The Hard Tackle analyses Arsenal’s transfer business and gives its verdict of the La Liga leaders’ performance in the January transfer window
The winter transfer window usually sees very little activity, with sides only desperate for improvement scouring the market for possible reinforcements. This time around though, records were broken all across Europe as clubs continued splashing the big bucks.
La Liga clubs, in particular, spent more money than ever before, with a total transfer outlay worth £250 million. That is ten times more than the total all 20 clubs spent last January, although the bulk of it came from one club – Barcelona.
The Blaugrana may be the runaway leaders in the Spanish top flight, but that hasn’t stopped them from strengthening their squad further. The Hard Tackle now takes a look at how Barcelona fared this winter after what was a topsy turvy window in Europe.
INS: Philippe Coutinho, Yerry Mina, Sergi Samper (loan terminated)
OUTS: Javier Mascherano, Arda Turan (loan), Gerard Deulofeu (loan), Rafinha (loan)
MVA (Most Valuable Addition): Philippe Coutinho
Xavi’s departure from Camp Nou hadn’t just left spirits low at Barcelona, but also a void that the club hasn’t managed to fill up until now. With Andres Iniesta in the twilight of his career as well, it will be the end of an era for the Blaugrana.
At the same time though, it was imperative for Barcelona to not repeat the same mistake that they made in Xavi’s case. But, by signing Philippe Coutinho, the Catalans haven’t just added yet another quality player in their ranks, but also shown that they have learnt from mistakes past.
The move happened belatedly after Barcelona failed in their attempt to sign the Brazilian in the summer, but he’s finally at Camp Nou, and could be immensely beneficial despite the fact that he’s cup-tied in the Champions League.
Coutinho could help Ernesto Valverde rest an ageing Iniesta for the important European games, making Barcelona a true force to be reckoned with. And with the player only 25, the manager has a replacement at the ready to take the Spaniard’s place when the time comes.
Shrewd Work (A Departure That Is Ideal For All Parties): Gerard Deulofeu
It was a second coming that had left many perplexed as Deulofeu had seldom shown signs of a player who could ever make it at Barcelona upon departing from Camp Nou in a permanent move. The return to the club vindicated those who had raised their eyebrows as he hardly set the stage alight.
But, it seems as if Barcelona still believe in Deulofeu coming good, sending him on loan to Watford to get some important game time under his belt and continue his development. The player was going back to a league where has succeeded in the past, meaning he should take little time to settle down.
The early signs point towards the same as Deulofeu set the stage on fire against Premier League champions Chelsea earlier this week, turning in a man-of-the-match performance as Watford cruised to a 4-1 win. He must sustain these levels now to steer the Hornets clear of the relegation zone and resurrect his Barcelona career.
The Big Miss (A Player Who Should Have Left): Denis Suarez
Four players left Barcelona in January, and as per the rumour mills, a few more departures are being lined up for the summer. But, one player who hasn’t been named in these speculations are Denis Suarez, whose career has gone completely pear shaped at Camp Nou.
Andre Gomes and Aleix Vidal are expected to call time on their respective Barcelona spells after failing to make any sort of an impact at the club. But, the duo have still garnered more game time than Suarez, who has inexplicably not been a part of Valverde’s plans nearly as much as he would have liked, nor is being linked with an exit from Camp Nou.
What is even more perplexing is that Suarez has managed looked the part whenever called upon by Valverde, yet he does not seem to have his manager’s faith. Denis needs to escape this plateaued mess, and soon. So, after not leaving in the January window, it might not be too late if he decides to move on in the summer.
Final Verdict: SUCCESS
They really didn’t look like they needed any improvements in January. After all, someone like Ousmane Dembele still hasn’t warmed up completely to the environs of Camp Nou, yet Barcelona looked one of the sides to beat in all of Europe.
But, Coutinho’s arrival has taken them to the next level, and you have to think that the Catalans are one of the favourites to win the Champions League come May. At the same time, they have also cleared some deadwood, with more to come in the summer transfer window.
Central defence was strengthened as well, and in Yerry Mina, Ernesto Valverde has a player who could serve Barcelona for years to come. There really aren’t any visible chinks in Barcelona’s armour, as things stand right now, and they are going from strength to strength, on the pitch and off it.