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January transfer window: Winners and losers as Chelsea flex their financial muscles again and Liverpool fail to fill their midfield void |

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THE WINNERS

Chelsea flex financial muscles… again

Chelsea transfers Todd Boehly
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Todd Boehly oversaw another big-spending transfer window

Having spent north of £300m, more than five times as much as any other Premier League club, Chelsea better hope they are winners. Todd Boehly’s assault on the transfer market demands scrutiny but what’s certain is that their squad is considerably stronger for it.

A British-record £106.8m deal for Enzo Fernandez, following a protracted transfer saga, capped another extraordinary window for the Blues, the Argentine being one of eight new faces.

The spending splurge takes their outlay for the season past £600m and leaves head coach Graham Potter with selection headaches all over the pitch, but there is plenty for supporters to get excited about as Chelsea prepare for the second half of the campaign.

Mykhailo Mudryk, an £88.5m signing from Shakhtar Donetsk, was electrifying on his debut against Liverpool, while Joao Felix’s performance against Fulham – before the sending off that marred it – showed he could have a transformative impact too.

Noni Madueke will hope to showcase his huge talent, his £29m arrival from PSV Eindhoven equipping Chelsea with an entirely new front three, while Benoit Badiashile has already slotted into the defence and big things are expected for Andrey Santos, Malo Gusto and David Datro Fofana.

The financials are mind-boggling. The lengthy contracts too. But the overriding feeling among fans is one of excitement and understandably so.

Brighton hold firm to ward off suitors

Moises Caicedo in action for Brighton
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Moises Caicedo was a target for Arsenal and Chelsea

For Brighton, the transfer window was less about the players they signed and more about the one they kept. Moises Caicedo was in demand but the south coast club held their ground.

Chelsea were first to test their resolve, seeing a £55m approach for the midfielder turned down, but it was Arsenal who pushed hardest, going as high as £70m only to receive the same response.

Brighton stood to make an enormous profit on a player they paid £5m for only two years ago but owner Tony Bloom was adamant the 21-year-old would not be sold and he wasn’t bluffing.

Some will argue he should have cashed in. Caicedo wanted to leave and Brighton may never receive a better offer. But they are chasing a historically-high Premier League finish under Roberto De Zerbi and few players have been more influential than Caicedo.

A healthier balance sheet is little consolation to supporters if the team is weakened mid-season and Brighton have avoided that scenario. Relations will need to be repaired, but they know Caicedo has little to gain from sulking. A reconciliation is likely.

A different call was made on Leandro Trossard, of course, the Belgian sold to Arsenal for £27m after agitating for a move, but that decision looks well calculated too given they have won four out of five games without him and his replacement, Kaoru Mitoma, is thriving.

As for incomings, the club remained true to their philosophy, signing four teenagers, among them Swedish midfielder Yasin Ayari from AIK, to keep the emphasis on youth development. Why change a winning formula, after all? Brighton march on.

Arsenal miss main targets but still strengthen

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Jorginho meets his new Arsenal team-mates at London Colney

Arsenal’s January business caused consternation in some corners, with #EduOut trending on Twitter after the club lowered their sights from Moises Caicedo to Jorginho to bolster their midfield.

That came after the unsuccessful, and similarly high-profile, pursuit of Mykhailo Mudryk, who joined Chelsea, with Arsenal instead opting to bring in another cheaper alternative in Leandro Trossard.

But critics of their sporting director would be wise to remember his recent record. After all, missing out on Dusan Vlahovic allowed him to sign Gabriel Jesus. Missing out on Lisandro Martinez allowed him to bring in Oleksandr Zinchenko.

Those players have made huge contributions to Arsenal’s success this season and the hope now is that Trossard and Jorginho will do the same. Trossard, certainly, has offered plenty of encouragement in his early appearances.

And besides, given the strength of Mikel Arteta’s first-choice team, Arsenal’s main objective in this transfer window was to add depth. They have had to adapt but their business shows the lessons of last year, when they left themselves short in January, have been learned.

The Jorginho signing has prompted comparisons with Willian, whose move from Stamford Bridge to the Emirates Stadium proved disastrous, but the Italian is an undoubted upgrade on Mohamed Elneny and Albert Sambi Lokonga and he brings leadership too.

Like Trossard, he also arrives in peak physical condition having featured regularly for Chelsea this season. In fact, he started their last two Premier League games, his return to the side coinciding with an upturn in form as they beat Crystal Palace and drew at Liverpool.

Then, in addition to those Jorginho and Trossard, they brought in highly-rated Polish centre-back Jakub Kiwior from Spezia. Defence, midfield and attack, all strengthened. The signings may not be glamorous, but they are what Arsenal needed.

Bournemouth show their ambition

Bournemouth's new signing Antoine Semenyo
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Antoine Semenyo joined Bournemouth from Bristol City

The January window was always likely to be busy for Bournemouth after American businessman Bill Foley completed his £100m takeover of the club in December and so it proved.

They failed with an ambitious attempt to sign Italy international Nicolo Zaniolo, but they did snare his Roma team-mate Matias Vina, a 28-cap Uruguay international who should provide a considerable injection of quality at left-back.

Vina was one of five new arrivals. There is also the £20m Dango Outtara, an exciting young winger who shone during the first half of the campaign with Lorient in France. Antoine Semenyo, from Bristol City, is another attacking player with plenty of potential.

Darren Randolph adds depth in the goalkeeping position and the Cherries saved their biggest signing until last, their £24m deal for centre-back Illia Zabarnyi, a Ukraine international, providing hope of much-needed defensive improvement as they battle the drop.

THE INBETWEENERS

Man Utd dip into loan market

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Didi Hamann gives his verdict on new Man Utd signing Marcel Sabitzer

Erik ten Hag made no secret of the fact he was working with a limited budget in January following Manchester United’s big-spending summer. This time they had to get creative.

The signing of Wout Weghorst did not exactly set pulses racing. His poor spell at Burnley means he has work to do to win the sceptics over. But his scoring record in Germany and the Netherlands before that was impressive and his early United displays have offered encouragement.

The Dutchman has provided the focal point they lacked following the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo, whose mutually-agreed exit suited everyone, but he will need to build on his bright start in the months ahead and the same test awaits Marcel Sabitzer.

The Austria international shone during a seven-year spell at RB Leipzig but he arrives at Old Trafford having struggled to make a positive impact at Bayern Munich, making only 15 Bundesliga starts in 18 months and ultimately becoming surplus to requirements.

He looks a sensible short-term solution following news of Christian Eriksen’s impending absence through injury, especially given United’s budgetary constraints, but it remains to be seen how he adapts to the Premier League.

Lopetegui backed but goals still lacking

Wolverhampton Wanderers' Santos Matheus Cunha during the Premier League match at Ashton Gate, Birmingham. Picture date: Wednesday January 4, 2023.
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Matheus Cunha joined Wolves on loan with a £44m obligation to buy

Julen Lopetegui received healthy backing in his first transfer window as Wolves manager, the club’s January spend totalling an initial £31.6m, with six additions helping to re-shape the squad.

Joao Gomes, the most expensive of them at £15m, comes with a reputation as one of the most exciting young midfielders in Brazil. Mario Lemina and Pablo Sarabia bring guile. Craig Dawson offers Premier League pedigree and experience at a paltry £3.3m.

But the same questions remain over firepower. Wolves, among the Premier League’s lowest scorers last season, have this time netted only 12 times in 20 games. Who is going to get the goals?

With Diego Costa and Raul Jimenez struggling for form and fitness, and summer signing Sasa Kalajdzic still unavailable due to injury, Lopetegui appears to be pinning his hopes of Matheus Cunha, whose loan from Atletico Madrid includes a £44m obligation to buy in the summer.

The purchase fee reflects his pedigree – he has been capped eight times by Brazil – but he is not an out-and-out No 9 and his scoring record is modest at 39 goals in 184 senior club appearances. Is he the answer? Wolves supporters will need to be convinced.

THE LOSERS

Everton draw a blank

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Paul Merson fears for Everton in the Premier League this season after a frustrating January transfer window

If Sean Dyche was not already aware of the scale of the job he has taken on at Everton, then he certainly will be now. The end of the transfer window brought nothing but disappointment.

The club banked £45m from the sale of Anthony Gordon to Newcastle but their attempts to reinvest that cash, and improve a squad in dire need of strengthening, proved fruitless.

The list of rejections and near misses seemed to lengthen by the hour on Deadline Day, with reports emerging of unsuccessful moves for Hakim Ziyech, Conor Gallagher, Iliman Ndiaye, Olivier Giroud, Michy Batshuayi, Jean-Philippe Mateta and Udinese striker Beto, among others.

Despite their desperate plight, level on points with Southampton at the bottom of the table, they ultimately end the window as the only Premier League side not to bring in a single player, leaving Dyche with an almighty task to keep them in the division.

“If you’re not bringing players in, I don’t see the point in changing Frank [Lampard],” said Sky Sports’ Paul Merson. “It wasn’t the manager, it was the players. For me, they need better players if they’re going to stay up. I think this team will struggle to stay up.”

Cancelo exit makes Man City weaker

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Joao Cancelo reveals all behind his move to Bayern Munich and says his motivation is to win titles

Pep Guardiola may feel it was necessary in the interests of squad harmony, but Joao Cancelo’s Manchester City departure, on loan to Bayern Munich, is a head-scratcher however you slice it.

The Portugal international played more Premier League minutes than any other outfield player across Manchester City’s title-winning 2020/21 and 2021/22 campaigns and the same was true of this season until the World Cup break.

His form had dipped, undoubtedly, but the fact he was still seen as indispensable by Guardiola as recently as November underlines just how quickly the situation has deteriorated.

It is even more curious given City’s paucity of options at left-back. Nathan Ake has filled in ably in recent weeks but he does not offer anything like as much creative threat as Cancelo.

Oleksandr Zinchenko is gone, the Ukrainian now excelling for Arsenal, and Sergio Gomez has only been trusted to play 106 Premier League minutes since his arrival from Anderlecht in the summer.

Guardiola will hope Cancelo’s departure serves as a warning to other under-performing players currently on the fringes of his team. But the undeniable truth is that they are weaker without him.

Liverpool’s midfield void remains

Andrew Robertson and Jurgen Klopp

Liverpool supporters will not remember January fondly.

On the pitch, a dismal run of one win from six games, causing them to lose further ground in the race for a top-four Premier League finish and crash out of the FA Cup. Off it, another transfer window without the midfield reinforcements they so desperately need.

They did of course secure the £45m signing of Cody Gakpo from PSV Eindhoven, the Dutch forward showing flickers of his considerable talent in Sunday’s FA Cup fourth round loss to Brighton.

But that game was just the latest to highlight their long-standing issues at the heart of Jurgen Klopp’s team. Again, there was a lack of control in midfield. Again, their experienced players failed to deliver.

The winter window is of course a challenging one in which to do business. Particularly when the club of your primary target, in this case Jude Bellingham’s Borussia Dortmund, have no intention of entertaining offers until the end of the campaign.

But Liverpool’s midfield issues proved hugely damaging in the first half of the campaign and, for all his youthful promise, it is surely too soon to hold up Stefan Bajcetic as a short-term solution.

Instead, they must bank on Jordan Henderson, Thiago Alcantara, Fabinho and the rest rediscovering their bite. Given what they have seen so far this season, supporters are entitled to wonder whether things could get worse before they get better.

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