1. Saido Berahino
A MOVE THAT will likely come as much of a relief to West Brom as it will to Saido Berahino.
Berahino has seemingly been out of favour at the Baggies from as far back as August 2015.
When the club rejected a bid from Tottenham on Deadline Day, Berahino expressed unhappiness at their behaviour. He also wrote on Twitter that he would never play for them again under chairman Jeremy Peace.
After the controversy had died down, Berahino was ultimately brought back into the team, but the 23-year-old subsequently struggled to show the kind of form that triggered Tottenham’s interest in the first place.
Compared with 20 goals in 45 appearances in the 2014-15 campaign, the striker managed just seven goals in 35 appearances last season.
This year, Berahino has played just five times for the Baggies, failing to score a single goal, with his last appearance coming in the 1-0 loss to Bournemouth on 10 September.
Asked about his absent star back in December, West Brom manager Tony Pulis suggested the player’s problems were “both mental and physical”.
Now that he has finally earned the big transfer he sought, Berahino can surely get back to focusing fully on football after more than a year of unhappiness and uncertainty.
Once considered among English football’s hottest prospects, the Burundi-born attacker at the moment simply needs to prove he is still capable of performing well at a high level.
There was no doubt that Swansea urgently needed players.
The club were looking like strong candidates for relegation prior to the opening of the transfer window, though there have been signs of life at the Welsh club lately, since Paul Clement replaced Bob Bradley as manager.
Clement’s first game in charge, a 4-0 defeat at the hands of Arsenal, was not as poor a performance as the scoreline suggested.
They were denied a legitimate claim for a penalty with the game in the balance and more than matched Arsenal until Olivier Giroud’s opener took the wind out of the underdogs’ sails.
Moreover, their 3-2 win at Anfield the following week suggested these early signs of improvement were genuine.
Two of their four January signings, Martin Olsson and Tom Carroll, played in last week’s game, and both put in encouraging performances and looked like astute signings.
The more recently acquired Jordan Ayew, bought from Aston Villam also remains a player of considerable potential, who did well to score seven goals for such a struggling side last season. Meanwhile, Luciano Narsingh (£4m from PSV Eindhoven) is a versatile attacking midfielder with four goals in 16 caps for the Dutch national team.
But most crucially, the Swans have managed to hold onto arguably their two best players in Gylfi Sigurdsson and Fernando Llorente, both of whom scored against Liverpool.
Sigurdsson was also on target last night, hitting the winner in his side’s highly encouraging 2-1 victory over Southampton.
Problems remain, of course. Their defence has looked particularly porous since Ashley Williams’ departure in the summer, with the club having conceded more goals this season than any other Premier League team (52).
But with the new players brought in and the morale gained from the Liverpool and Southampton results adding a fresh impetus to proceedings, a degree of optimism about the club’s survival hopes has been restored.
3. West Ham
Granted, Dimitri Payet leaving West Ham during this window was far from ideal.
But as acrimonious exits go, the Hammers handled the situation fairly well. They behaved in a dignified manner and got a very good deal out of this unenviable situation – £25 million for a disaffected player who turns 30 in March is excellent business from the English club’s perspective.
Moreover, West Ham have brought in some decent players too.
Jose Fonte from Southampton for £8m looks a good deal for a proven Premier League defender, and provided he can remain injury-free, Robert Snodgrass from Hull City for £10.2m also appears to be an excellent buy.
The Hammers also appear to have been galvanised by recent developments — in Payet’s absence, they have won two Premier League games on the bounce.
4. Robbie Brady
After months of speculation that started around the time that Robbie Brady was impressing at Euro 2016, the Ireland international must be relieved to finally complete a move back to the Premier League.
Speaking last night, Burnley boss Sean Dyche cited Brady’s previous Premier League experience and ability to play in “two or three” positions as key factors in the decision to sign him.
Crystal Palace and Leicester City were both heavily linked with the Dubliner previously, but ultimately he sealed a deal to join the Premier’s League ninth-best team on the current standings.
With Jeff Hendrick and Stephen Ward already at Turf Moor, Burnley must now surely be every Irish football fan’s second favourite side following last night’s news.
Having already been relegated from the Premier League twice with Hull and Norwich, barring a spectacular freefall from the Clarets, the 25-year-old will avoid that fate for this season at least.
Some inconsistent performances in recent times, particularly when played at left-back, meant not all Norwich fans were overly disappointed to see the Dubliner leave.
Yet Brady’s energy, set-piece ability and footballing intelligence should make him a significant asset to his new team.
Even before the January Transfer Window, Hull looked as if they would need a miracle to avoid Premier League relegation.
Now, new manager Marco Silva’s task looks virtually impossible.
Jake Livermore, a reliable regular at the heart of their midfield, has joined West Brom for £10m.
Robert Snodgrass, who has scored 12 goals in 28 appearances so far this season, has also left to join West Ham for £10.2m.
In their place have come players who hardly looked equipped for a relegation dogfight. Lazar Markovic and Oumar Niasse have been brought in on loan from Liverpool and Everton respectively, having failed to set the world alight at their previous clubs.
Similarly, whether the eclectic mix of Andrea Ranocchia (from Inter Milan on loan), Markus Henriksen (from AZ Alkmaar for £4.5m), Omar Elabdellaoui (from Olympiakos on loan), Evandro Goebel (from Porto — undisclosed), Alfred N’Diaye (from Villarreal — loan) and Kamil Grosicki (from Rennes — £7m) can help turn the club around remains doubtful.
£14m is a decent fee for a full-back, but Patrick van Aanholt is a quality performer that Sunderland will certainly miss to a degree.
Having managed him last season, Palace boss Sam Allardyce knows all about the star’s talents, and the player had been a regular in the Sunderland side up until his move.
In addition, the players brought in by the Blacks Cats, in truth, seem a little hit and miss and smack of the kind of desperation that relegation-threatened clubs lacking in resources invariably tend to emit.
The struggling club’s underwhelming recent transfer activity has done little to disprove well-documented past complaints by Gary Neville and Roy Keane, among others, suggesting that footballers were reluctant to move to North East England. In-demand foreign talents generally tend to prefer the bright lights and greater allure of London, at least if conventional footballing wisdom is to be believed.
Moreover, after periods where their careers have stagnated, Joleon Lescott, Darron Gibson and Bryan Oviedo all have plenty to prove in the coming months as Sunderland bid for an umpteenth great escape from the drop.
3. Leonardo Ulloa
Leonardo Ulloa has unfortunately become this transfer window’s closest equivalent to Peter Odemwingie.
In January 2013, the then-West Brom player arrived at Loftus Road hoping for a move to QPR, but he was subsequently denied entry inside as no offer had been accepted for the player.
Despite joining Cardiff the following September, Odemwingie — who currently plies his trade at Rotherham — seldom looked the same player again, with this embarrassing scenario and the notoriety it created potentially affecting his subsequent unconvincing form.
Ulloa is in a similarly awkward position now. The striker’s agent has branded his manager Claudio Ranieri a “liar,” while the player has threatened to go on strike and suggested he will never play for the club again, after the Foxes rejected a bid from Sunderland for the disillusioned player.
The out-of-favour striker’s behaviour is a stark indication too of Leicester’s recent plight. In contrast with the incredible, unprecedented Premier League-winning scenes inspired by an unbreakable team spirit last season, the mood has patently soured at the King Power Stadium in of late, with the Foxes currently just two points above the relegation zone.
Ulloa’s anger is therefore Leicester’s turmoil in microcosm.
Like Leicester, Middlesbrough are struggling just above the relegation zone currently.
The beleaguered club have made just three signings in the transfer window: Rudy Gestede – Aston Villa (undisclosed), Patrick Bamford – Chelsea (£10m) and Adlene Guedioura – Watford (£4m).
These deals hardly are the mark of a team going all out to avoid relegation and coach Aitor Karanka recently admitted he was disappointed by the lack of transfer activity at the club.
“We need to improve the team, and the club knew a month and a half ago the players that I wanted,” Karanka told reporters on the eve of last night’s match with West Brom, which they ended up drawing 1-1.
“I always said the aim in the transfer window was to improve the squad. At the moment, we haven’t done that. We will be disappointed if nobody else comes in, but I have tried my best.
“Teams in our position are signing players for £14m – we are signing players that didn’t play in the Championship.”
He continued: “If we are expecting that Patrick (Bamford) was going to arrive and score five goals straight away then we are making a big mistake because he is not ready now.
“I don’t know why we haven’t signed our targets. That is not my job. I am the coach.
“When we got promotion last season, there were a lot of people who got a medal. A lot of people had a medal, and a lot of people had done their job. Now? I don’t know… With this group of players, the only thing I can do is trust and believe.”
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