Gooners are so triggered-d-d-d-d-d right now… but full disclosure: that headline may (or may not) be a little disingenuous and more than a little intentionally inflammatory so don’t get your knickers in a twist just yet.
Anyway, per usual the EPL pulled out daddy’s black card and (relatively speaking) bought players left and right
so let’s take a preliminary gander at who did well for themselves and who shat the bed…
TRANSFER WINDOW – GRADES
First things first: which clubs brought in the most players?
And here’s what all 20 clubs did from a net-spend perspective (ie, big savers on the left and big spenders on the right):
And now, without further ado, the grades (in alphabetical order)……………..
Arsenal: B- – Alrighty, chill for a minute and hear me out here, Gooners, because I’m removing my highly biased, very partisan hat for a moment and speaking from the cold black emptiness where my heart should be… Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is a fantastic player, and should pair well with newly p-a-i-d Mesut Ozil. But to rehash what I’ve been saying for a couple weeks on twitter, striker was the ONE and ONLY position where Arsenal was doing okay at with Lacazette and Giroud… yet Arsene decided to splurge on a bright shiny new scoring toy while largely ignoring a defense that has been forced to lean on the perpetually injured Laurent Koscielny and gangly giraffe Per Mertesacker. The club was in a tough spot (of its own making) with Lexi and Ozil’s contracts coming up, so it must be said they did okay – not great, not but terrible – to bring in Henrikh Mkhitaryan in exchange for Lexi. Also, the new contract for Ozil is great in the sense it dispenses with the uncertainty that has been hanging over the club. HOWEVA, Ozil (with his new 3.5-year contract) is 29, Mkhitaryan is 29 and Aubameyang is 28. They are not spring chickens. If Ozil’s production doesn’t tail off and Mkhi regains the form from his Dortmund days they could be a threat… for a top four UCL spot (definitely NOT for a title as it stands). I don’t know though. I just don’t love it. The Ozil contract in particular could turn out to be problematic because they are paying him a TON (£350,000 per WEEK to be exact) into his 30s, and I can’t help but think that famously cheap Stan Kroncke will attempt to save money by pinching pennies elsewhere. That’s not me speaking as a Spurs fan. That’s me speaking as someone with a brain. The B- grade may in fact be a little generous, BUT on the other hand the club was in a tough spot (I repeat: because of their own past mistakes) and did bring in a world class striker.
I will say this about Arsenal: they are going to be FUN to watch for neutrals, and may take over from Liverpool as the most entertaining EPL club… will they score 15 goals or concede 12? Or both? TBD – but tune in to find out!
Bournemouth: F – Wednesday’s win over Chelsea went to the club’s head. They are only five points clear of relegation (it was just TWO before this week) and they have been bad, bad, BAD for weeks if not months at a time this season……. and yet they didn’t do a damn thing. Sometimes being more ballsy than brainy is a good thing. Sometimes it’s not.
Brighton: C – not a huge fan of striker Leonardo Ulloa (on loan from Lester) but he has played well for the Seagulls in the past and let’s keep in mind that most clubs located outside of Manchester don’t have more money than god so you gotta grade on at least a little bit of a curve.
Burnley: C- – Aaron Lennon adds speed and Georges-Kevin Nkoudou adds… well, I’m not sure what he brings to the table despite the fact that he has been on Spurs for the last 18 months. But I’m sure it’s something! (Maybe?)
Chelsea: B- – As a Spurs fan I did a little happy dance when it was officially announced that Ross Barkley ended up somewhere else. Tons of potential but I’m not sold that he will ever come anywhere near to fulfilling it. That said, Olivier Giroud was a shrewd move [even if their first choice was Andy Carroll – woof]
and shores up a big need given Alvaro Morata’s tendency to shoot anywhere but on net. Late addition of Roma’s Emerson will quietly go a little ways toward padding a painfully thin roster. (Though the looming departure of Antonio Conte, which gets more and more plausible with each soundbite of him complaining about ownership tying his hands on transfer moves, could throw things into disarray annnnnnnnny minute now…)
City: B – Only area the club was even arguably weak is at the back where – Liverpool game aside – their offense has done a good job of papering over deficiencies. Must be nice to find £58.5 million lying around to buy another centerback in Bilbao’s Aymeric Laporte. Must be real nice. (Also, I give the club credit for not panicking in light of the Leroy Sane injury and refraining from spending a ridiculous amount on a desperation offer for Lester’s Riyad Mahrez.)
Everton: B+ – Filled three important needs in CB Eliaquim Mangala, speedy winger Theo Walcott, and striker Cenk Tosun. Walcott’s health and Tosun’s transition to the speed and style of EPL are still big question marks, but gotta give Everton solid marks for successfully identifying deficiencies and attempting to fill them.
Huddersfield: C- – Another club that needs to be judged on a curve. MF Alex Pritchard has been influential for Norwich in the Championship but is unproven at the next level. Defender Terence Kongolo on loan from Monaco looks like a nice move. However, they needed a striker. They didn’t get a striker. Not to be a dick but that’s gonna hurt your grade a bit.
Lester: B- – Adrien Silva (finally) and Fousseni Diabate are nice adds. The Riyad Mahrez kerfuffle is complicated. I personally LOVE that Lester said “fuck you we’re not selling” to both the player and to City (who no doubt wanted him now that Leroy Sane will be out for a month or two), so I am giving them a bonus point or two, but the fact is it could blow up in their face in a big, BIG way if Mahrez keeps acting like a pouty lil bitcc. I normally tend to side with players when it comes to disputes with big, bad, rich management. This situation is different. Mahrez signed a big fat new four-year deal with Lester the summer after they won the title. He was happy with it then, and yet he’s been trying to force through a move during every transfer window since. Eff that. If you wanted out so bad then don’t sign the contract to begin with, dumbass! So best-case scenario Mahrez stops striking (seriously, he’s apparently on strike and not practicing) and plays his little balls off for the rest of the season then the club sells him in the summer for a buttload of cash. More likely he’s going to be a locker room cancer for the rest of the season after which they will sell him for a smaller buttload of cash. Ah well.
Liverpool: B- – Funny how different things look after a couple good – or bad – results. Reds fans were abusing themselves furiously after getting Van Djik and immediately beating City. Then they lost to Swansea and West Brom and the sky was falling and management was a total failure for not bringing more guys in. Chill brosefs. Yes, things are a little out of sorts in the midfield without Cooteeny-O, and no, VVD’s arrival doesn’t instantly fix all your defensive problems. But give the club a little time for the midfield to find a new balance of responsibilities and once guys like VVD/Matip get more comfortable – and they’re going to be okay. Then again, Klopp definitely should have brought in a new goalkeeper, and not doing so lowers the grade to a B-.
Newcastle: C+ – A lot of people seem to hate what the Magpies did (not least of whom being their coach himself) but their defense hasn’t been all that bad and adding Kenedy (from Chelsea) and Islam Slimani (from Lester) should make their attack less predictable. Rafa wanted more but let’s be honest the fact they got anybody at all is a bit of a shocker considering cheap ass Mike Ashley’s is still controlling the purse-strings.
Palace: C – Eagles went shopping in the bargain bin, picking up three foreign youths. Defender Jaroslaw Jach plays internationally for Poland, which ain’t nothing, but not enough to make anyone go from six to midnight. (Hint: talkin bout boners.)
Southampton: D – Good price for Virgil Van Djik but hardly put it to good use by investing in the squad… in fact, hardly put it to use at all, which will be hugely frustrating for fans tired of watching the club sell their best players every single window. Their one signing was striker Guido Carrillo from Monaco, which ticked an important box… but the fact he couldn’t get a run to save his life in France this season really makes you wonder.
Stoke: B – Worst defense in the league so they brought in some full backs. Can’t argue with that logic. That plus simply convincing the talent already on the roster to stop sucking should be enough for the Potters [fixed] to scrounge back into contention for a mid-table finish.
Swansea: C+ – Splurged on buying Ayew-A back from West Ham and reunited him with Ayew-B, but aside from that heart-warming family story and massively meh midfielder Andy King (loan from Lester) the club didn’t do a whole helluva lot. Would’ve liked to see more moves, though to be fair finding someone to take pencil-dick mustache Roque Mesa off their hands instantly made their midfield 37% less awful right there.
Tottenham: B- – Doesn’t have the depth of high-end talent as, say, City (no doy) but one of the more solid to-to-bottom rosters in the league and no massive needs heading into January. Would have liked to snag a backup striker to deputize for Kane and to fire Mousa Sissoko into the sun. Did neither of those things but did pick up a speedy winger in PSG’s Lucas Moura, which – if it means Sissoko never sees the field again – could prove to be the deal of the century.
United: A- – Little surprised they didn’t add some help on defense but anytime you can add a world class talent like Lexi Sanchez it has been a good window.
Watford: D+ – If you are a fan of quick, skilful but Downy™ soft and mentally fragile midfielders then boy oh boy are you gonna love Gerard Deulofeu. Me? Not so much. Club has been erratic at best of late and didn’t do much of anything – imho – to right the ship. (But should have plenty of talent to avoid relegation.)
West Brom: B- – This is really a big fat “Incomplete” because it is completely dependent upon whether Studge can stay healthy. If – and that is the biggest IF in the world – neither of his hammies goes pop anytime soon he will score goals, and could be the brainy complement for brawny Salomon Rondon.
(Also, I’m torn on their decision to hang on to Jonny Evans. He’s not worth what clubs appear willing to pay for him, so would’ve been tough to argue with selling high, but at same time avoiding relegation should be priority 1-A…. so in that sense they probably made the right call.)
West Ham: D+ – When your notable move in January was suspending (and subsequently firing) your head of player recruitment for being a racist dickwad, it’s safe to say it was not a stellar transfer window. They did bring in an interesting but untested striker in Jordan Hugill (from Preston) while midfielder Joao Mario (on loan from Inter) could turn out to be a sneaky good pickup. Doesn’t seem like nearly enough to make up for the exits and injuries the club is dealing with at the moment though.
ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE
Scores from the midweek:
News, notes, observations, highlights & lowlights:
– Conceding 11 seconds into a game is a tough way to start for anybody, but its especially problematic for a Jozay-led squad on the road against another Big Six squad. United actually looked lively for the next 10 or so minutes, and almost got an equalizer through Jesse Lingard, but Spurs withstood the charge then settled in and dominated essentially every facet of the game from then on. What a difference the presence of a sexy Scandinavian soccer sprite makes.
– O baby what is you doin, Chelsea? There is clearly some serious conflict behind the scenes at the club, and they better get things sorted out soon because a bad run of form and having to face Barcelona in Champions League this month means the season could spiral out of control quickly.
As for Bournemouth, helluva win and shows how well they can play if/when they put it all together… and how much of a failure it would be by players and coaches if they find themselves stuck in a relegation scrap come April.
– Swansea have now beaten Liverpool and Arsenal in back to back games – both at home. Don’t nobody wanna go play in the Liberty Stadium – aka the Welsh fortress that Big Cat built!
– Watford and Stoke playing 90 minutes of soccer with zero goals is the single biggest upset of the entire season. Sometimes in soccer – as in life – things just don’t make sense.
Honorable mention: Chelsea, Arsenal, Everton (member when the Toffees were bottom three? Cause I member)
19. West Brom
Dishonorable mention: Brighton, Newcastle
Table as it stands now:
And this weekend’s schedule:
PICKS OF THE WEEKEND
A lot of people may see this as a bit of a sucker line. Spurs just dominated United’s face off while Liverpool (prior to beating a floundering Huddersfield squad) is fresh off defeats to 20th place West Brom and 19th place Swansea. Not only that but recent history suggests Tottenham should be a bad matchup for the hosts as Harry Kane and Co. ruined Dejan Lovren’s life in the reverse fixture this past fall, winning 4-1 and essentially running the Reds off the field.
There are a couple flaws in the argument that Spurs “should” win though. First off, Spurs : Anfield :: me and : women. (That’s SAT question format for those of you in the know.) answer key: I will, without fail, end up doing something dumb and paying for it by going home emptyhanded. Same with Spurs. Someone – Ben Davies would be my best guess – will get cocky and stray too far forward, and Mo Salah 2.0 will pop his tiny head/big hair up out of nowhere and slam something home on a counterattack.
Second, and at least as importantly, Tottenham are in the middle of a murderer’s row of games right now. United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Juventus one after another (with a replay vs Newport City thrown in for shits and giggles). Spurs navigated United but are not going to win all four. That would be unthinkable. But so would losing to Arsenal at home making it two in a row to the North London rival. So if concentration is going to slip, this is the game it would happen in – not to mention Poch may be a little extra trigger happy on pulling guys like Son a little earlier than normal or not playing guys like Alderweireld/Aurier.
So really this is not about form or talent. Liverpool is a little more dynamic going forward and Spurs are quite a bit more solid at the back. There is no room for error when playing at Anfield though and – knowing for an absolutely fact that Spurs will lay an egg at some point during this four-game stretch – this seems like it could be that game. I feel it in my plums. The odds on a draw are mighty tasty but when your plums are talking to you then you got no choice but to listen. Liverpool to win 2-1.
Bookies must know something we don’t – just gotta! Everton wasted a handful of chances and should have blown the doors off Lester on Wednesday, while Arsenal just shit the bed against the league’s 19th place team. Plus rumor has it that Aubameyang is out with a mystery “illness” (no word on it is Whoops-I’ve-Made-A-Huge-Mistake-In-Coming-Here-itis). I’m tempted to sprinkle a little something on Everton based on the ridiculous odd and the fact they looked decent in the midweek. In the end though I’ll go against my better judgment and say Lacazette states his case for continued playing time even after the arrival of a top-version of himself. Arsenal to win 3-2.
• BURNLEY v CITY: Pep’s Peoples have beaten the Clarets twice in the last few months, each time by three goals. The one catch is that they were both at the Etihad. Burnley have not been good lately. In fact they have been downright bad. But could they pack 10 guys in the box and hope they catch City on one of those days where its finishing is turrrrrrible (reference: Palace, Crystal)? I think they just might. Unfortunately I still don’t think it will be enough. City to win 1-0.
• BOURNEMOUTH v STOKE: The Cherries just ransacked Chelsea at Stamford Bridge and Stoke somehow didn’t score or get scored on against a free-wheeling Watford side. Suffice to say I am officially shooketh just thinking about trying to predict what these teams are going to do this weekend. There is no final score that would surprise me at this point, so when any result is possible the only sane thing to do is go with the heavy underdog: Stoke to win 2-1.
• BRIGHTON v WEST HAM: It brings me no joy to say this but I can’t help thinking we have reached the point in the season when the surprisingly resilient wee buggers (namely Huddersfield and Brighton) may finally be running out of gas. Coming out party for Joao Mario? Coming out party for Joao Mario. West Ham to win 1-0.
• LESTER v SWANSEA: The Foxes are busy and probably distracted dealing with Riyad Mahrez’s temper tantrum while the Swans are coming off their most successful week in… decades? Upset does sound tempting here, but I can’t pull the trigger – not with Ayew-A (new signing) likely consigned to the bench with a leg injury. Lester to win 2-1.
• UNITED v HUDDERSFIELD: United may not have looked like it on Wednesday – whether because of their lack of time to gel or Spurs’ solid team defense – but Pogba pulling the strings for guys like Lexi and Martial with Lukaku poaching in front of net is a recipe for a ton of goals against lesser, more disorganized squads. United to win 4-1.
• WEST BROM v SOUTHAMPTON: I have no idea how well Studge is going to fit at the Hawthornes, but I’ll admit I am dying to find out. I think he’ll come out with a bang. West Brom to win 2-1 on at least one from The World’s Hammyless Wonder.
• PALACE v NEWCASTLE: One of these teams will find itself solidly mid-table after the game, while the other will remain in slightly-better-than-the-dropzone purgatory. Newcastle has struck me as a team playing better than its results would suggest lately, but Palace has more weapons (Toon’s new loanee Islam Slimani is hurt) and is at home. Palace to win 2-1.
• WATFORD v CHELSEA: Another loss and Conte could just be out the door – whether through his own volition or not. Wasn’t a fan of Watford’s form heading into crunch time of the transfer window and they did little to make me think they have suddenly found their way again. Chelsea to win 2-0.
REST OF WORLD
Spain – 2nd place Atletico Madrid host 3rd place Ballenthia on Sunday (1:45pm ET on beIN). Perfect little fluff session for the big’un later that afternoon.
Germany – Champions League eliminator-type game with 7th place Borussia Monchenpenisgladbach hosting 5th place RB Leipzig on Saturday (11:30am CT on FS2).
Italy – Lame week in Serie A but best of the worst is Udinese hosting Milan on Sunday (8am streaming on beIN Connect).
So there we have it. Full weekend of SOCCUH on deck feeding right into Sunday’s Supa Bow. See ya next week, kiddos.
Before all the hookers and blow and whatnot OG Ronaldo was really good. People forget that.