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It’s often been said that the January transfer window is there as a safety blanket for clubs who don’t get their business done efficiently in the summer. There is some truth to that, however for Premier League clubs at least, the January transfer window of 2018 has been a truly bizarre one.
With just one day to go until what is expected to be a hectic deadline, clubs from England’s top flight have spent money like never before; furthermore the quality of player on the move has been significantly higher than most mid-season windows in the past.
Liverpool kicked things off with the £75 million signing of Virgil van Dijk and this set the tone for the rest of the window.
Arsenal were aware of Alexis Sanchez’s contractual situation prior to the window opening, it was expected he would leave for Manchester, but rather the blue side than the red.
Manchester City’s slowness at moving towards a mid-season deal caught Manchester United’s interest and they then took the opportunity to offer a significantly better financial package than that already agreed between the Chilean’s representatives and the Blues.
Sanchez would subsequently agree to a move and a world class attacker was on his way to Old Trafford, although the drama didn’t end there with Henrikh Mkhitaryan, a wonderful footballer in his own right, moving to Arsenal as part of a straight swap deal.
Swap deals themselves are increasingly uncommon, especially in the English top flight with respective valuations of players often being problematic, so that was another unusual factor for the current market period.
Arsenal’s business isn’t yet done there though with a deal agreed to sign Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for just under £60 million, of course this deal is dependent on the German club signing a replacement forward, however Arsenal spending this much on a world class, proven goal-scorer is noteworthy in itself, not even considering the fact we are halfway through a campaign. They are also likely to sign Jonny Evans on Wednesday.
Manchester City are runaway leaders at the top of the division and are on course to win the first title of Pep Guardiola’s spell with the club, however they too are looking to boost their already vast squad. A deal has already been agreed to sign Aymeric Laporte with the £57 million centre half undergoing a medical on Tuesday.
The Blues aren’t done there though, they will also looked to prise Fred from Shakhtar Donetsk before Wednesday’s deadline, despite the Ukrainian club looking to keep hold of the Brazilian midfielder for the remainder of their Champions League campaign. Guardiola sees Fred as the long-term replacement for Fernandinho and believes he can contribute straight away.
After signing a new contract with Shakhtar in early January, Fred is likely to cost a fee upwards of £40 million, this would take City’s spending for the mid-season window to just under the £100 million mark.
One of the more intriguing stories of the window thus far has been how Chelsea have looked to strengthen their squad to the specifications set by Antonio Conte. Alex Sandro was his first choice left-back in the summer but Juventus wouldn’t countenance a departure.
Chelsea didn’t go back in for the former Porto defender this month, instead opting to sign Emerson Palmieri from Roma with that deal set to be completed before the deadline. What has been bizarre though is how the club have frantically tried to sign a tall striker, initially links with Andy Carroll, Peter Crouch and Ashley Barnes all hit the headlines before it emerged that Edin Dzeko was the main target.
A deal for the Bosnia and Herzegovina international is looking more and more unlikely though with salary and length of contract an issue between the two parties, it’s also understood that Dzeko feels very comfortable in the Italian capital.
This has left Marina Granovskaia scrambling for an alternative option before the deadline and Olivier Giroud could well arrive at Stamford Bridge.
An initial offer of around £15 million was accepted by Arsenal, although in another twist of this unusual window, Chelsea then withdrew their bid as the Gunners hadn’t responded to it in time.
Giroud’s future hangs in the balance with it clear there is no future for him at the Emirates Stadium should Aubameyang arrive, furthermore Chelsea will not allow Michy Batshuayi to leave until they sign a forward of their own, this in turn holds up the deal for the Gabon international with Dortmund eyeing Batshuayi as his replacement at the Westfalenstadion.
So just why are Premier League clubs rushing to secure deals midway through a season?
Well you can look at Manchester City’s aforementioned lead at the top as one contributing factor; every other team is so far behind Guardiola’s charges that the planning for next season has already begun.
Teams are already looking to how they can challenge City next season and are looking to secure players early and give them six months or so to settle in their new surroundings.
The Premier League bringing forward their own transfer deadline to the day before the start of the season may also have something to do with it, European clubs will know English teams have less time to work with in the summer and prices could increase yet further, teams may be trying to get in before this eventuality.
Of course, it must be accepted that a lot of these deals are being done due to circumstance, Philippe Coutinho’s £142 million sale gave Liverpool the funds to sign the Dutch defender, also Sanchez’s contract dispute forced a deal.
This summer also sees a World Cup being held in Russia, tournaments almost always have an impact on transfers with players not wanting to focus on their future and then going straight on their end of season holiday straight after the tournament ends.
Premier League teams could be looking to avoid facing these problems by getting much of their business done now.
Whether or not this is a sign of things to come in future January windows that is as yet unclear, although I suspect not, however for the moment it has made for one of the more exciting deadline days for some time.
Written by Chris Winterburn
Follow Chris on Twitter @cmwinterburn
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