The dust has settled on what was a crazy January transfer window. One of the biggest names in world football switched teams, and several up-and-coming players will be plying their trade in new locales. Obviously, much attention has been focused on the move of Fernando Torres to Chelsea, but there was a lot more action. What were the ten best signings in the English Premier League during the transfer window?
10. Curtis Davies - Davies moves across the city from Aston Villa to Birmingham City. He brings the Blues a strong replacement for the injured Scott Dann, who had become a rock in central defense. Davies, who missed time last season due to a shoulder injury, fell out of favor with Gérard Houllier and couldn't crack the 4-deep center back rotation at Villa. I don't really understand why Davies wasn't given the opportunity given Villa's poor performance early in the season. Villa's loss, both in terms of the player and the nearly £8 million difference between investment and sale, is City's gain.
9. Andy Carroll - Newcastle born and raised, the young forward left his hometown club to move to Liverpool. While it seems clear that Carroll didn't want to leave St. James Park, Newcastle United had no choice but to take the ludicrous £35 million offer the Reds threw their way. Carroll would be higher on this list if he had more Premier League experience and if he weren't out with a thigh injury. While Carroll has shown a lot of promise, he has only played in 33 EPL games, though he has scored 14 goals. It seems to me that Liverpool pair a premium for Carroll simply because he is English. How else do you explain the fact that Carrol cost £12 million more than Luis Suárez (who will make an appearance further up this list). If Carroll continues to develop he could be an even better signing, but I find the price Liverpool paid a bit tough to justify.
8. Jean Makoun/Michael Bradley - I know that this is a bit of a cop-out, combining two players as one signing, but Aston Villa did a lot to strengthen the center of their midfield with the £6 million capture of the Cameroonian midfielder from Olympique Lyonnais and the loan of the American midfielder from Borussia Monchengladbach. Makoun brings composure on the ball, good visions, and the knack for scoring timely goals.
Like Makoun, Bradley is an energetic box-to-box midfielder. Bradley was a goal scoring machine in his time with SC Heerenveen, and has shown a touch for scoring with 'Gladbach. He was one of the stars of the U.S. team at the 2010 World Cup and should provide Villa with an excellent partner to Makoun.
7. Sully Muntari/Stéphane Sessègnon - Another combination, but Sunderland strengthened their attack and midfield with these two signings. Muntari, moving on loan from Inter Milan, will bring steel to the midfield. He will provide both good vision (as shown by his ball over the top to fellow Ghanaian Asamoah Gyan against Stoke City) and energy in the center of the park.
Sessègnon, who had fallen out of favor at Paris Saint-Germain, with provide the Black Cats with some creativity out of the midfield or in a withdrawn forward position. The Benin international played well against Stoke and should help Gyan keep the attack going while Danny Wellbeck and Fraizer Campbell recover from injury.
6. David Bentley - The supremely talented, though somewhat enigmatic winger moves on loan from Tottenham to Birmingham in a bid to find regular playing time. Bentley, who started his career with Arsenal, but made his biggest impact with Blackburn, has loads of talent but can't seem to find the pitch on a regular basis. In his first match, he won man-of-the-match for his work against Aston Villa. He scored his first goal for the Blues against Coventry City in the FA Cup. If Bentley can keep up this form, he will certainly help the Blues keep their place in the EPL.
5. Edin Džeko - On talent alone, the Bosnian striker would be higher on this list, but questions remain on how he will fit into the squad on the pitch. He has been one of the most sought after players in world soccer over the last several years. He was the engine that drove the attack for VfL Wolfsburg in his time in Germany. The reason he lands at #5 is due to questions on how he will fit into the mercenary side at Manchester City. With Carlos Tévez an ever-present in the lineup, and Manchester City and Roberto Mancini preferring a 4-3-3 formation where does Džeko fit? Tévez prefers playing in the center of the park, and Džeko does as well. Neither seems a natural fit on the wing. Will City change their lineup? They could shift to a 4-4-1-1 with David Silva sliding back to a left-sided midfield spot, with Tévez in a withdrawn forward role and Džeko up top. If City find a way to truly incorporate Džeko he would have to move up this list. Plus, not to knock Andy Carroll, he was nearly £8 million cheaper.
4. Fernando Torres - El Niño lands at #4 due to similar concerns expressed in my critique of the Edin Džeko move. Torres is undoubtedly talented, and brings an amazing goal scoring record in the Premier League to Stamford Bridge (65 goals in 102 games). However, where does the Spaniard fit into a Chelsea side with so much (volatile) attacking talent? Nicolas Anelka will not stand for being dropped from the first XI, nor will Didier Drogba. While Ankelka has slotted in well on the wing, neither Drogba nor Torres are a natural fit on the wing. Perhaps a 4-3-1-2 formation with one of the forward occupying a withdrawn role would work the best, but it remains to be seen if Carlo Ancelotti will alter his system.
3. David Luiz - The Blues make a second appearance on the list, this time for signing the dynamic Brazilian defender for up to £26.5 million from Benfica. With Chelsea clearly in need of defensive help, Luiz was an excellent signing. He was a huge part of a rock-solid defense as Benfica conceded just 20 goals on their way to the Portuguese title last season. He is versatile (he can play left back or center back) and is strong in the air. At just 23, Luiz has time to grow into an even better player and will a rock in Chelsea's defense for years. Plus, how could you not like this guy, he has some of the best hair in English soccer!
2. Luis Suárez - Suárez is probably best known in America for his handball against Ghana during the 2010 World Cup. The handball, which looked stupid at the time, saved La Celeste from defeat at the hands of the Black Stars. However, people would be remiss if they aren't aware of the young strikers immense talent. The Uruguay international has a history of scoring goals (111 goals in 159 appearances for Ajax), something Liverpool will need after the departure of Torres. He made a positive debut for the Reds, getting credit for what was certainly an own goal for Andy Wilkinson of Stoke. Costing less than Andy Carroll and with a much stronger track record, Suárez is the best signing of the transfer window for Liverpool.
1. Darren Bent - Darren Bent is a goal scorer. Plain and simple. Aston Villa needed a player up top who could put the ball in the back of the net, and they got that when they signed Bent from Sunderland for £18 million. Bent, who scored 24 Premier League goals just two season ago, provides Villa with proven finisher. Many thought Villa paid too much for Bent, but Bent proved his worth scoring the game winner against Manchester City (his debut for Villa). When you consider the cost of the other forwards on this list, Bent certainly looks like he could be a bargain. Villa is fighting to move into the top half of the table, and stay away from the relegation zone, and Bent and their midfield signings will help Villa realize that goal.
Other signings that merit mention are Robbie Keane's move to West Ham, a team that sorely needs a goal scorer, and Blackpool's signings of Andy Reid and James Beattie - two players who should help the Seasiders keep their place in the Premier League.
Agree with my selections, disagree, leave a comment.