G’day soccer stoolies,
The January transfer window came to a “thunderous” close throughout much of Europe yesterday, or as it should be known: annual Purple Dildo Day.
Alas, there was little in the way of fireworks either in the boardrooms or on live television, but I’ll do my best to give a quick recap of the most important moves that did – and did not – take place directly below before previewing the midweek EPL games coming up today and tomorrow. So without further ado…
EPL TRANSFER ACTIVITY
Any way you slice it, this was an exceptionally strange January transfer window. Here are some highlights and lowlights:
– There were a grand total of ZERO marquee signings by the top 8 clubs in the table, this despite several clubs (United in particular, but also Liverpool and Tottenham to [far] lesser extents) have important holes to fill.
– Surprisingly, the biggest purchases, including striker Oumar Niasse (from Lokomotiv Moscow) by Everton and midfielder Giannelli Imbula (from Porto) by Stoke, were made by clubs that aren’t traditionally considered big buyers.
– Many of the biggest overall spenders, including Newcastle, Bournemouth, Sunderland and Norwich, are near the bottom of the table, a reflection of how critically important it is for clubs to stay up this year given the buttloads of ‘new TV contract’ money that will start flowing in next season.
– Another big spender turned out to be Watford, though they pulled a Chelsea and immediately loaned out some of their biggest buys.
– West Brom declining to sell Saido Berahino is unfortunate for all parties involved.
– One of the best moves of the window, if you can call it that, was Liverpool’s unwillingness to meet Shakhtar Donetsk’s ridiculous asking price for Alex Teixeira. The guy is influential and would definitely be a boost to a midfield that has struggled due to injuries to Coutinho and Henderson, but there is no way in hell he is worth the reported $80+ million asking price. (Plus, chances are he’ll be available for less this summer.)
– Arsenal bought a defensive midfielder! ARSENAL BOUGHT A DEFENSIVE MIDFIELDER!
– A lot of sound and fury from Leicester signifying nothing. The frisky Foxes are taking a risk in not bringing in a player or two if they really want to compete for a top 4 spot (injuries could be a real killer), but gotta respect their gumption.
– This is just a personal opinion, and I may well regret it later, but I hate Chelsea’s signing of Alexandre Pato. I am just not that high on him as a player. Perhaps he’ll turn out to be a good complement to Diego Costa, in which case it could work out, but as it stands I’m not a fan of the move. (As for Matt Miazga, the move makes me nervous as a USMNT fan, but for Chelsea it strikes me as a very good bit of business.)
– Good bit of business by Newcastle, which brought in Andros Townsend from Spurs and Jonjo Schizoshelvey from Swansea.
– Everton can’t stop scoring goals, nor can they stop anybody else from scoring goals. So they went out and splurged on yet another striker (Oumar Niasse). Great for neutral observers? Fuck and yes. Great for the Toffees? Not to sure.
– Aston Villa has managed to compile a grand total of 13 points from 23 games. The biggest of many problems the club is faced with is a total inability to score, having put the ball in the net only 18 times so far. Many of its main relegation contenders (eg, Bournemouth and Sunderland) anted up for strikers, and yet the only business the Villans managed was to loan out or sell six players. The French put up more resistance to Germany in World War II than what Villa is mustering against relegation this season.
– And as if to put a cherry on an already peculiar transfer window sundae, the biggest news actually turned out to be officially confirmation that City will continue to be the bigger-dicked Mancunian brother for years to come thanks to the arrival of Pep Guardiola this summer. (Sidenote: on the flipside, how this could end up being anything but a negative for the club’s chances of lifting the trophy this season is beyond me since Manuel Pellegrini now has a three feet out the door and Yaya Toure, who Pep shipped out once from Barça, will likely start to give whatever-is-less-than-zero fucks about his own performances knowing he’s gone this summer as well.)
ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE
AT LONG LAST, WE BACK BABY! After what has felt like an eternity’s worth of FA and League Cup matches, we’ve finally got another slate of regular season games to feast our eyes upon this midweek (and weekend… before its right back to FA Cup – albeit just a couple of replays. Le sigh.)
Anyway, anybody remember what happened the last time matchday or regular season EPL games? Me neither, so here’s a refresher:
Or, for those of you who prefer moving pictures, here are some of the highlights from a weekend that included…
The season’s most entertaining game:
Dele Alli mushroom-stamping Crystal Palace:
Chelsea managing to outfox Arsenal for about the millionth time in a row:
Quick reminder of what that leaves the table looking like…
And now for the games coming up today and tomorrow…
PICKS OF THE MIDWEEK
Your boy Sammy has been taking an absolute pounding lately. You know what that means though: I’m due, baby! After all, shooters keep shooting…
And so begins a three-game stretch in which the mighty Foxes must face Liverpool, City and Arsenal. Tough stretch. As for this game, Leicester is about as fit as an EPL club could possibly be at the moment, whereas Liverpool is anything but. Everybody and their mother seems to be calling for a draw in this one, and expecting the clubs to be locked at halftime does not seem far-fetched. Klopp is after all likely to want to keeps things tight early on, which will make life tough on the counter-attacking Foxes. The key for me comes down to the guys that Liverpool does have back – notably Sakho and Clyne at the back (and even the seemingly new and improved Lovren) – who should provide the strength and speed to make life difficult on the Vardy’s and Mahrez’s of Leicester world. The odds on a draw sure are tasty, but ties are for Democrats. 1-0 win for Liverpool on an injury time decider from Christian Benteke.
Guess what today is? IT’S FREE MONEY DAY! Yaaaaaaaaaaaaay!!
Why? Well, how about because the same United squad that hasn’t scored a first half goal at home since Alex Ferguson left is somehow a massive, massive favorite to beat a club that is not only in better form but just may in fact be better on paper as well. (Or a helluva lot closer than anybody would have imagined coming into the season anyway.)
Okay, yes, I am vastly overstating things by saying that Stoke is in any way a lock in this game, but only because they are missing so many guys to injury at the moment, with Shawcross and Cameron definitely out at the back and Walters and Arnautovic question marks up front. So please keep this critically important caveat in mind if you do plan to bet your hard earned moneys: this prognostication is predicated on the expectation that guys like Walters and especially Arnautovic are fit enough to play… if not Stoke is unlikely to have the horses to contend even with the poor excuse for a multi-billion dollar squad like United at the moment (that’s not to say they won’t round into form, but they shooooooore ain’t there yet). But if they put out anything resembling a strong XI, you would be a maroon not to look a +500-gift-horse in the mouth in a game the Potters have a legitimate shot at winning.
Thus, prediction with the likes of Walters/Arnautovic in the squad: Stoke to win 2-1.
Note: if Stoke ends up missing too many key players I’ll feel as though I’ll have little choice but to give in and change the prediction to United to win 2-1… but feel free to ask on Twitter if you want an update once the lineups have been posted an hour or so before kickoff:
• Chelsea [+105] has lost precisely zero games since Guus Hiddink took over in late December, guiding the Blues to a 2-2 home draw against Watford [+310] followed by another seven straight in which they are unbeaten. The 5-1 spanking of MK Dons was nice last time out, and the 0-1 win over Arsenal before that was… well, it was something, though “impressive” is only the second descriptor that comes to mind after “asterisk”. So suffice to say Chelsea fans are probably sporting half a chub thinking about climbing back into top 4 contention over the next few months. Time to dispense with that nonsense though. Watford at home is a tough club to contend with, especially with newly acquired Mario Suarez from Fiorentina added to the midfield. Watford to win 3-1.
• Southampton [+400] pulled off one of the shocks of the season when they spanked the bejesus out of Arsenal [-122] on Boxing Day by a score of 4-0 in a game that should have seen Per Mertesacker sent to the glue factory. Alas, he was still out there lumbering around and picking up red cards last time out, again costing the Gunners points. The good news though is he won’t be out there today because of said sending off, and Arsene’s boys are likely in a mood to exact some revenge this time out, particularly with Lexi Sanchez reportedly back and ready to roam. Arsenal to win 3-1.
• Please be advised that until further notice you should consider any and all games involving the Toffees to be must-see TV. Everton [-180] host Newcastle [+425] in a game that will be nothing if not exciting on Wednesday afternoon. My prediction is goals, goals, more goals, probably at least one red card, followed by another goal or seven. Did I mention that Tim Howard is likely out for this one? He’s not having the greatest of years, but he’s definitely better than the alternative. For whatever reason I’ve been going with a lot upsets this week, so why stop now… Newcastle to win 3-2.
REST OF EUROPE
Serie A: Two big games in Italy this midweek starting with Sassuolo versus Roma today and finishing with Lazio versus Napoli tomorrow (both at 1:45pm CT on beIN Sports).
So there you have it, the best midweek soccer preview that Barstool has ever published and/or will ever publish today. I’ll be back with more on Friday ahead of a big weekend of action that will be bookended by matchups involving table toppers (City/Lester) and perpetual floppers (Chelsea/United). Stay woke.
Sam U.L. Army