TRIBAL TRENDS TRANSFERS – THE JANUARY REVIEW: Aubameyang joining Arsenal?; Man Utd swoop for Alexis?; Spurs shrewd Moura buy?;
We saw some huge movers and shakers during this January window, and it should provide the biggest shake up you'll see, particularly in England.
The loss of Philippe Coutinho is yet to have shown at Liverpool but the rest of the top clubs made inconceivable transfers bestrewn with interest and curiosity. Incredibly, Manchester City missed their man in Alexis Sanchez but they hardly seem bothered. Sitting atop by 13 points, I wouldn't be either.
Here are my top 5 January window transfers:
5. Lucas Moura
Departs: Paris Saint Germain
Moves to: Tottenham Hotspur
PSG took a huge gamble on the Brazilian international by signing him for an astonishing £38 million (€45 million) in 2012. He made 153 appearances, scored 34 goals and won trophies every year for the last 5 years. Lucas has struggled for game time in Paris, given the additions of Neymar Jr and Kylian Mbappe to the rich Parisian side this past year.
Now it's Tottenham's turn to be taking a gamble. He looks fantastic on paper lining up with the likes of Dele Alli and Harry Kane, and will give the squad some good pace in the race for champions league places.
However, we're talking about a winger who has played in a mere 6 matches, totalling 79 minutes this season. Dream Team UK says that has Mauricio Pochettino a little less than impressed with his latest £25 million signing.
While the boss says he'll have to earn his place, it could spell disaster for Mousa Sissoko. Despite having played 29 of 30 Premier League games for Spurs, fans are still divided over the Frenchman's inclusion in the squad. Let's face it, Lucas is definitely not match fit, but once he is he'll be looking to make a serious impact at White Hart Lane. It'll take some time but I feel this Brazilian international is looking for a big step in his career, and he's made a huge one by moving from France to England.
4. Virgil van Dijk
Moves to: Liverpool
Remember when Manchester United bought Rio Ferdinand for about £30 million back in 2002? It's essentially the same thing, except Liverpool are the ones spending truckloads on a defender.
You won't see a centre-back being sold for anywhere near the amount, but £75 million for Virgil van Dijk had the transfer world abuzz.
If you question his addition to the squad, look no further than his very first game. The scene was set, tied 1-1 in the Merseyside derby, a fixture that's supercharged in any competition. Enter van Dijk, who scores the winning goal on his baptism of fire debut to dump their rivals out of the FA Cup. The stuff that fairy tales are made of.
While the price tag is a little questionable, as well as Liverpool's obsession with continually buying Southampton players (6 players in 4 years), the Dutchman boosts Liverpool's backline immensely.
Klopp's rotation policy won't be changed, but the addition of the 6-foot-4 defender will give more options to whichever central pairing Klopp chooses. A welcome addition no doubt.
3. Philippe Coutinho
Departs: Liverpool FC
Moves to: FC Barcelona
Arguably one of the worst kept transfer secrets this summer, the Brazilian playmaker was being courted by Barcelona for the last few months. Finally, he left Liverpool to get January off to a flying, £140 million start.
His move subsequently sent Liverpool on their way to the bank and cashing in, while Barcelona get their man after months of chasing, interest and several bids along the way.
Big questions will be asked of his impact on the squad. I mean, he's got a huge price tag, and it's the silky smooth Coutinho we're talking about. But this is Barcelona, this is the biggest club he'll have gone to in his career.
His chances of making the squad are given a boost by the fact that the Catalan giants are 11 points ahead in La Liga, but it also means he's unable to play Champions League until next season, making his appearances strictly limited to Spanish competitions.
His first appearance could be indicative of the future, coming on as a replacement for the legendary Andrés Iniesta. He might have to wait a little while for his starting XI berth, but Barcelona have full faith in the 25-year-old Brazilian.
To be replacing one of the club's longest serving players is no easy task, simply in a game or in a long-term sense. Big expectations come with a big price tag, but Coutinho will surely relish the opportunity.
2. Alexis Sanchez – Henrikh Mkhitaryan
Swap deal between Manchester United and Arsenal
After mentions of Juventus, Bayern Munich, and very nearly Manchester City, Alexis Sanchez stunned everyone when Manchester United stole the Chilean superstar from right under the noses of their rivals.
Surprisingly it came in the form of a trade deal, with the unwanted Henrikh Mkhitaryan moving to the Emirates Stadium.
Manchester United have made one of the greatest steals this window, no doubt. But was it really necessary, or did Jose Mourinho just want to get one over Pep Guardiola?
Sanchez is a readymade star, a finisher and a playmaker all in one. We know exactly what he's capable of and adds yet another level of firepower in the already dynamic United squad.
On the flip side of the coin, Arsenal have received an underrated playmaker who never got a chance to properly shine on the Premier League stage. Teams managed by Mourinho generally have one player who suffers and subsequently leaves.
Looking at their first couple of games for their respective clubs, Alexis has registered a goal while Henrikh has a hat trick of assists.
Having alleviated their wage bill and the constant questions about their future together, I think Arsenal came out winners here.
With the greatest of respect to Sanchez and United, it's not just tactically brilliant but very smart business as well. No doubt Alexis will do fantastic things for United, but you can't deny an immediate impact like Mkhitaryan's debut. Wow.
1. Pierre Emerick Aubameyang – Olivier Giroud – Michy Batshuayi
Aubameyang: Leaves Borussia Dortmund, moves to Arsenal
Giroud: Leaves Arsenal, moves to Chelsea
Batshuayi: Leaves Chelsea, moves to Borussia Dortmund (loan)
The nature of a straight swap deal as mentioned earlier is fairly unusual, but nonetheless very exciting. So what about a three way transfer spectacular?
All these men completed moves on January 31st, but Michy Batshuayi was the first to make a statement. A lack of faith from Antonio Conte and minimal game time at Chelsea frustrated Batshuayi, prompting the loan move to Dortmund.
Given it's only a loan move until the end of this season, he's out to prove something to the Blues' boss.
Sure enough, he did it in some style when he scored 2 goals, had a third disallowed and provided an assist in his very first game. He's the first player to score multiple goals on his Bundesliga debut since his predecessor, Pierre Emerick Aubameyang. Should he continue to thrive, Dortmund could make a play to replace the newest Arsenal man.
Speaking of the Gabonese international, Aubameyang finally made the move that has Arsenal fans in sheer excitement. We know they've fancied each other for a while, but when Sanchez moved to Old Trafford, it was only a matter of time before Arsenal and Aubameyang made their feelings known for each other and tied the knot for £56 million.
The detail that finalised his move to Arsenal was his old teammate, Henrikh Mkhitaryan signing for the London club as well. The pair played together at Borussia Dortmund, and Metro tells us that they combined for 59 goals and 31 assists together.
Everything seemed to fall into place perfectly when they combined for Aubameyang's first goal in the Premier League. A beautiful start to what could be one of the greatest partnerships the Premier League will see.
Lastly, the final transfer of this love triangle sees French international Olivier Giroud shift from one London club to another, trading up Arsenal for Chelsea. A shock to the football world, particularly to fans in London who are bewildered that Arsenal would sell directly to a rival.
According to Goal, Arsene Wenger had much admiration for Giroud but was willing to sell the Frenchman months ago. When they got their ideal men in Mkhitaryan and Aubameyang, it just made sense to let him go.
Giroud leaves Arsenal having scored some wonderful goals, a total of 105 in 253 games across all competitions. He says he's looking forward to being wanted by Antonio Conte, and he couldn't pass up playing for the champions.
It's a big move for any player, whether Arsenal fans will show remorse for his move across town is yet to be seen.
Some might see Giroud's move as a bit of a strange one taking into consideration his age, but everyone seems happy with where they went, particularly Batshuayi who looks a completely different man in Germany.
There were really no losers in this trade deal, but Arsenal came out on top in a huge way.
Ah January, you've been a delight. See you same time next year?