The January transfer window can sometimes be a bit of a non-event, as teams are reluctant to let top players leave in the middle of the season. This year brought some big moves though, including the signing of striker Gonzalo Higuain by Chelsea and Arsenal bringing in midfielder Denis Suarez from Barcelona. Other major moves saw Chelsea loan Michy Batshuayi to Crystal Palace and Newcastle spend £24 million to bring in Miguel Almiron in what was a pretty dramatic and hectic month.
Chelsea bringing Higuain to the club makes a lot of sense, as the player has experience of working with manager Maurizio Sarri when they were both at Napoli. That coincided with the best period in his career, as he equalled the record number of goals in a season for Serie A, hitting the net 36 times during the 2015/16 season. Sarri is under some pressure at Chelsea after the team’s title challenge failed to survive the autumn and the FA Cup has become very important as a way of making something out of the season. The signing of Higuain has seen the bookies reduce the odds on them lifting the cup to 9/2, so a bet calculator suggests that they are a decent – if safe – wager. However Higuain is an unusual signing for the club as they rarely spend big sums on players over 30 and he needs to hit the ground running for them if it is to bring FA cup success.
This is by no means a guaranteed outcome because Higuain has been struggling for goals, form and even game time during the first half of the season. Chelsea signed him from AC Milan where he had managed eight goals since the start of the season – but just one of them came in his last 12 games for the club. Alvaro Morata had not been hitting the heights up front for the Blues but his departure to Atletico Madrid on loan during January means Chelsea are short of other striking options. If Sarri can coach Higuain back to the heights of 2015/16 it could prove the best deal of the window though and revive Chelsea’s stuttering season.
Arsenal also made transfer moves during January, signing Denis Suarez from Barca. This is a loan move that could be made permanent in the summer, and again it is a case of the manager bringing in a player that he has worked with before. Suarez played for Unai Emery when the latter was manager of Sevilla and has since appeared more than 70 times for Barcelona. Despite this, the club has been criticised publicly by former players Alan Smith and Emmanuel Petit for not addressing their ongoing weakness at the back by signing defenders. There is no doubt that the recent defeats by both Manchester clubs highlighted these flaws and how far behind the best clubs Arsenal still are, so a question mark remains over their January window.
Two teams who definitely appear to have finished the window stronger are Crystal Palace and Newcastle. Snatching striker Batshuayi from under the noses of Tottenham is a great deal for Palace and should make them less reliant on Wilfried Zaha for goals. Newcastle made a splash by spending nearly £25 million on Miguel Almiron and putting money on Rafa Benitez staying at the club this summer is now a much better gamble than it would have been at the start of January. The Spaniard is said to want assurances of squad investment if he is to remain at Newcastle and breaking the club transfer record on the attacking midfielder is a good way to start convincing him. Almiron should give the rather toothless Newcastle attack a bit more bite during the latter half of this season and give them a better chance of surviving in the Premier League. More signings will be expected in the summer though.
Sarri reuniting with Gonzalo Higuain has the potential to be a game-changer for them between now and the end of the season. While he is not young, Higuain has plenty of quality and Sarri has demonstrated the ability to get the best of out of him.