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Roundup: EPL 2021 Winter Transfer Window

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The buzzer has sounded on the winter window. Here’s an overview of the new-boys you need to watch.

Ben Davies - Preston North End - Sky Bet Championship
Former Preston defender Ben Davies now wears a Liverpool shirt. Can he fill Virgil van Dijk’s boots for the rest of the season?
Photo by Mick Walker - CameraSport via Getty Images

While the winter market is usually slower than the summer market, January 2021’s transfer window was the quietest in nearly a decade. Just 24 transfers were made in total, compared to an average of 46 across the three prior, and a disproportionate number were loans instead of signings. Among the “Big Six”, only Liverpool, Manchester United, and Arsenal made any moves at all. Indeed, the total amount of money spent in this window (£70M) is less than Liverpool spent on just one player, Virgil van Dijk, back in the 2018 January window (£75M), and a far cry from the total of £230M spent last January.

The main reason for this, of course, is the COVID crisis, which has had a massive impact on the finances of football clubs not just in England but around the globe. Ten months’ worth of empty stadiums has had its effect on balance sheets, rendering owners cautious to spend in the face of the ongoing pandemic. New Brexit-related regulations on signing foreign players have also played a role, but as Dan Jones, a partner at the Sports Business Group says, “While new post-Brexit rules on acquiring players from overseas may have contributed to this, the financial impact of the pandemic was, by far, a more important factor.” (talksport.com).

It therefore remains to be seen whether the summer 2021 transfer window will set yet another record; we cross our fingers that vaccination campaigns can turn the tide on the pandemic and restore normality not just to football, but to society.

In the meantime, here’s a comprehensive list of all the moves made during this window. Let’s run the rule over the ones you need to monitor.


Arsenal

Martin Ødegaard: Touted as the “Norwegian Messi”, this 22 year-old joins on loan from Real Madrid through the end of the season. The attacking midfielder has trained and played with the some of the game’s greats, and he was name-checked five years ago by none other than Cristiano Ronaldo when the Portuguese was asked about rising stars. But Ødegaard (the O-slash pronounced like the ‘oo’ in book) has been handed only three starts for Los Blancos this season, so he’ll now compete with Emile Smith Rowe for the No. 10 role at Arsenal (Indeed, Ødegaard sat on the bench behind ESR in yesterday’s self-immolation at Wolverhampton). Here’s what he’ll bring:

Mat Ryan: After losing his job to Robert Sánchez as Brighton’s #1, Ryan has apparently decided he’d rather be a backup to Bernd Leno at Arsenal for the rest of the season. The veteran net-minder is currently injured, but he could offer fantasy value if called upon to deputize (like he would have now with Leno suspended by his red card).


Aston Villa

Morgan Sanson: The French midfielder joins Aston Villa from Olympique Marseille for a fee that could rise to £15.5M. Sanson is not particularly creative but is good at linking play and crossing. He has one of the highest rates per minute for goals and assists in Ligue 1 this season. He has genuine potential to claim a spot in Dean Smith’s starting-XI, so he could become a fantasy asset if he does more of this:


Brighton

Moises Caicedo: A product of Independiente del Valle, an Ecuadorian club well-known for its business model of developing youth players that can be sold at profit, Caicedo lines up as a defensive midfielder but can also play the role of the string-pulling architect of attack. He is often compared to N’golo Kante, but he actually offers much more going forward. Indeed, he rather fancies shots from distance. Already a starter for the Ecuadorian national team at the tender age of 19, he was courted by many teams across Europe and the Americas. Here is why Graham Potter will be delighted that the young man has joined his flock of Seagulls:


Crystal Palace

Jean-Phillipe Mateta: Starving for goals, Roy Hodgson has brought in the 23 year-old on an 18-month loan from FSV Mainz 05. The French striker has notched 10 goals in 17 appearances for Mainz this season, 27 in 71 in total. He made the bench against Wolves last Saturday and again at Newcastle yesterday, and with Wilfred Zaha now sidelined by a hamstring injury, Mateta should slot into the S-XI. Here’s a sample of his previous work:


Everton

Josh King: Cenk Tosun has accomplished virtually nothing at Everton over the last three years, so shipping him to Turkey on loan made sense for both player and club. But that rendered Carlo Ancelotti’s depth chart pretty shallow at the striker position, so he sealed the services of Josh King via a loan from Bournemouth AFC. King is well-known to us, having scored 48 goals in 161 Premier League games for the Cherries, and he was courted by many clubs in the winter window (one of which was Fulham FC). Given his quality and experience, King will be used not just as back-up for Dominic Calvert-Lewin, but also to partner him as well. In swapping out Tosun for King, Ancelotti has pulled off a major upgrade.


Fulham

Josh Maja: Unable to land the Josh he wanted (King), Scott Parker instead settled for the Josh he could get (Maja). The 22 year-old forward joins Fulham on loan from Bordeaux, where he scored nine goals in 45 Ligue 1 appearances. It’s likely that he’ll start life at Craven Cottage as a squad player and impact sub.


Liverpool

Ben Davies: With Joel Matip now joining Joe Gomez and Virgil van Dijk on the long-term absentee list, adding reinforcements in the winter window was an imperative for Jurgen Klopp. To do so, the German gaffer brought another Ben Davies (not to be confused with Spurs’ established winger) into the Prem, pipping Celtic with a £1.6M offer to Preston that included Sepp van den Berg going the other way on loan. Calm and collected on the ball, the 25 year-old is comfortable playing out of the back, and so he’ll fit well into Klopp’s possession-based system. And the left-footed center-half can also play on the left side of a three-man line, or as a left fullback, adding crucial versatility to Klopp’s squad. Having just joined the Reds in the last hours of the window, Davies won’t be ready to suit up against Brighton this week, but expect to see him in the starting lineup very soon thereafter.

Ozan Kabak: With all three of his senior central defenders crocked for the foreseeable future, Klopp knew that Davies wouldn’t be enough. Consequently, he also struck a loan deal with Schalke for Kabak. The highly-rated 20 year-old has played in the Bundesliga for two years, and he even gained Champions League experience with Galatasaray prior to that. Like Davies, he won’t be ready to face Brighton this week. But once integrated into the squad, he’ll elbow out players like Rhys Williams and Nat Phillips to allow Klopp to shift players like Jordan Henderson, James Milner, and Fabinho back to the midfield where they belong.


Manchester United

Amad Diallo: United signed this exciting 18 year-old from Atalanta where he scored on his Serie A debut. He repeated that feat for United last Saturday, scoring from open play just 14 minutes into his inaugural match for the U-23s before adding another from the spot later on. Here is the first:

This pacy right-winger scores, creates, presses, and plays with a work ethic that is being compared to Edinson Cavani’s. It is only a matter of time before Diallo features for the first team, which will allow Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to fulfill Mason Greenwood’s destiny by fielding him as a striker.


Newcastle

Joe Willock: The emergence of Emile Smith Rowe had already made life for Willock difficult at Arsenal, but last week’s acquisition of Martin Odegaard sounded the death knell for his chances at a regular spot in Mikel Arteta’s starting lineup. A loan to the struggling Magpies makes sense then, since he should find it easier to earn pitch time over the likes of the Longstaff brothers. Expect him to improve the linkage between Newcastle’s lines and make runs into the box to receive balls played back in by the wide players.


Southampton

Takumi Minamino: Added to Liverpool’s squad in last winter’s transfer window, the Japanese international has struggled to compete for minutes in one of the world’s most fearsome attacking set-ups, falling behind even Divock Origi and Xherdan Shaqiri in the pecking order. Consequently, when Ralph Hasenhüttl inquired about borrowing Minamino for the rest of the season, Klopp said yes. Like Liverpool, Southampton employs a coordinated press, so the chance for the 26 year-old to get regular playing time in a system similar to Klopp’s seems like a win for everybody.


West Brom

Mbaye Diagne: The 29 year-old has joined the Baggies on loan from Galatasaray for the remainder of the season. The Senegalese striker is an excellent finisher, and at 6’ 4” poses a towering aerial threat. A classic target man, he’s a good fit for Sam Allardyce’s style of play and was impressive in his second-half introduction against Fulham on Saturday, registering the assist for Matheus Pereira’s goal. With a career record of 107 goals in 172 appearances, Diagne could be a shot in the arm for West Brom’s feeble attack:

Robert Snodgrass: The 33 year-old is familiar to us, having plied his trade for a variety of Premier League clubs over nearly a decade. Now a Baggie after a permanent transfer from West Ham, Snodgrass hasn’t yet made much of an impact for Sam Allardyce. But that could soon change with Diagne now available to convert the Scot’s service into goals.

Okay Yokuslu: A gritty defensive midfielder, the 26 year-old loanee from Celta Vigo should shore up West Brom’s defense but probably won’t offer much fantasy relevance beyond obligatory word play on his name (okay?).

Ainsley Maitland-Niles: We’ve been waiting too long for AMN to achieve the heights he was projected to reach. In fact, he may have regressed: After establishing himself as a regular in Arsenal’s starting-XI last season, he has been handed only five starts in this campaign. Regardless, Sam Allardyce recognized that he’d be an upgrade for the Baggies and swooped in for a loan, beating out several other Premier League teams. AMN will have a better chance of playing as a central midfielder — his preferred position — at the Hawthorns, but his ability to play on either side of a back four or as a wide midfielder will offer Big Sam critical versatility as the Baggies fight to stay up. The move will also keep AMN in Gareth Southgate’s thoughts as well.


West Ham

Jesse Lingard: The Manchester United player will wear a Hammers jersey for the rest of the season, having now reunited with David Moyes at London Stadium on loan. The 28 year-old Englishman is cup-tied, which increases the likelihood that he’ll see starts in the league. But Lingard has made only 11 appearances in the last 18 months, so it will probably take some time before he is ready to challenge Pablo Fornals for starts.


Wolves

Willian Jose: Desperate for a fill-in for injured striker Raul Jimenez, Nuno Espirito Santo acquired Willian Jose on loan from Real Sociedad with a £20M option to purchase come June. The 29 year-old Brazilian has scored 62 goals in 170 appearances for his club. At 6’ 3”, he is tall, strong, and physical, and his style has been compared to Diego Costa and Olivier Giroud. So although he doesn’t play with classic Brazilian flair, he’s a decent finisher who is good with his head, and his rate of 0.5 non-penalty goals/90 minutes last season was equal to that of Jimenez. Whether he can fill the Mexican’s shoes in the Prem remains to be seen, but on Saturday Jose did put two shots on target in his first start for Wolves, and he registered another SoT and drew a PK in yesterday’s win over Arsenal.

Here is an overview of what the big Brazilian will bring to Molineux Stadium:

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Information and statistics used in this article were sourced from talksport.com, totalfootballanalysis.com, football.london, cpfc.co.uk, manutd.com, expressandstar.com, wikipedia.com, hammers.news, forbes.com, fantasyfootballscout.com, theguardian.com, theshortfuse.sbnation.com, royalbluemersey.sbnation.com, liverpooloffside.sbnation.com

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Are you watching any of these players for your fantasy squads? Which do you think will be real-life hits, and which do you think will flop? Which clubs have done well in the winter window, and which haven’t done enough? Please take our two polls, and then share your thoughts in the comments!

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Poll

Which player was the best transfer of the winter 2021 window?

This poll is closed

  • 47%
    Martin Odegaard (Arsenal)
    (11 votes)
  • 0%
    Moises Caicedo (Brighton)
    (0 votes)
  • 0%
    Jean-Phillipe Mateta (Crystal Palace)
    (0 votes)
  • 13%
    Josh King (Everton)
    (3 votes)
  • 4%
    Ben Davies (Liverpool)
    (1 vote)
  • 8%
    Amad Diallo (Manchester United)
    (2 votes)
  • 0%
    Mbaye Diagne (West Brom)
    (0 votes)
  • 4%
    Ainsley Maitland-Niles (West Brom)
    (1 vote)
  • 21%
    Willian Jose (Wolves)
    (5 votes)
23 votes total Vote Now

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Poll

Which team did the best business in the winter 2021 transfer window?

This poll is closed

  • 41%
    Arsenal
    (7 votes)
  • 11%
    Brighton
    (2 votes)
  • 0%
    Crystal Palace
    (0 votes)
  • 11%
    Everton
    (2 votes)
  • 17%
    Liverpool
    (3 votes)
  • 0%
    Manchester United
    (0 votes)
  • 17%
    West Brom
    (3 votes)
  • 0%
    Wolves
    (0 votes)
17 votes total Vote Now

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