Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Transfer grades: Chelsea splash cash, Arsenal thrive on pragmatism, PSG fumble, Juventus in chaos

With the January transfer window now over, we can look back at some of the major deals and asses which of Europe’s biggest clubs fared best. Chelsea were by far the busiest and on the biggest scale while Arsenal and Bayern Munich went for quality over quantity in their business. Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City had questionable windows while Weston McKennie was the most high profile USMNT star on the move as he joined Leeds United. Chelsea and Benfica agreeing late in the day to a deal for Enzo Fernandez was the blockbuster deadline day move, but there were a few which made the difference to some of these teams such as Bayern’s Joao Cancelo, Arsenal’s Jorginho, Manchester United’s Marcel Sabitzer, and PSG’s Hakim Ziyech…or maybe not PSG’s Hakim Ziyech.

We grade some of January’s highest profile transfers.

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Arsenal: A+

Mikel Arteta’s men get a strong mark for their pragmatic approach to the January window which went from missing out on top target Mykhailo Mudryk to strengthening in multiple positions of need. The Gunners would have spent more on the Ukraine international alone than they would have done on Jorginho, Leandro Trossard and Jakub Kiwior who come in and strengthen in each major outfield area. This winter’s business also should not prevent Arsenal from making the sort of significant changes they want to make this coming summer which might include a move for West Ham United’s Declan Rice. They also resisted the temptation to pay big money for Brighton and Hove Albion’s Moises Caicedo despite the typical late transfer window pressure, though Brighton’s steadfast refusal to sell might have had something to do with that.

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Bayern Munich: A-

The German champions’ UEFA Champions League chances look a lot better now that they have added Yann Sommer, Joao Cancelo and Daley Blind to their ranks. Julian Nagelsmann’s side looked vulnerable going into the FIFA 2022 World Cup break but now they look better equipped and the capture of the Portugal international from Manchester City was particularly impressive in its swift nature. Manuel Neuer’s season-ending injury has been compensated for with Sommer while Blind adds experience and Cancelo adds significant quality and versatility.

Chelsea: C+

Graham Potter’s men were by far the busiest this January, agreeing with Benfica on Enzo Fernandez at the last minute in addition to adding Mudryk, Joao Felix (on loan), Benoit Badiashile, Noni Madueke, Malo Gusto, Andrey Santos and David Datro Fofana all coming in on top of the confirmed signing of Christopher Nkunku for later this year. That is very exciting and bodes well for the future with so much top, young talent, but there remains little to no sign of any real strategy at Stamford Bridge. Without that, this remains simply a talented bunch of players assembled at high cost and currently on course to fail to qualify for Europe. Badiashile, Gusto, and Fofana could turn out to be particularly shrewd acquisitions, yet there is a higher element of risk attached to Fernandez and Mudryk given the price tags and even Felix given his Atletico Madrid struggles.

Manchester United: C-

Marcel Sabitzer, Wout Weghorst, and Jack Butland probably would not have had many — if any — Red devils fans dreaming at the start of January. However, the trio seem fairly shrewd come closing time this window and especially the Austria international who was an unexpected last minute swoop after the news of Christian Eriksen’s lengthy injury emerged. In terms of Erik ten Hag’s needs and wants until this summer, all of them fit the bill and do not set United back the sort of exorbitant fees that would have previously been demanded of them and probably accepted by a club lacking clear vision. Ten Hag said he can use them so let him see out the season with the players he wants before continuing his major overhaul at Old Trafford in the summer.

PSG: D-

The deadline hit with the French champions’ attempt to bring in Hakim Ziyech in limbo thanks to a delay in getting the documents in in time, while they let Keylor Navas and Pablo Sarabia leave. In terms of quality, the Morocco international could have given Christophe Galtier’s men a significant jump in creativity, but Navas and Sarabia leave less depth in the squad than before. The LFP have now confirmed that Ziyech is off, so this was a big fail. Also, PSG’s real need all January long was in defense and Milan Skriniar was only secured for this summer and not immediately so they remain light there. Efforts were made to replace Sarabia and those fell short too, so it is difficult to see how the arrival of an inconsistent Ziyech could have been hailed immediately as a success anyway. Youngster Ayman Kari was also loaned out to Lorient.

Juventus: D-

Few clubs in Europe are as institutionally messy as the Italian giants are right now and that was reflected in recent weeks with a 15-point deduction in Serie A and the leadership turmoil. Now the Old Lady has allowed USMNT star Weston McKennie to join Leeds United which weakens them on the pitch at a time when reinforcements are not really a possibility and many players are looking around at what is happening and eyeing the exit door. With failure to qualify for Europe a distinct possibility, Juve’s poor January could pave the way for a desperate summer and an enforced exodus of remaining talent.

Man City: D-

It looked like an uneventful winter window right up until the last minutes when Cancelo was allowed to join Bayern which has many scratching their heads. Without an adequate replacement despite the Portuguese’s more dispensable role in Pep Guardiola’s squad recently, depth and versatility are now concerns when they were not just days ago. Much has been made about a potential fall-out between Cancelo and his former boss which could prove costly for the Citizens — if true. City’s loss is Bayern’s gain and despite the arrival of Maximo Perrone, this window feels like a failure for the defending Premier League champions and a potentially self-inflicted wound.

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