The following post will be updated throughout the rest of the week…
With the January 2019 transfer window closing, here’s a look at some of the major transactions and their potential impact.
While individual clubs won’t be graded, it’s hard not to note that the lack of impact signings for Tottenham and Paris Saint-Germain given their key injuries would earn failing marks.
Gonzalo Higuain Loan to Chelsea: Chelsea needed an experienced proper striker. Higuain seemingly needed a change of scenery. What could go wrong? While an early 4-0 shellacking by AFC Bournemouth didn’t exactly jumpstart the Higuain era at Chelsea, the loan still makes sense for both sides. Higuain knows Maurizio Sarri’s system, and the move shifts Eden Hazard back out to the wing where he’s most productive. Ultimately, fairly or not, this will be graded on whether or not Chelsea maintain their top 4 position and qualify for the Champions League. We’re still willing to give the benefit of the doubt on this one. B+
Frenkie de Jong Signs with Barcelona: The €75M price of Frenkie de Jong to Barcelona at first look seems high, but given the broad interest in him from all the usual suspects, and his age (21), Camp Nou should see value from the deal. Just not immediately, as de Jong won’t join Barcelona until after he completes the season with Ajax. B
Christian Pulisic to Chelsea: There are far more questions though about the American super-star’s move to Stamford Bridge. While the potential to open up the American market was certainly an appeal for Chelsea, the questions remains if Christian Pulisic is really worth that much money?($73.1M USD) Or if Chelsea is the right fit to develop him, after disastrously giving up on Kevin de Bruyne and Mohamed Salah so early. Or if he’ll fit with Maurizio Sarri’s system. From Pulisic’s perspective, given the lack of playing time he’s seen at Borussia Dortmund this year, is Chelsea the right fit to get back on the pitch? When there’s lots more questions than answers, that’s usually not a good recipe for a winning grade. C-
Miguel Almiron to Newcastle United: The record-setting Miguel Almiron transfer to Newcastle is a bold move from a historically thrifty club. The speedy midfielder is a good fit for Rafa Benítez’s counter-attacking style, and he should give the Magpie faithful a moral boost simply because, you know, they actually bought someone of quality. B
Denis Suarez to Arsenal: This one has good feelings all around. Suarez rejoins Unai Emery, whom he played with at Sevilla, and who had been pining for some player activity since arriving. While only on loan from Barcelona until the end of season, Arsenal has the option to make the loan deal permenant with the midfielder this summer. A good snag for Arsenal’s top 4 run. B+
Kevin-Prince Boateng to Barcelona: Erm. That was unexpected. Barcelona needed a back-up striker, no argument there. The 31 year-old Boateng comes from Serie A side Sassuolo on a six-month loan deal, with an upfront payment of €995,915 and a permanent transfer option at only €8.1m. If (and that’s still a big if) Boateng can hang at a more elite level than he’s been playing at, this is actually a good value signing for Barcelona. Clubs like Barcelona need to hit on a few of these, and he could serve as a decent role / bit player for them. B
Pity Martínez to Atlanta United: This $17M the Five Stripes spent on Pity was a harbinger of the eventual Miguel Almiron transfer to Newcastle. Whether or not Pity is / would’ve been a better fit for Tata’s system remains to be seen, but this was yet another smart move by UTD (read a good financial breakdown of it all from Dirty South Soccer) to ensure they continue to prosper in 2019. A-
Leandro Paredes to Paris Saint-Germain: With Neymar to miss the his Champions League Round of 16 match-ups against Manchester United, PSG needed to find some creativity and production this transfer window. While Parades is certainly an asset (he was also pursued by Chelsea), the price paid to Zenit St Petersburg to acquire him (€45m) was steep compared to other January window deals. C-
Alvaro Morata loaned to Atlético Madrid: A return home where he started as a youth in their DA could serve Morata well. It wasn’t happening at Chelsea. And while he won’t serve as the primary striker for Atlético, Morata has won major trophies for major clubs (Real Madrid, Juventus and Chelsea) and scored over 50 goals for them. No real downside here on this 18-month loan. B
Alphonso Davies to Bayern Munich: Another win for the MLS here. The highly-regarded Canadian 18 year-old will move from the Vancouver Whitecaps to the Bundesliga giant. Bayern will pay $14M. They’ve scouted him heavily and described him as a “huge talent.” Davies debuted in the MLS at 15 and was the second youngest player to do so in league history (behind Freddy Adu, ruh-roh). A really interesting pick-up for Bayern, adding another speedy winger to its attacking options. A
Cesc Fabregas to Monaco: This is a tougher one to grade. On one hand, Monaco did great–they reportedly paid no transfer fee to Chelsea for the 31 year-old striker, and will only be on the hook for performance-based bonuses. On the other hand, they’re committed to Fabregas for three-and-a-half years and he’s already on the downswing in terms of production. He hasn’t scored in three appearances for Monaco to date. Monaco, a surprising Ligue 1 relegation dweller, needed to do something, yes. Finding quality / hungrier youth might’ve been the wiser move. We’ll split the difference on this grade and land it in the middle. C+
Lewis Morgan loaned to Sunderland: Ok, we have a weak spot for Sunderland now. As your read in our Sunderland ‘Til I Die review, they’re an easy team to pull for now. Any quality and depth is welcome as they try to climb back into the Championship League. This winger from Celtic is a goal hound, and Morgan will reunite with Black Cats boss Jack Ross, who managed him previously at St Mirren. While he wasn’t seeing much run at Celtic, he’ll get a chance to shine for Sunderland on a team (and in a tier) that needs proper attackers. B
Krzystof Piatek to AC Milan: AC Milan isn’t missing Gonzalo Higuain all that much as his replacement, Piatek, netted both goals in his second appearance for the club in their win 2-0 win over Napoli in the Coppa Italian. The 23 year-old arrived for a relatively modest (in these times) €35m from from Genoa. At 23, the already productive player can grow into his prime at a reasonable cost. A
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Well, that was unexpected.
The Premier League returned with midweek Matchday 24 games. And things didn’t go as expected.
The Big 6 Premier League clubs trending up laid eggs, and the ones trending down showed up.
How will this impact the rest of the season?
Also read: Premier League Big 6 Futures
Liverpool Miss An Opportunity to Separate
Manchester City inexplicably lost to Newcastle United 2-1 despite going up 1-0 in the first minute on Tuesday. Liverpool had an opportunity to move 7 points clear playing at home. I even started writing this post on Tuesday night.
As High Press Soccer wrote though in the Liverpool Player Ratings vs. Leicester City report, only Mane, Bobby Firmino and Robbo really showed up, and even though they went up in the opening seconds like City, they also dropped points with a draw.
Instead of going up 7, they go up 5, and that ever elusive Premier League title is still up for grabs.
Tottenham and Arsenal Solidify Top 4 Spots
Welcome Arsenal to Champions League consideration!
After getting throttled 5-1 by Liverpool, Arsenal appeared destined for the Europa League in 2019-20. Then, they pulled off a key win against Chelsea 2-0. This was at the beginning of Chelsea’s slow and comical implosion, culminating with a 4-0 shellacking by AFC Bournemouth. Arsenal now find themselves tied for fourth in the Premier League table. Who’d have thunk?
Tottenham has seen Harry Kane and Dele Alli go down with injuries (and Son Heung-min go to the Asia Cup), yet, they’ve now gained points, moving within 7 of Liverpool. Son keyed a late 2-1 win against Watford on Wednesday, scoring the winner in the closing minutes.
Chelsea is the new Manchester United
Remember when Jose Mourinho was a curmudgeonly blowhard torpedoing a talented, expensive, and under-achieving squad? Maurizio Sarri was like, “Hold my beer.”
The addition of Gonzalo Higuain was supposed to solve their offensive woes, yet, they go scoreless to Bournemouth as his runs were overlooked and passes to him were consistently off target.
What a mess.
Suddenly, Chelsea is tied with Arsenal for fourth and trending the wrong way. If nothing else, they’ve filled the void left by United’s dysfunction.
A Tale of Two Manchesters
Manchester City, possibly feeling the pressure of a title pursuit from Liverpool, somehow drop points to relegation candidates Newcastle. The (Blue) sky is falling!
Manchester United, down 0-2 in the second half, storm back for a tie, and despite dropping valuable points in a race to get back into the top 4, still feel like they have all of the momentum.
Their derby on March 16th should provide plenty of fireworks. A title for City and Champions League qualification for United may be at stake.
The More Things Change…
Despite (or because of) this mixed bag of results, FiveThirtyEight title and top 4 percentages basically remain the same as they were at the beginning of the week.
After City’s loss, Liverpool was bumped to over 80% to win the Premier League, but fell back down to 74% after their draw. Chelsea is still almost 50% to qualify for the Champions League, while Arsenal and United stay around 35% and 23%, respectively.
With another matchday down, the Premier League picture only got more intriguing.