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Do January transfers make much difference?

Posted by john smith on

Yesterday the office discussion was about January transfer's and how much of an immediate impact they can have, especially in relation to title chasing teams.

Tottenham have confirmed one new signing (at the time of writing. This could well be two by the time we publish), whilst Liverpool, Manchester City and Aston Villa have yet to sign anyone.

The view from the Arsenal fan in the office was that Arsenal were throwing away a chance of winning the league if they did not sign a player.

I countered this with the view that in January, teams tend to make big signings with an eye on the next season, using the second half of the current season as the acclimatisation period that many players (especially those coming from abroad) need.

This then led to a debate around the January signings that made an immediate impact and helped their team win the league within the first 6 months.

I did a little Google to see what players joined in January, and the impacct they made. This Top 20 January transfers in Premier League history blog is from January 2022.

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20. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang - Made a huge impact becomming the fastest player in Arsenal history to hit 50 goals, but never won the league.

19. Seamus Coleman - Premier League legend. Never won the league.

18. Tomas Soucek - Has not win the league with Everton.

17. Youri Tielemans - Had an immediate impact for Leicester City as they finished 9th.

16. Emmanuel Adebayor - Perfect example of someone who was signed with the next season in mind. Scored just 4 goals in 13 games in his first half a season.

15. Mikel Arteta - Did not win the league with Everton.

14. Jose Antonio Reyes - Had an impact with memorable goals against Chelsea in the FA Cup. Scored his only 2 Premier League goals after the league title was won.

13. Ashley Young - Did not win the league with Aston Villa.

12. Clint Dempsey - Did not win the league with Fulham.

11. Branislav Ivanovic - Won 3 league titles with Chelsea, but did not play a single second of football in the first 6 months of signing. Took a couple of seasons to become a regular.

10. Jermain Defoe - Loved a January transfer (Tottenham twice, Portsmouth and Sunderland). Did not win a league title at any of them, but saved Sunderland from relegation.

9. Gary Cahill - "Completed football". Finished 6th in his first season.

8. Philippe Coutinho - Liverpool won the Premier League after selling him to Barcelona.

7. Nemanja Matic - Re-joined in January for his second spell with Chelsea. Won the league, but 18-months after re-signing.

6. Robert Huth - Joined in January, played almost every game in Leicester City's run-in as they won the league. Had an impact.

5. Bruno Fernandes - Has not win the league with Man U

4. Patrice Evra - One of the best left backs in Premier League history. 5 league titles. Had a horrendous first 6 months with Manchester United and labelled a flop. First league title came 18-months after joining.

3. Luis Suarez - Goals nearly dragged Liverpool to the title, 3 and a half years after joining.

2. Nemanja Vidic - Signed in the same window as Evra. Won the league 18-months after joining.

1. Virgil van Dijk - Best Premier League defender in the last 5 years. Won the Champions League 18-month after signing, and the league the season after.

Analysing the above list supports my initial view - that players signed in January tend to begin making their impact 6 months later.

Robert Huth is the only man named above who had a big impact as his team won the league. Many of the others (Vidic, Evra, Van Dijk, Matic) were key in their teams winning the league (or Champions League) 18-months after they signed.

This then brings the debate on to whether teams should be buying in January for next year, so that they have the 6-month settling in period and will be ready to go come 2024/25.

The answer to that is "yes, they probably should", but that then does not escape from the fact that the players teams are looking at signining will probably not be available in January.

Looking at the names bought "for the next season", many of them were making a step up from a lesser team, so were available. Players that make an immediate impact tend to already be playing at a high level, for a top club. These sort of players tend to only be available in the summer.

Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal or whoever wins the league will do so due to the squads they have built over the last 5-years, pushed forward by the new signings from last summer. Any January signing will unlikely make a big difference maker in the second half of the season.


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