In the end, Thursday’s transfer deadline in the Premier League proved more about what didn’t happen, than what did.
Of the major names mooted to be on the move, most stayed put while there was some desperately haphazard work by Arsenal and, to a slightly lesser extent, Chelsea.
The question of why certain clubs leave it so late to try and complete multi-million pound deals will be an eternal mystery, although this was a summer when player power was reduced.
Clubs steadfastly held onto their assets, and many stars of the English top-flight were denied transfers away, held back by ill-conceived long-term contracts which could have huge ramifications in the years to come.
With the madness finally over, here is our assessment of who emerged winners and losers…
West Brom simultaneously managed to keep hold of their best player in centre-back Jonny Evans and strengthened throughout their team.
They were slight champions of circumstance, in the sense that City and Arsenal’s pursuit of other targets meant interest in Evans never had the time to properly materialise, but the 29-year-old remains a West Brom player and that is the most important thing.
However, where Pulis and technical director Nick Hammond excelled was in recruitment. Polish midfielder Grzegorz Krychowiak is potentially a top-six quality player whose career had been drifting at Paris Saint-Germain.
His methodical approach may need some time to adapt to the chaos of English football but if he gets anywhere near the form he showed for Sevilla in 2015/16, he will prove an excellent acquisition, even it is for only a season.
Kieran Gibbs may not have proved as good as what was first perceived but is still a proven Premier League performer and will add dynamism down the left flank, something the Baggies have lacked.
Chelsea endured a mixed day as Antonio Conte tried to hurriedly bolster his squad with four players but ended up with two in Drinkwater and Davide Zappacosta.
However, for the midfielder it was an evening to savour as, he signed for a Champions League outfit challenging for the title.
He won’t be an immediate first-choice, like at Leicester, but if he can force his way into the side has a familiar ally in N’Golo Kante and possesses the sort of tactically-disciplined and simple approach to the game Conte like.
Just by being a Chelsea player alone boosts his chances of making the England World Cup squad significantly. He just needs to get in the team.
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) September 1, 2017
It looked like it was going to be a long and cold winter for the French centre-back who was so good while on loan at Crystal Palace at the end of last season but any sign of a return to Selhurst Park looked to be have been terminated by Liverpool’s rather inflated valuation.
With Palace seemingly out of the race, four months spent in the reserve team and the odd League Cup appearance was what Sakho had to look forward to in a World Cup year.
However, eventually Liverpool relented, perhaps fuelled by the opportunity to recoup some of the £35m spent on Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Sakho is now a full-time Palace player.
Given how poorly they’ve defended so far this season he won’t have to do an enormous amount to look good, either.
— Crystal Palace F.C. (@CPFC) September 1, 2017
Sometimes it’s not just what you know, but who you know, and Clement’s relationship with Carlo Ancelotti certainly greased the wheels of Swansea being able to acquire of the best Under-21 players in the world in Renato Sanches on loan.
Of course, Clement’s own commitment to quick, possession-based football reassured Bayern Munich he was going to a good home, where he should start in a system which can rebuild his confidence and also free of any ‘big club’ pressure.
And while Sanches may only be there for a season, based on his performances for Benfica, he has the potential to be a real force.
ALEX OXLADE CHAMBERLAIN
It’s remarkable how quickly Arsenal fans turned on a player they had once held in such high-regard: “inconsistent” and “overrated” were the common themes as the England international turned his back on £180,000-a-week to sign a £120,000-a-week contract at Anfield.
But his career was stalling quite significantly with Arsene Wenger yet to truly find a position for him – after six years of development.
At Liverpool he will almost certainly be exclusively used in a central midfield role, with Klopp rotating between him, Emre Can, Jordan Henderson and Georginio Wijnaldum.
Then we can maybe see just how inconsistent and overrated he is.
— Alex Ox-Chamberlain (@Alex_OxChambo) August 31, 2017
ARSENE WENGER/IVAN GAZIDIS
Where to start? Arsenal are considered the sixth-richest club in the world, have boasted year-on-year revenue growth since moving to the Emirates and are desperate to get back in the Champions League after last season’s fifth-place.
It’s the perfect formula for a serious recruitment drive with Wenger’s two-year contract being a “catalyst for change”, according to Gazidis.
Yet, eight clubs spent more than them, with their only signings being Sead Kolasinac and Alexandre Lacazette (who, admittedly, are very good players).
But it’s how Arsenal conducted themselves that reeks of a club lacking any organisation or direction.
Bidding £90m for Thomas Lemar, three months after declaring £50m was too much, while letting Gibbs go for £3m less than West Brom offered earlier in the summer and still no sign of anything resembling a dominant defensive midfielder or anything approaching a top-quality centre-back to play alongside, or in place of, the increasingly brittle Laurent Koscielny.
Wenger can point to retaining Alexis Sanchez as their most important move (more of that in a minute), and receiving £35m for an unhappy Oxlade-Chamberlain while maintaining consistency in the squad, but this is a group of players who have consistently underwhelmed who have probably reached their ceiling as a team.
Where is the improvement, individually and collectively, coming from? Lacazette and Kolasinac, aside. The Gunners also still possess 10 first-team players out of contract in the next two years. An utter mess.
Given his contract situation, the Chilean would have expected on June 1 to have had his future sorted fairly sharply. Why would Arsenal turn down a huge fee from City for a player who they will lose for free in 12 months?
Except, they did, and Sanchez has been denied a shot at the title and must return to a dressing room which has supposedly turned on him due to his sulking.
He will get a transfer in 12 months, and is still playing for a top team, but it’s one he clearly doesn’t want to be a part of, nor do his team-mates want him to be a part of either. It’s going to be interesting to how he reacts.
He didn’t want to sign for Chelsea, he preferred Tottenham. That much is clear after he bailed out of his medical on Thursday night.
In a way, that’s to be admired, even if the idea of turning down millions to play for the champions of England is a tricky one to process. But Barkley either didn’t feel he was truly wanted and/or didn’t think he would play.
However, now he returns to Everton with his tail between his legs with Gylfi Sigurdsson and Wayne Rooney signed in his position and his relationship with manager Ronald Koeman severely severed.
VIRGIL VAN DIJK
It’s a more extreme case down at Southampton as at least Barkley hasn’t been publicly banished from first-team affairs and does have the cushion of being out of contract next summer. For Van Dijk, he’s a Saints player until 2022.
With neither Liverpool or Chelsea pushing for his signature, he now has to fight his way back into the team. On ability alone, that should be no trouble but the Dutchman has burnt several bridges in trying to engineer a move away.
Newly-promoted Newcastle had arguably the worst window of all 20 clubs. A Championship-quality squad lacking numbers in key areas, yet owner Ashley kept his hand firmly in his pocket.
It’s only a matter of time before manager Rafael Benitez walks, who, after a day of bizarre of inactivity, still remains the club’s No1 asset. Something Ashley remains blissfully ignorant about.
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