Premier League winners and losers: Liverpool, Man United and more
Premier League winners and losers: Kieran Beckles examines which clubs had a good January window and who could pay the price
Manchester United Can Juan Mata have the Mesut Ozil effect? That’s the big question at Old Trafford after Manchester United broke their transfer record, as Arsenal did on deadline day last summer, to sign Mata in a £37.1m deal from Chelsea last weekend. The 25-year-old was ushered straight into United’s line-up and had an immediate impact as he played a part in both goals to help the Red Devils seal a 2-0 win against Cardiff City on Tuesday. Mata will certainly add further quality to a United front-line already packed with talent but perhaps his biggest contribution will be lifting the whole club after a dire start under David Moyes. It’s simply a win-win for the defending Premier League champions, and whilst other areas need attention in the summer, Mata’s arrival should appease dissatisfied supporters.
Cardiff City Replacing Malky Mackay with the January transfer window fast approaching, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer faced the unenviable task of strengthening the Premier League’s basement club. But the Norwegian made a series of astute acquisitions last month. Taking charge of a new club in the middle of a campaign is never easy, and understandably Solskjaer opted to recruit players that he can trust. Mats Moller Daehli, who is also an ex-United youth graduate, and Jo Inge Berget were new arrivals from the Norwegian champions Molde, who Solskjaer quit to move to Wales. The Cardiff boss added Heerenveen midfielder Magnus Wolff Eikrem to his squad after the playmaker had impressed under Solskjaer at Molde last season. The former Red Devils striker did buy proven Premier League talent, too, in the shape of Kenwyne Jones and Fabio Da Silva, as well as snapping up Wilfried Zaha on loan until the end of the season. It gives Cardiff a fighting chance of survival.
Fulham Fulham were the deadline-day winners after bringing in five new players in their bid to avoid relegation. Rene Meulensteen, who replaced Martin Jol earlier this season, worked his magic to convince out-of-favour Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Lewis Holtby to join on loan for the remainder of the campaign. The Germany international has plenty to prove after a testing starting to his Spurs career and a World Cup place to secure. The Cottagers also signed Olympiakos striker Konstantinos Mitroglou as the Greece international wavered his chance to face Manchester United in the Champions League last 16 – further testament to Meulensteen’s persuasive powers. The 25-year-old has scored 23 goals in 26 appearances for club and country this season and will replace the void left by Dimitar Berbatov. Everton centre-half Jonny Heitinga also sealed a move to west London as the Fulham boss placed his faith in United youngsters Ryan Tunnicliffe and Larnell Cole after working with the pair during his spell as assistant to Sir Alex Ferguson.
Liverpool Brendan Rodgers’ men remain in pole position to secure fourth spot after a 4-0 victory over Everton in the Merseyside derby. But with United signing Mata, the Reds were already looking nervously over their shoulders at the defending champions. With Joe Allen, Jose Enrique, Glen Johnson, Mamadou Sakho, Daniel Agger and Lucas Leiva all fighting various injuries, Liverpool’s squad is already stretched. So it was a surprise that the Reds failed to strengthen in January. Whilst Mohamed Salah had his heart set on a move to Chelsea, Liverpool still lacked urgency in trying to force a deal through for the Egyptian. After all, Chelsea had a deal agreed with Basel within 24 hours of United lodging a bid for Mata. Missing out on £15m-man Yevhen Konoplyanka could yet prove a blessing in disguise if Oleg Luhzny’s appraisal is anything to go by. But Liverpool would have been wise to follow Arsenal’s lead and add bodies to their limited squad if short-term, financially viable deals were possible. Ultimately, the Reds will struggle to attract players that Rodgers views as long-term solutions to issues in his squad until they are back among Europe’s elite.
Newcastle United What message does selling your best player the day before transfer deadline day send to your players? Not a good one. It’s not the first time owner Mike Ashley has cashed in on his big-name stars and failed to reinvest, especially since returning to the Premier League. Newcastle tend to launch a biennial top-four bid, narrowly miss out, and spend the next season battling relegation. Understandably Paris Saint-Germain’s £19m offer for Yohan Cabaye was difficult to refuse, considering the mark-up on the £4m paid to Lille in 2011. But if Ashley really wants a cash cow, why not keep his best players in the hope of securing the big pay day that is the Champions League? Jonas Gutierrez also sealed a move away from St James’ Park, albeit temporarily as he joined Norwich City. So who did Newcastle sporting director Joe Kinnear earmark as the man to content disgruntled Magpies supporters? Luuk De Jong. The former FC Twente striker hasn’t scored in nine months. With the Magpies suffering a 3-0 derby loss to Sunderland on Saturday, we can expect eighth-placed Newcastle to start their descent down the table.
Swansea City After a dream start to his Swansea City reign, Michael Laudrup has been brought back to Premier League reality this season. The Dane has been forced to contend with an injury crisis and a loss of form to key players. Furthermore, Swansea’s club-record signing Wilfried Bony has taken the best part of five months to find his stride in the English top-flight – that’s fine if you’re residing comfortably in mid-table but the Swans have been dragged into a relegation battle. Michu is currently sidelined having undergone ankle surgery in December, leaving the Swans lacking firepower up front. Laudrup did attempt to solve this issue in January as he signed a French striker. Worryingly for Swansea it wasn’t a proven Premier League finisher like Nicolas Anelka or Loic Remy, but Liverpool reject David N’gog. West Ham addressed their striker woes in January as Sam Allardyce signed Marco Borriello – and the Hammers ran out 2-0 winners against Swansea on Saturday. It could prove a difficult second half of the season for the Swans.