Deadline Day deals primed to shape Premier League’s key battles this season and beyond

There was late drama as Newcastle attempted to hijack Everton’s deal for Dele Alli, while other moves appear ready to leave lasting impacts

Miguel Delaney
Chief Football Writer
Tuesday 01 February 2022 14:03
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As word reached Newcastle United that Manchester United just weren’t going to budge on Jesse Lingard, they switched to an ambitious hijacking of Dele Alli’s move to Everton. The thinking wasn’t just that they needed an attacking midfielder.

There was also the possibility of strengthening themselves at the expense of a potential survival rival, especially given they are due to play each other next week in an increasingly important match.

It was one other deal that didn’t quite work out, though. Newcastle were told they were that bit too late.

This may point to one of the themes of a very busy final day, a throwback of a window, and maybe the whole season.

For all the money spent and deals done, they may well ensure the key battles this season go down to the tightest of margins.

Jesse Lingard’s move away was blocked by United

This was something that both Antonio Conte and Mikel Arteta sensed, as well as a few other figures involved in some of the Premier League’s races.

Both of the north London managers feel there is a window to finish ahead of Manchester United in the top four.

That may have been opened further had Spurs managed more of the signings Conte wanted, and Arteta got the top striker Arsenal were trying to buy through their bid for Dusan Vlahovic.

As it was, and to go with yet another window where West Ham United didn’t add a forward to complement Michail Antonio, they all look that bit short.

United might still have too much individual quality. What almost sums that up is that both West Ham and Spurs would have seen Lingard as a difference-maker, but United did not want to sell to two clubs that are very much rivals right now, so kept him as an option. It is still open to debate whether he will even get much football at Old Trafford.

United still have an array of options, even after the Mason Greenwood situation. Much will depend on those margins, and the levels the managers can lift the players.

Given the issues we’re still seeing at Old Trafford after the departure of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, and the way they are still underperforming, can they still stay at a level that is just above all of Arsenal, West Ham and Spurs?

Arsenal have been so promising, because they’re so young, but that brings an inconsistency and a fragility. West Ham have done superbly to be involved, defying odds at every turn, but it’s impossible not to suspect that’s unsustainable. That’s especially the case with European football.

Arsenal were beaten by Juventus in the race for Dusan Vlahovic

It’s also where Spurs are so intriguing, and almost a case study.

Conte didn’t get all the moves he wanted, but it does at least look a bit more like a recognisably Conte squad. That is important, especially given the issues Spurs have had in offloading players over the past few years, leading to the staleness that was the main cause of the demise of the Mauricio Pochettino team.

Conte will certainly improve their level, as he’s already done. But have they made the signings that really put them over the line? This is where it comes back to those margins.

It hasn’t evaded comment within the club that Fabio Paratici, employed as a transfer guru, ultimately had to go back to his former club in Juventus to sign Rodrigo Betancur and Dejan Kulusevski.

Dele Alli has joined Everton

This wasn’t quite the wheeling and dealing expected, especially as they lost out to Barcelona on Adama Traore and Liverpool on Luis Diaz.

It is at least possible that the Colombian helps Jurgen Klopp’s side reduce the gap to Manchester City, and maybe even create a real run-in if they are still within touching distance by the time of that April showdown.

It mostly feels like one for the future, though, where Liverpool ensure there will never be any gap in their forward line. Diaz both strengthens their current depth, but also serves as a medium-term successor to Sadio Mane, solving a problem before they have to even consider it.

There is nothing like the same planning across Stanley Park, where Everton again got themselves into a situation where it looks like they have two players going for the same position in Donny van de Beek and Alli.

Luis Diaz is Liverpool’s latest signing

It does point to how they and Newcastle now have far superior quality to the other three clubs fighting for survival, but there is a similar dynamic to the Champions League chase. It could well come down to the level the coaches bring their squads up to. Because while Norwich City, Burnley and Watford all have inferior talent, they do have surer things as manager. We pretty much know what we’re getting from all of Dean Smith, Roy Hodgson and Sean Dyche and that is diligent tactical organisation.

Frank Lampard and Eddie Howe may well turn out to be superior managers but it is impossible right now to know whether they are suited to circumstances like these. Unlike Lampard, Howe might have been involved in survival seasons, but they were with Bournemouth sides he had nurtured for years in a specific way of playing. It was not a lot of signings at once, even if many are good.

It actually remains a surprise that no one in the Premier League moved for Aaron Ramsey given the difference he can make, as Rangers pulled off a deal reminiscent of the 1990s.

Brentford had looked like they could get sucked into it, but the creativity of Christian Eriksen could change it. That move is of course about so much more than football, and was a genuinely uplifting moment. It’s still possible the story of the window could end up being the coup of the window.

It was a market of the type we haven’t seen in January for some time, and could really have ripples that go to May and beyond.

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