The January 2020 Transfer Window was fairly active, with the obvious big signing that is Bruno Fernandes. The last twelve months have been quite a rocket-ride for the 26 year-old Portuguese maestro. He has featured in every single one of Manchester United’s league matches since joining the Red Devils on 29 January 2020, notching eight goals and seven assists over 14 games last season, plus eleven goals and seven assists so far this season. And last month he won the Premier League’s Player of the Month award for an unprecedented fourth time in a single calendar year. I say again: That is unprecedented. No one had ever done it in the entire history of the Premier League, but Bruno did it in his first eleven months.
So there can be little argument about who was the best transfer of the January 2020 window. But outside of this big name player, there were a few players that were given a chance to rejuvenate their careers, either on loan or an a permanent deal as well as great future youth prospects. Besides Bruno, which of these transfers was the best?
My overall choice is West Ham’s Jarrod Bowen, who just pipped Brighton’s Tariq Lamptey to my top spot. Bowen was in fine form for Championship side Hull City when West Ham decided to shell out upwards of £18Mil for his signature. 52 goals across 3 seasons is of course going to turn the heads of any Premier League club, but as we know the step up from the Championship can be difficult; output is rarely replicated. I feel that Bowen has settled in well so far and has consistently performed well overall. West Ham struggled last season, but in 13 appearances (11 starts) Bowen was positive, scoring one goal and providing four assists. So far this year, he has provided more goals with four to his name plus two assists. At age 24, he has plenty of time to continue to develop into a top league midfielder. Tariq Lamptey is also fantastic value considering he cost only £3Mil and is still only 20 years old with much untapped potential.
The 25 year-old joined West Ham United on loan from Slavia Prague on 29 January 2020. David Moyes had seen Soucek play a Europa League qualifier against Chelsea in April of the previous year, and the Czech was one of the first players he moved for after the gaffer returned to West Ham in December of 2019.
Soucek was an immediate success at London Stadium, starting his first match just three days after his loan was finalized. He quickly gelled with his midfield partner, Declan Rice, whose defensive security allowed Soucek the freedom to roam. And roam he did: The box-to-box midfielder covered more ground during Project Restart than any other player in the Prem.
Tied on points with 19th-place Watford when Soucek joined, the Hammers were in serious danger of relegation. But the Czech’s amazing work rate, combined with the physicality that his 6’ 4” frame brought to the Hammers’ engine room, proved crucial to their survival. His three goals during Project Restart didn’t hurt either.
West Ham rewarded Soucek by converting his loan into a 4-year, £13M contract on 24 July. Soucek had been desperate to stay, and showed his appreciation for the permanent deal by continuing his form into the current campaign. Since then he has had more goal attempts than Raheem Sterling and more touches in the box than Heung-Min Son or Bruno Fernandes. And his five goals this season make him West Ham’s leading scorer, filling a massive gap left by Michail Antonio’s prolonged injury absences (the Englishman has missed just about half the season so far).
Some of those goals have been critical too. He scored an injury-time winner against Fulham on 7 November, the tying goal against Brighton on 27 December, and an 86th-minute winner against Everton on 1 January (which was also the EPL’s first goal of 2021). Those three goals alone resulted in seven of his club’s 29 points, a major reason that the Hammers currently sit in the top half of the table after narrowly avoiding the drop last season.
There is no doubt then that Soucek has been a key element of the renaissance that is underway at West Ham, and potential suitors have taken notice. Among other continental clubs, Bayern Munich has shown interest in the Czech, continuing to monitor him. It’s doubtful that Moyes would agree to part with a player who has been so critical to his success, but if he does one thing is certain: The move would cost a hell of a lot more than the £13M that West Ham paid for him.
David has done an amazing job championing Soucek, but my reasons are a bit more based on emotions and what the big man is about as an individual.
Tomas Soucek, a giant of frame with a heart to match. Highly influenced by his family, he was led him into a football career by his manager dad and an aunt who was a footballer herself.
Soucek’s height – he is 6ft 4in – and threat in the air inevitably drew comparisons to Marouane Fellaini, who played for Moyes at Everton and Manchester United. Soucek is more than a big man with an aerial presence. Mr Mourhino said he has the energy to get up and down the field, and he is determined to be a success, all thanks to his mother with whom Soucek used to run long-distance in his home town of Havlickuv Brod.
Not only is he an amazing Footballer but also a super-agent for the West Ham owner, which is another reason why he’s my choice. Tomas Soucek was instrumental in recruiting Vladimir Coufal, and it seems that the Czech has the ears of the clubs hierarchy. Agent Soucek recently suggested another player to West Ham; speaking to the Czech media outlet, ČT Sport, Soucek mentioned that he is a big fan of SK Slavia Prague forward Abdallah Sima (watch this space).
Last but not least, during last spring’s COVID lockdown, Soucek showed his dedication by training privately with his wife and baby on the evergreen turf of Hackney Marches. For those who don’t know where or what Hackney Marshes is, its 50 pitches are like the birthplace of football for many English professionals and amateurs. If you're from East London, I am sure your boots once graced this very field and understand is heritage.
Funny enough, Soucek is an honorary Hammer who supported London rivals Arsenal because of Czech wizard Tomas Rosicky, just another reason to love the big guy.
Others have had more lasting fantasy value, but for immediate impact and rush to buy in fantasy leagues at the time, I must dredge up our faded memories of Steven Bergwijn’s arrival at Tottenham. Kane was out “for the season” injured, so Spurs needed a point man fast. Bergwijn paired up with Son and delivered double-digit Fantrax points in all but one of his starts in February and March. Even more, he was also fun to watch on the ball.
But then came Covid-19’s long rest, and Kane reclaimed his starting spot in the 2nd week of the restart, so Bergwijn’s opportunities dried up. Look for Bergwijn to reappear if Kane or Son ever goes out (or if cup action promises rotation). He’s also the sort of player who could start scoring for fun again if Spurs loan him to a mid-table side where he would start every week.
The 23-year-old secured a five-year deal with Southampton back in August, but the young right-back was initially sent on a loan move at St Mary’s in January from Tottenham for around £12 million plus add-ons.
Since the ‘Restart’ period, the defender has shown glimpses of his potential that manager Ralph Hasenhuttle is developing into a solid Premier League fullback. Following a series of eye-catching performances, the youngster has played a major role in securing the Saints defense with an impressive eight clean sheets.
His aggressiveness moving forward and timely challenges at the back suit Hassenhuttle’s playing style. His dominant displays against the likes of Sadio Mane and Marcus Rashford prove his ability to become a top-class player in the near future. His most highly praised performance was when the youngster made eleven tackles, winning seven, against Fulham FC on Boxing Day, giving him the status of most prolific ball-winner this term so far.
The right-back leads the EPL with 33 tackles and tackles won, followed Yves Bissouma (30), then Stuart Dallas (27), Oriol Romeu (26) and Aaron Wan-Bissaka (26).
Walker-Peters entered the spotlight in England’s Under-20 World Cup victory — the first English team to win a major international trophy since 1966 — and he did so at the wrong position (left-back). He forced Paul Simpson to add him in the team line-up from playing all five of the games at the tournament.
Interestingly, Spurs signed the youngster as an attacking midfielder before putting him at the full-back position. Walker-Peters is one of the consistent right-backs in the Premier League right now, helping Southampton to nip at the heals of the European qualifying spots. And he is really not a bad option in the world of fantasy as well, given how his competitors are not performing at the highest level. Keep an eye on this young boy!
He’s a typical David Moyes player, strong and physical with an instinct to get into great positions in the box and enough composure to finish. His performances set a tone for his teammates, a part of making this West Ham side more stubborn and hard to beat. Without wishing to tempt fate, I’ll add that he has just two yellow cards as well.
As for Fantasy football, he is this year’s brilliant value pick for me in FPL, enabling more flexibility to use funds elsewhere. I always love a player who gives me the feeling he has a goal in him regardless of fixture, and Soucek is just that player in a season I cannot be sure of much.
I’m going with Thomas Soucek, as well. He’s simply a guy you want on your team (actual football and fantasy). He has also played every minute for West Ham this year.
To add variety, I’m going to make a quick shout out for Daniel Podence, as I think he will grow to be an even more influential player for Wolves. The Portuguese player joined from Olympiacos last January. He is currently second in assists and goals for Wolves, although that’s not saying too much with their low scoring season thus far. But he also isn’t on PKs or set pieces, yet he still manages to make a difference on the scoresheet. His 13 shots on target lead the team. He plays fearlessly and loves taking on defenders, which causes back lines problems. Injuries have slowed him down this season, and Wolves have clearly missed him.
Besides Bruno Fernandes, who was the best transfer of the January 2020 window?
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Giovani Lo Celso
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(Stats and info for this piece collected from greenstreethammers.com, dreamteamfc.com, fantrax.com, fantasy.premierleague.com, wikipedia.com)
So who made the most immediate impact on arrival last January-February? Whom were you buying a year ago? Or should we say, whom do you wish you had bought on arrival? And which of these is still high on your watch list if not in your squads? Please vote in the poll and then share your thoughts in the comments!