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The general consensus about the January transfer window is that it is a bit of a non-event.
Whereas in the summer rumours fly left right and centre about every top player switching their allegiances for the cost of a small army, in January everyone knows that no one is going to abandon ship half-way through a campaign, so the rumours rarely ring true.
This January though, things were different.
Coutinho left for Barcelona, Sanchez took up the piano and moved to Old Trafford, Manchester City remembered they did actually have a few spare pennies lying around and spent a world record fee for a defender and to conclude the whole thing, there was a majestically intricate triangle deal involved three clubs and three strikers.
Club 1 was Arsenal.
Having lost Sanchez for a song they needed a pick me up, like when you lose your girlfriend and buy a sex doll (well sort of). On the brink of another hope sapping season and with Mesut Ozil’s allegiance up in the air, Arsenal needed to make a statement of intent.
Furthermore, with their last statement of intent, record signing Alexandre Lacazette out of form and out of favour, Arsenal decided they wanted a new man up top and the man they wanted was, of course, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Club 2 was Chelsea.
Almost since the day he arrived Antonio Conte has been unhappy with Chelsea’s transfer policy. Last year his dissatisfaction was a simmering ripple, ameliorated by Chelsea’s charge to the title in record fashion.
But already David Luiz, integral last season has been cast off to sit alone in a broom closet, while Conte also continued his push to get shot of Michy Batshuayi, who despite his obvious talent, Conte has never rated.
What Chelsea wanted was a big man up top to take the pressure off Alvaro Morata and the man they looked to was Peter Crouch. After a short while Chelsea, like everyone else, realised that was ridiculous and turned their attention to the footballer most resembling a show jumping pony, Olivier Giroud.
Club 3 was Borussia Dortmund.
Completing the triumvirate of clubs looking to shift around their strike force, Borussia Dortmund were seemingly ready to let Aubameyang, after years of rumours and more than the odd internal suspension, move on at last.
But under considerable pressure in the League, they needed a replacement and the man they looked to Michy Batshuayi, creating a beautiful transfer triangle.
After a few days in which it was difficult to tell if such a complicated deal could actually take place (you sell first, no you sell first), the three transfers took place. Aubameyang arrived in North London for £58m, Giroud went to West London for £17.5m and Batshuayi joined Dortmund on loan.
After just over a month at their respective new clubs, the time has come to ask, which club got the best deal. Here is why the answer to that question is Dortmund.
Club 1, Arsenal.
A player’s arrival can only be judged on the impact they make on their new team and Aubameyang’s has been negligible. The Gabonese speedster has one goal to his name, scoring with a delightful chip that proved he possesses all the beauty and elegance required to play for Arsenal (even if it was the clearest offside of the season).
But in Arsenal’s 3-0 defeat to Manchester City (the second one that is), he missed a penalty. Naturally, everyone misses penalties from time to time, but the fact remains that signing Aubameyang has so far taken Arsenal no closer to their goal of getting in the top four.
The new man looks more at home patting his badge in a viral video than doing the dirty work on a Saturday afternoon and while that will no doubt put him right at home in a dressing room full of high potential players who covet snapchat streaks over silverware, it isn’t going to do much to stop Arsenal’s inexorable slide into irrelevancy.
Furthermore, with Arsenal now 10 points off the top four and the Europa League their only realistic shot of sneaking into Europe’s top competition, the club will not be able to call on Aubameyang, who is cup tied. With 6 months to settle in, the story may be different because Arsenal do have a quality player on their hands, but so far it looks like Arsenal would have been better off keeping hold of Giroud and putting the remaining £40m in a high interest ISA.
Club 2, Chelsea. A few short weeks ago Chelsea were battling Manchester United for second, but their form since the new year has been shocking, in the month of January Chelsea drew five games, won just twice and lost twice, including a 3-0 home defeat to Bournemouth. And as with Aubameyang across the way, Giroud has had little impact on Conte’s fortunes.
Despite a faint upturn in their League form, Chelsea have suffered further defeats to Watford and Manchester United, with Giroud so far only scoring in a 4-0 romp of Hull City. Furthermore, in their tie against Barcelona Conte opted to play Eden Hazard as a false 9, starting both Morata and Giroud on the bench and only the former making it onto the pitch.
Having scored 105 goals for Arsenal and standing as the Premier League player with the 2nd most goals scored as a substitute ever, there is no doubt that Giroud has quality. But so far it appears that he is destined to play another super-sub role for Chelsea.
With his minutes limited it is hard to lay the blame at Giroud’s feet, but with Chelsea continuing to slide down the table, it is impossible to claim his arrival has been a successful one so far.
Club 3, Borussia Dortmund.
By contrast, Michy Batshuayi has fit into the Dortmund side like greasy hand in a glove, a.k.a. smoothly. With two goals and an assist on his debut, along with a brace in Dortmund’s Europa League tie against Atalanta, Batshuayi has played an integral role in Dortmund’s impressive domestic form, winning 4 of the last five, and their progress to the round of 16 in Europe.
So impressive has his impact been that Dortmund’s only problem now is how to keep hold of the Belgian. The only player of the three to make a loan move, there are already question marks about Batshuayi’s future.
It is conceivable that a new Chelsea manager might place the faith in Batshuayi that his performances warrant and welcome him back to the club with open arms, while other clubs across Europe are also be taking a peak too.
However, with £58m in the bank from the Aubameyang deal, Dortmund will have a say in whether they keep hold of a man who has seemingly been set free in Germany, while the extent to which Dortmund will want to keep hold of their new man is also reflected in the seamless manner in which he has filled the vacant ‘Batman’ role up top.
For Batshuayi and Dortmund, it really was mean to be.
Written by Scott Pope
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