With the window now slammed shut once again, analysts have been pointing to the marked decrease in the total money spent and the number of loan deals that have gone through, doubtlessly reflecting the current financial climate. It is time to go beyond the economics and look at what clubs have got from the market. After a relatively quiet start, which I have previously discussed, the second half of the month always provides us with more activity.
Glasgow Celtic has been a club with something of a revolving door this month. Out have gone former defensive mainstays Gary Caldwell and Steven McManus, popular Australian striker Scott McDonald, midfielder Barry Robson, and promising wingback Danny Fox, along with Willo Flood and Chris Killen, who have struggled to perform in the SPL.
The majority of these players have joined former boss Gordon Strachan, now at Middlesbrough, and it is interesting to note that of these seven, only one player moved on was signed by current manager Tony Mowbray. The same number of players has been brought in by the former West Bromwich Albion boss. South Korean central midfielder Ki Sung-Yong has started well and the loan signing of Edison Braafheid from Bayern Munich is very much like-for-like with the departed Fox, but tall centre backs Jos Hooiveld and the nineteen-year old Thomas Rogne have such big boots to fill. The Dutchman, 26, has played in the Eredivise before spells in the Austrian, Finnish and Swedish leagues, winning the 2009 Allsvenskan with AIK. The young Norwegian on the other hand could be the future.
Up front the Bhoys have brought in three new options. Danish striker Morten Rasmussen hit twelve in fifteen games in the Danish Superliga and opened his account for Celtic in the 1-0 away win to Hamilton at the weekend. Fulham forward Diomansy Kamara has also joined on loan. Although he has never really cut it in the Premier League, he had a highly successful campaign in the Championship under Mowbray at The Hawthorns in the 2006-07 season.
Last and by no means least is the loan signing of Tottenham Hotspur striker and Ireland’s record goalscorer Robbie Keane. No longer guaranteed a regular starting place at Spurs due to the revival of the Crouch-Defoe partnership from Portsmouth, Harry Redknapp has let his team captain join the Glasgow club until the end of the season. There is great expectation on Keane’s shoulders but he is of a completely different class from the usual tests SPL defenders face. For me and many other commentators this is definitely the story of the transfer window.
Turning our attention from Scotland to East London and relegation threatened West Ham. Prior to the opening of the window, Hammers boss Gianfranco Zola saw his forward options depleted by injuries to Carlton Cole and Guillermo Franco and the sad but unsurprising retirement of another ‘England-nearly’ Dean Ashton. Despite recalling young Freddie Sears from cash-strapped Crystal Palace, they displayed their striking problems to a wider audience on Third Round weekend in the FA Cup defeat against Arsenal. Their lack of cutting edge was so obvious, even my aunt commented on it! Since then the East London club have only scored against fellow strugglers Portsmouth, with no out-and-out centre forward scoring since the end of November.
In response to this three new striking options have made their way to Upton Park. Blackburn’s Benni McCarthy is in my view the best of these. He has never failed to get double figures in all competitions since coming to England in 2006, but has found his opportunities limited under Sam Allardyce at Ewood Park and is no doubt anxious to secure a regular starting place to ensure that he plays for the host nation come the World Cup. South Africa’s record goalscorer has been joined by Brazilian forward Ilan signed from French top flight side Saint-Étienne. Though skilful, a fact reflected by his three national caps during the 2003 Confederations Cup, he joins the Hammers from a side that has gone from UEFA Cup qualification in 2008 to barely staying in La Championnat last season and that continues to struggle now. It may be better to judge him by his assists than goal contributions; at 29, it is not too late for him to silence his critics though.
Lastly, West Ham has secured the loan signing of Egyptian striker Mido. This for me is a move that makes no sense whatsoever. His attitude problem is well documented, having twice been banned from playing for his national side; a selfish ego is the last thing the East London oufit, a point above the relegation zone, needs. Countless lazy, non-committed, passionless displays at Tottenham, Middlesbrough and Wigan count against Mido being worthwhile. What makes Zola think he can get the best out of a player who has worked with more experienced and well respected coaches like Martin Jol and Steve Bruce? The best Hammers fans can hope for seems to be what has happened with the Egyptian before: initial promising displays with the odd goal here and there being replaced by slothful performances that upset the fans. Those that cite his relatively bad injury record as an excuse should be reminded that far better players than Mido have returned from such setbacks without the attitude. All that said I loved Gianfranco Zola as a player and therefore I wish him every success in the dugout. West Ham can stay up, if not necessarily due to the players they have brought in, then because of those like Carlton Cole, Scott Parker and Matthew Upson who they have kept hold of this month.
Staying in London, Fulham have brought in Nick Shorey on loan from Aston Villa, previously on a similar deal at Championship promotion hopefuls Nottingham Forest. His displays for the Trent-side team were excellent and they were sorry to lose him. Shorey provides a better defensive option at left back than Paul Konchesky and is a better bet than operating Irish full-back Stephen Kelly on the wrong side. Joining him at Craven Cottage is Italian-Nigerian target man Stefano Okaka on loan from AS Roma. At only 20 he is still a player in development, so we should not judge him too harshly, but it is his departure from the Stadio Olimpico which is puzzling. In need of a large presence up front, Claudio Ranieri was not able to call on Luca Toni and Mirko Vucinic in the last game against Siena due to muscular strains, leaving Julio Baptista as the only fit attacking player of big build.
Wigan have signed England youth international Victor Moses for £2.5 million from Crystal Palace. Along with Middlesbrough’s Adam Johnson who joined Manchester City also on deadline day, the Nigerian born forward will have to step up to the Premier League. Johnson has 11 goals and 5 assists in half a Championship season, whilst Moses has found the net on six occasions, grabbing two assists. These players will only develop if played regularly. The departure of Robinho back to Brazil has increased Johnson’s chances of getting into the match-day squad, but his only chance of forcing his way into the XI is if Sky Blues boss Roberto Mancini does not continue to play Craig Bellamy wide and the good form of Martin Petrov begins to dwindle. As for Moses his best bet of getting into the Wigan starting line-up may be playing off Hugo Rodallega rather than on the wing as Charles N’Zogbia has been excellent on the left for the Lactics. That said they are both signings very much with the future in mind. Staying with the northwest club, they signed Bolivian striker Marcelo Moreno Martins on loan from Ukrainian side Shaktar Donetsk. At 22 he has already made a name for himself on the international stage, scoring home goals in La Paz against Uruguay, Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina during the World Cup Qualifiers for the national team. That said he is yet to prove himself in domestic leagues outside South America.
Stoke City have swooped for Portsmouth’s Bosnian goalkeeper Asmir Begovic for £3.25 million. He looks as though he has great potential. Sunderland signed Matt Kilgallon from Sheffield United, Alan Hutton on loan from Tottenham and Benjani from Manchester City. The centre back is looking to get his first real crack at the Premier League, having been used sparingly in the top flight when at the Blades. Hutton’s move to the northeast will hopefully help him to recapture his excellent form for Rangers and Scotland. How much Benjani will play seems to me to depend upon how unsettled Trinidadian target man Kenwyne Jones is at the speculation linking him with a move to Liverpool. Besides letting Robbie Keane join Celtic on loan, Tottenham have re-signed Younes Kaboul from Portsmouth and former Chelsea and Bolton frontman Eidur Gudjohnsen has returned to the Premier League on loan from AS Monaco.
Sadly there isn’t enough room to talk about all the transfers that have gone through in my blog, but any comments on the transfers that has gone through this January is most welcome.