Fulham vs Stoke at Craven Cottage.
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Transfer deadline day saw a host of clubs spring into life as the total spent in the window was doubled on the final day from £29million to a final figure of £58.3 million.
It was a sense of normality being restored as the winter window is notoriously hard for teams to do business and what with FIFA’s new financial fair play rules in place it was very much a case of teams deciding to stick rather than twist and hold out for the summer window as opposed to paying over the odds now.
The biggest mover in the window was Papiss Demba Cisse for £9million where he will team up with compatriot Demba Ba at Newcastle. If the new number nine can make even half the impact that Ba has made then Newcastle will surely fancy their chances of maintaining their push for a European finish.
At the top of the table it was very much a case of experience over youth. With the likes of Fernando Torres and Andy Carroll still struggling to justify the big money fees from this time last year it comes as no surprise that teams were more reluctant to gamble this time around.
The window had already seen the dramatic come backs of Thierry Henry and Paul Scholes to aid ease Arsenal and United’s respective selection problems and these two clubs along with Liverpool decided not to add to their first team squads on this occasion.
Roberto Mancini added the experienced Chilean midfielder David Pizarro to his ranks on a short term contract and although he is unlikely to set the world alight, he is another experienced head who could have a positive impact on City’s title challenge.
Harry Redknapp still found the time to wheel and deal in typical fashion despite his current off the field problems as Corluka, Bassong and Pienaar were all allowed out on loan and Pavlyuchenko sealing a permanent move away back to Russia.
Tottenham also opted for short term experienced options for now with New Zealand captain Ryan Nelsen coming in on a free from Blackburn, and somewhat surprisingly Louis Saha joining from Everton, who despite his injury problems has of course got the experience of winning the Premier League with Manchester United.
Chelsea were actually the biggest spenders shelling out £7million a piece on Gary Cahill and Kevin De Bruyne, the latter clearly not an AVB signing and will spend the rest of the season back on loan at his current club Genk.
A further £1.5million was spent to capture young forward Patrick Bamford from Nottingham Forrest.
It was at the other end of the table where clubs done the most business, taking that extra gamble to try and ensure Premier League survival. QPR will feel they have had the best window and under Mark Hughes’ guidance will certainly be looking to climb the table sooner rather than later.
The additions of Djibril Cisse (who netted on his debut in midweek) and Bobby Zamora should provide the added firepower to ease their problems in front of goal, whilst at the other end Onuoha, Taiwo and Malian defensive midfielder Samba Diakite should all help tighten them up at the back.
You would imagine that this now leaves Wigan, Wolves, Blackburn and Bolton to battle it out for survival. Wigan currently sit bottom of the league and despite holding onto the likes of Rodallega and Moses for now, it will surely take more than just the addition of Jean Beasejour from Birmingham to keep them up.
Wolves and Blackburn both added more substantially to their squads but will it be enough to save them from the relegation trapdoor? Bassong and Frimpong are no doubt useful additions that should aid Wolves’ fight for survival, whilst Blackburn have added the experienced Bradley Orr from QPR to their ranks and attacking options in the form of Anthony Modeste from Bordeaux and twin brother of Martin, Marcus Olsson on a free.
Bolton managed to put the Gary Cahill transfer money to good use and secured USA international defender Tim Ream as a direct replacement from the New York Red Bulls, and although they could not settle a deal for promising youngster Wilfred Zaha, they did manage to capture the sought after Marvin Sordell from Watford to bolster their attacking ranks, along with the exciting winger Ryo Myaichi on loan from Arsenal.
Bolton seem to slowly be turning the corner under Coyle, with four points taken from back to back games with Arsenal and Liverpool and you just get the sense that with the additional signings, it might be they who can salvage their place in the top flight.
There was plenty of business to be done elsewhere as both Everton and Villa made use of the break in the MLS by securing Keane and Donovan on short term deals, who have already put in a string of positive performances.
Everton also managed to seal a deal for Darren Gibson who will be more loved now by the red side of Manchester than when he played for the Red Devils given his match winning strike against neighbours City in midweek.
The sale of Bilyaletdinov also allowed for some much needed firepower to be added in the form of Jelavic from Rangers, and there was just about time for a home coming for the much loved Steven Pienaar on loan from Spurs.
Martin O’ Neill continued to shape his squad and added defensive reinforcements Wayne Bridge and Kyrgiakos, both with ample Premier League experience whilst Martin Jol and Fulham replaced the outgoing Bobby Zamora with Russian forward Pavel Pogrebnyak and will be hoping that this ‘Super Pav’ is a little more successful than the last who graced the Prem.
Norwich continued their recruitment of players from outside the top flight with Jonny Howson and Ryan Bennet the next two to make the step up from the Championship, and Brendan Rodgers added further exciting additions to continue his exciting brand of football at the Liberty Stadium with the arrivals of creative midfielders Gylfi Sigurdsson and Josh McEachran.
Roy Hodgson brought in some more experienced Premier League players with Keith Andrews and Liam Ridgewell joining the Baggies, whilst it was a quiet window for Stoke and although last years’ deadline day saw them splash the cash on Palacios, Crouch and Jerome, there were no last minute surprises from Tony Pulis this time around.
The transfer window wouldn’t be the transfer window without a mention of Carlos Tevez, and while he stayed put there was one Manchester bad boy who salvaged a move away – from United not City and that is Ravel Morrison who joined up with West Ham in the Championship.
I’m sure this will be a move that plenty of people keep their eye on to see if one of the most talented youngsters to come through the Manchester United Academy can finally be talked about for his performances on the pitch and not off it.
(Please note this list was drawn up before the tournament so some teams may be out!)
The African Cup of Nations has notable absentees - but that does not mean that Africa will stop exporting top quality players. The notable absences of Egypt, Cameroon and Nigeria give the opportunity for players from other nations to shine. Some have already made a name for themselves in Europe but there are a few undiscovered gems that will be hoping to put themselves on the map. You can expect your tournament surprise packages but below are a few players who are expected to have an impact on the tournament.
1. Demba Ba (Senegal)
An obvious selection is Senegalese hitman Demba Ba. Anyone who has been following the English Premier League will be aware of his athleticism and ability. Ba has hit 15 league goals in 19 appearances and will hope to emulate that form for his country.
2. Issam Jemâa (Tunisia)
The Tunisian international is not known for his goalscoring at club level but he doesn’t miss for his country. The forward is Tunisia’s highest scorer ever with 26 goals and 54 caps. The 6 ft. 1 striker is just shy of 28 so will a few magical performances to move to a dream move.
3. Adel Taarabt (Morocco)
The former QPR captain has not lived up to his hype in his first full season in the Premier League. After lighting up the Championship and leading his team to promotion, Taarabt has been very unsettled and expressed his desire to leave. However, the appointment of Mark Hughes as manager seems to have settled the 22 year old, who will be hoping to impress his new manager at the tournament.
4. Seydou Doumbia (Ivory Coast)
Ivory Coast are favourites for the tournament because of their lethal attack; which includes, Gervinho, Drogba and Doumbia. The pacy forward hit 50 goals in 64 appearances for Young Boys, before moving to CSKA Moscow in 2010, where he has scored 29 goals in 41 appearances. There is no doubt the Russian League’s ‘Footballer of the Year’ knows how to find the net and will make a mark in the tournament.
5. André Ayew (Ghana)
Voted BBC’s African Footballer of the Year at just 21, Ghanaian international Ayew is tipped for a bright future. He first made a name for himself at the 2010 FIFA World Cup, where he was awarded with man of the match for his performance against USA. His goals this season helped Marseille reach the last 16 in the Champions League. At such a young age, things can only get better for him.
6. Jonathan Pitroipa (Burkina Faso)
Pitroipa is known for his devastating pace and involvements in counter attacks. The winger is also capable of finding the net when needed. Although not a household name in Europe, the Burkinabé international is not one to be slept on and will be hoping to help his country become a greater force in Africa.
7. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Gabon)
Gabon were given automatic entry into the tournament, but that does not rule out the fact that they will also have their own talent on show. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang started his career at Milan but was loaned to four different French clubs, before an impressive spell at St Etienne secured him a permanent move. The Gabonese youngster will be looking to show Milan what they missed out on with some strong performances on his home turf.
8. Oussama Darragi (Tunisia)
Tunisian playmaker Darragi is yet to play outside of the Tunisian league, but based on his ability and the form he has shown there – a lot of decent European clubs could have him on their radar. He was voted ‘African Player Of The Year’ (based in Africa) last season and will have a major impact on Tunisia’s performance in the competition.
9. Modibo Maiga (Mali)
Newcastle United fans may be familiar with the name Maiga, after it was reported they had signed him but he failed a medical in December. Maiga is a striker who is also capable of playing on the wing. With the retirement of Kanouté, Maiga has a lot of expectations to meet but his ability suggests he is more than capable.
10. Alhassane Bangoura (Guinea)
Guinea’s forward nicknamed ‘Lass’ is only 19 years old but is certainly one to watch. The speedy forward scored 23 goals in 25 appearances in his debut season with Rayo Vallecano reserves, thus attracting the attention of giants Real Madrid; some even reporting that an offer was made. If the Real Madrid story fails to materialise; a good showing at the tournament will secure a move to a well-respected club.
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