Connect in the back of the net

Transfer deadline day is an affair built around headlines and big-money deals between clubs that usually are in full blown panic mode.

2017’s offering was no different with Arsenal and Manchester City playing out a dramatic tug of war over Alexis Sanchez with the Blues banking on the Gunners’ pursuit of Thomas Lemar being successful and timely. It wasn’t.

With that said however, two of the window’s best signings did actually come in the final 48 hours of the window as West Bromwich Albion and Swansea City strengthened their respective midfields significantly.

For Tony Pulis it was the arrival of Grzegorz Krychowiak on a one-year loan deal which has sparked the most excitement around the Hawthorn’s since the 59-year-old’s arrival, whilst in South Wales it was Paul Clement’s Bayern Munich connections that facilitated a loan deal for the highly rated Renato Sanches.

Now neither player is coming to the Premier League with any long-term ambitions to remain with their new club with both deals coming as a marriage of convenience to a degree, but it must be said that both player has something to prove, and that could be crucial to West Brom and Swansea.

 

Elite defensive midfielder

Krychowiak is a truly elite defensive midfielder; there is simply no other way to view the Polish international.

His time at Sevilla was exceptional with his two seasons in Andalusia seeing him lift the Europa League twice as well as being part of the La Liga Team of the Season in 2014/15.

At 27 years old he is in his prime and it must be remembered that West Brom are getting a player who was consistently among the best in his position in La Liga for two years. So impressive were his performances at the Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, Paris Saint-Germain parted with £35 million exactly 12 months ago to sign him.

A difficult debut season followed but that was more due to the lack of cohesion in the French capital last term than anything Krychowiak was doing differently.

Breaking into a midfield consisting of Blaise Matuidi and Marco Verratti in and around his position was always going to be difficult.

It is worth remembering for context that Matuidi has just joined Champions League finalists Juventus whilst Verratti was subject of a summer long campaign from Barcelona to try and bring him to the Camp Nou. There is no shame in being unable to break that partnership.

 

Fills a great need for Pulis

Settling in Paris was ultimately impossible with Unai Emery clearly unable to stamp his own mark on the team and with Adrien Rabiot, a fan favourite, returning to fitness it was always likely Krychowiak would enjoy very little game time in a World Cup year.

For Pulis it fills an area of great need in his team.

Irrespective of their unbeaten start to the Premier League season it has been clear that the club have needed a defensive midfielder since last summer. Claudio Yacob has never quite been able to recapture the form he showed upon arrival in England and a move for William Carvalho was explored by the Baggies.

Ultimately the transfer fee and the wages of the player proved problematic and such a deal never got off the ground but in the age of massive television revenue, simply taking on a large percentage of Krychowiak’s salary is hardly an issue at The Hawthorns.

There can be no question marks over the defensive solidity of the team at present with Jonny Evans’ failure to secure a move on deadline day an even bigger boost. Krychowiak will sit just in front of the back four and be entrusted with protecting them in the way he did in Seville, but don’t underestimate him in terms of creativity.

West Bromwich Albion have been a direct team ever since the former Stoke coach’s arrival but in some matches they could do with being a little more expansive. Now there is a way to do this without barrelling into such a change head-on as Crystal Palace have done with their appointment of Frank de Boer, and the Polish midfielder can help.

His distribution is simple but effective and there is a reason Gerard Deulofeu and Ever Banega had been made to look so comfortable on the ball during their time with Sevilla, it was because Krychowiak was providing them with good service in dangerous areas.

 

Sanches, a monumental coup for Swansea

For Swansea City it is clear that attracting a player of Sanches potential and reputation is also a monumental coup.

It is also a very cost effective way of making up for losing Gylfi Sigurdsson’s creativity following his sale to Everton, although the Portuguese midfielder is by far the more dynamic of the two.

Manchester United were desperate to sign him in 2016 but keeping their Louis van Gaal plans close to their chest ultimately cost them. Bayern Munich swooped in and committed to a deal that could cost them £73 million with performance related bonuses but around a year later he is viewed as not being ready to play for the Bavarian giants.

Sanches’ debut season was littered with disappointments.

His participation in Portugal’s Euro 2016 campaign ensured he basically had no pre-season with his new teammates in Germany and along with a new manager also joining; a different style was being implemented to the previous year.

There was no time to carry a teenager as part of this process and as a result of not exploding onto the Bundesliga scene initially, the pressure simply increased with every under-par performance.

Eventually Carlo Ancelotti decided Sanches wasn’t ready to play regularly and he managed just 618 Bundesliga minutes out of a possible 3,060.

It was obvious that the former Benfica sensation was not going to find match time any easier to come by this season either once Sebastian Rudy and James Rodriguez joined the club.

With Leon Goretzka set to follow on a free transfer in 2018 there is a feeling in Bavaria that the Sanches loan was convenient in the sense that a return to form could make the now 20-year-old a much more sellable asset next summer.

 

Hungry to succeed and an injection of needed quality

For Clement it works out perfectly as he gets a creative, powerful midfielder who is hungry to succeed. The physicality of the Premier League won’t faze him, although his in-match fitness could do with improving as he often runs on empty before the 65th minute of play.

Swansea are a team that needed quality following their relegation battle last term and in Sanches they are getting a massive injection of it. His box-to-box presence will make him a useful player in transitional phases of the game and he can create chances out of nothing.

It is worth looking back to his time with Benfica and his cameos at Euro 2016 to truly grasp how good a signing this could be, he can adapt to the pace of a match very quickly and is exciting to watch.

In the quarter-final against Poland, Fernando Santos’ Portugal found themselves 1-0 down to a Robert Lewandowski goal.

With his team struggling, Sanches produced a goal out of absolutely nothing as he used his power to run from a wide-right position, working a one-two with Nani and then firing a shot from 20 yards into the bottom corner of the net.

It was the sort of goal that if you blinked at the start of the move then you would have missed one of the tournament’s most memorable moments.

This ability to produce out of nothing is priceless in the Premier League, at both ends of the table, and Sanches’ penchant for this illustrates just why he is the perfect replacement for the Iceland international.

 

The Portuguese prodigy is in the right environment

Environment is almost always a crucial part of loan moves.

David Beckham’s short loan spell with Preston North End is always cited as important in his own physical development as he faced much older players in a tougher setting.

For Sanches the Swansea City environment is just as important as him actually playing football. It is no secret that Clement is regarded as one of the best ‘coaches’ around with his numerous spells as an assistant to Ancelotti not coming merely by coincidence.

Sanches needs to be coached desperately.

He is too raw at the moment and he needs to improve his tactical understanding and working closely with somebody he knows could work perfectly for him. There is also the presence of former world class midfielder Claude Makelele to consider as well.

Swansea are aware they won’t sign the Bayern Munich midfielder permanently and that the best they can hope for is a tremendous single season where he steers them clear of relegation.

His arrival buys the club time because the reality is, replacing Sigurdsson with less than a fortnight to go until the transfer window closed would be difficult.

A long-term shortlist can now be drawn up whilst there is confidence their new loan signing is good enough to drag the team forward.

 

Sensational moves on paper

Premier League clubs securing high profile players shouldn’t come as a surprise in 2017 but the fact that two of the division’s traditional strugglers have signed two incredibly gifted footballers in a crucial area of the pitch is rather fascinating.

Both players have to settle now but on paper these are two sensational moves that only serve to make the Premier League that bit more difficult and exciting.

 

Written by Chris Winterburn

Follow Chris on Twitter @cmwinterburn

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