: Hughes (groin), Janmaat (knee), Cleverley (calf), Welbeck (hamstring), Femenía (hamstring) Prödl (calf)

Aston Villa vs. Manchester City — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Everything is moving at hyperspeed for Aston Villa, and they probably don’t want it that way.

Days after earning a laudable draw against Leicester City in the semi-final of the EFL Cup, Dean Smith and company host back-to-back champions Manchester City. It wasn’t too long ago that Villa lost Wesley and Tom Heaton to season-ending injuries, either.

Smith recognizes at what speed the challenging hurdles are coming at, but instead preaches for concentration from his players.

“We played the second-placed team in the cup and now we’re playing the team that are third and have won back-to-back titles,” the 48-year-old said. “They have a world-class coach and world-class players, they can afford to spend £50m on a right back, so we know the test.”

“They have had some off days this season – they got beat at Norwich and Wolves – so we must have belief in ourselves, as well as concentration.”

Fresh off a 3-1 victory over rivals Manchester United, the sense is that Manchester City are finally finding their groove again.

Pep Guardiola and his team may be out of contention for a third straight title, but they have a lot to prove with the EFL Cup and Champions League still up for grabs. In fact, Sunday’s match against Villa may well be a preview of the EFL Cup final.

“We have to play all the teams. Sometimes they’re at the top, sometimes in the middle, sometimes at the bottom. It’s a historic club,” Guardiola said prior to Sunday’s match. “They changed their last set-up in the last game. We’ll try to maintain the dynamic we have.”

INJURIES: Aston Villa — OUT: Davis (hamstring), Steer (achilles), Heaton (knee), Wesley (knee), McGinn (foot) | Manchester City OUT: Laporte (knee), Sané (knee) (knee)

Transfer rumor roundup: Man United in talks with Fernandes; Reina to Aston Villa

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A roundup of all of Friday’s biggest transfer rumors, including those involving Premier League outfits.

[ MORE: Premier League January transfer needs ]

After a failed move to Tottenham over the summer, Bruno Fernandes may find himself on English soil after all.

Manchester United are closing to reaching a deal with Sporting Lisboa for their 25-year-old captain Fernandes, according to O Jogo’s Filipe Dias.

The story so far is that United this time are really closing in on Bruno Fernandes,” Dias told Sky Sports. “We ran the story that there are talks between the two clubs and we figured that a deal might be close in the next few days, or hours even, because Sporting need money badly.

“The situation has changed since last summer,”  he added. “They didn’t accept a deal with Tottenham for 70m euros but that would have been paid with €40m upfront and then another €30m.”

Over the summer, Spurs bid a reported $75 million for Fernandes, only for the deal to fall in the late stages. It has been reported that United would get the midfielder at a reduced price given Sporting’s financial hardships.

Emre Can and Donny van de Beek have also been linked to a move to Old Trafford recently.


Aston Villa and AC Milan have agreed on a deal sending Pepe Reina to Villa Park on a season-long loan, according to Sky Sports News.

Both clubs have agreed on a fee for the 37-year-old goalkeeper, who is expected to arrive in Birmingham on Monday to undergo a medical and put pen to paper.

The former Liverpool ‘keeper quickly emerged as Dean Smith‘s following Tom Heaton‘s season-ending injury.

Villa are reportedly also in pursuit of Newcastle striker Dwight Gayle to replace Wesley Morais, who is also out for the season.


Tottenham have made a 18-month loan offer for Benfica’s Gedson Fernandes.

Benfica and West Ham recently agreed a deal in principle for the transfer of the 21-year-old, but Spurs are reportedly making a late push for the midfielder.

Jose Mourinho and company are currently without Moussa Sissoko, who had surgery on his medial collateral ligament late last year.


Arsenal have offered Shkodran Mustafi to Inter Milan, according to Calciomercato.

With newly-appointed Mikel Arteta looking to revamp his squad, Mustafi may see a move this month.

That said, a move to Inter doesn’t seem imminent for the German, as Inter aren’t looking to sign a center-back unless Diego Godin requests a transfer.


Everton are preparing to launch a $33-million bid for Gremio’s Everton Soares, according to ESPN.

The 23-year-old, who has been linked with Borussia Dortmund and Arsenal in the past, has reportedly been approached by Toffees boss Carlo Ancelotti on a move to Goodison Park.

 

Leicester, Villa draw League Cup semi first leg

Leicester City and Aston Villa League Cup first leg
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Aston Villa had little of the ball but made one of its lone chances count in a 1-1 League Cup semifinal first leg draw with Leicester City on Wednesday.

Frederic Guilbert scored a 28th-minute goal with Villa’s first shot attempt at King Power Stadium, a lead that lasted on Kelechi Iheanacho‘s 74th-minute equalizer.

The sides meet again on Jan. 28 at Villa Park. Away goals are not weighted over two legs.

Leicester City outshot the visitors 21-3 and held 70 percent of the ball.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Wilfred Ndidi missed the match for Leicester City and will be absent for the next month.

Villa’s teenage American striker Indiana Vassilev came off the bench for the second-straight match after making his first team debut in the FA Cup versus Fulham over the weekend.

Orjan Nyland made a wonderful save on James Maddison moments before Villa went in front.

The 29-year-old Nyland will be called upon plenty this season with Tom Heaton requiring surgery for knee ligament damage.

Anwar El Ghazi set up Guilbert’s clinical finish with a pass that left Ben Chilwell out to lunch. It hasn’t been a great few weeks for the England left back.

Leicester City was all over the Villans, who were buoyed by another standout day from center back Tyrone Mings.

The Villa man lunged to block Iheanacho’s late effort, but couldn’t get a piece of the ball on its way past Nyland.