The January transfer window doesn’t always feature the biggest-name players, but this year was different as a number of high profile transfers were completed across the European continent.
Premier League clubs spent a record total of £430 million, smashing the previous January transfer window record of £225 million set in 2011. Several clubs broke their record transfer fees, in an attempt to strengthen their squads before the decisive phase of the season.
Whether the goal is European glory, Champions League qualification or Premier League survival, there is still plenty to play for despite Manchester City’s dominance at the top of the table. We take a look here at the five most important Premier League transfers in January 2018:
1. Virgil van Dijk to Liverpool
Liverpool’s front three of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mané is one of the most exciting strike-forces in world football. However, the team’s defensive frailties have often cost them valuable points, and they sit well adrift of the league leaders halfway through the season.
To address this glaring weakness, manager Jürgen Klopp made Southampton’s Virgil van Dijk the most expensive defender ever, signing him for a whopping £75 million. The transfer of the 26-year-old Dutch international brought an end to a bitter saga that began during the summer, which saw Liverpool forced to issue an official apology to Southampton for making an illegal approach for their player.
The centre-back was obviously bought for his defensive prowess, but he made an instant impact at the other end of the pitch, marking his Liverpool debut with a late winner against local rivals Everton in the third round of the FA Cup.
The Reds will have to add some more defensive talent to their squad if they are to challenge for silverware, but the signing of Van Dijk is a significant signal to the rest of the league that they are on their way.
2. Alexis Sanchez to Manchester United
Having expressed his desire to leave Arsenal in the summer, Alexis Sanchez was into the final year of his contract and could have left the London club for free during the following transfer window. Manchester City were thought to be the favourites for his signature, but rivals United snapped up the Chilean superstar when the opportunity presented itself this January.
Signing the 29-year-old attacker in one of the highest profile deals of the winter was hugely important for Manchester United, who are desperately trying to bridge the gap with their league-leading neighbours. The transfer also saw attacking midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan move to Arsenal, in a player-swap deal that has reportedly made Sanchez the highest paid player in the Premier League.
Alexis had an incredible season in 2016-17, netting 30 goals for the Gunners, winning their player of the season award, and also being shortlisted for the PFA Player of the Year award. His versatility will be a significant boost for his new club, as he can play effectively in several attacking positions, both out wide and centrally.
He became the first Chilean to appear for Manchester United in a competitive match when he made an impressive debut in a 4-0 victory at Yeovil Town in the fourth round of the FA Cup, and he scored his first United goal in a 2-0 league win over Huddersfield Town at Old Trafford.
3. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to Arsenal
The £60m signing of striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from Borussia Dortmund in a club record deal will greatly help Arsenal cope with the loss of Alexis Sanchez. The 28-year-old Gabon international had been in prolific goal-scoring form for his German side, having led the Bundesliga scoring charts in 2016-17, and was averaging almost a goal every game this season too.
Arsenal have been struggling to break back into the top-four Champions League qualification places, and their fans will hope the signing of their top target Aubameyang will reignite their stuttering season. He will link up again with his former Dortmund teammate Henrikh Mkhitaryan, with whom he shared a fruitful partnership between 2013 and 2016.
The successful completion of the transfer paved the way for Arsenal to sell striker Olivier Giroud to Chelsea for an estimated £18 million, leaving only Frenchman Alexandre Lacazette and England international Danny Welbeck as competition for Aubameyang’s preferred striker position.
He scored a goal in his Arsenal debut, the fourth goal in a 5-1 win over Everton, which was duly assisted by Mkhitaryan.
4. Henrikh Mkhitaryan to Arsenal
Having enjoyed a career season in 2015-16 for Borussia Dortmund, winning the Bundesliga Players’ Player of the Season award, leading the league assists chart with 15 helpers for his teammates, and scoring 23 goals across all competitions, Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s stock was at an all-time high when he signed for Manchester United for a fee of close to £30 million in the summer of 2016.
Unfortunately, the move didn’t go as planned for the Armenian attacking midfielder, as he struggled to settle in his new surroundings and suffered a dip in form. When the chance came this January for a fresh start at Arsenal, the 29-year-old was happy to be part of the swap deal which saw Alexis Sanchez move in the opposite direction.
Mkhitaryan’s first start for Arsenal couldn’t have been much better, as he recorded three assists in the 5-1 league win over Everton in early February. There were signs that he could rediscover the form he showed at Dortmund, where he formed a lethal partnership with fellow January signing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
5. Olivier Giroud to Chelsea
Following Arsenal’s signing of Aubameyang from Dortmund, French striker Olivier Giroud was deemed surplus to requirements for the Gunners and was sold to Chelsea for a fee believed to be in the region of £18 million. Giroud signed for Arsenal from French side Montpellier in 2012, and scored 105 goals during his five-and-a-half seasons at the London club.
The 31-year old signed an 18-month contract with cross-town rivals Chelsea on January’s transfer deadline day, and is expected to provide competition for their Spanish striker Alvaro Morata. Following their capture of Giroud, Chelsea allowed the other striker on their books, Belgian international Michy Batshuayi, to join Borussia Dortmund on loan for the rest of the season – effectively filling the void left there by Aubameyang’s move to Arsenal.
Giroud provided an assist for Eden Hazard in his first start for the Blues, a 3-0 home win over West Bromwich Albion; and scored his first Chelsea goal in a 4-0 victory against Hull City in the fifth round of the FA Cup.