There was a fair bit of January business of the ‘meh’ variety. We can’t help but wonder why this little lot was signed…
Juan Iturbe (Bournemouth)
“It’s exciting to be able to integrate Juan into the squad,” said Eddie Howe when signing the £16m Paraguayan international winger from Roma on loan. By the end of January, Howe was saying: “Juan’s talent is not in doubt, he’s an outstanding player. We need to get to know him better, and by that I mean that the players on the pitch need to give him the ball at the right time in the right areas. I still feel there’s an adjustment from our perspective to get the best out of him.”
The ‘adjustment’ was to stick him on the bench and leave him there; Iturbe played 15 Premier League minutes in February (in a 3-1 defeat to Stoke) and was not even a substitute for Tuesday night’s win over Southampton. Juan Iturbe not good enough for Bournemouth? Welcome to 2016; it’s mental.
Mohamed Elneny (Arsenal)
“Let’s see how well he adapts to English football before we see if we have got him for a cheap price,” said Arsene Wenger about the £5m midfielder that – by the Frenchman’s own admission – nobody else wanted. You could be forgiven for thinking that Wenger did not want Elneny either; his 20 minutes against Manchester United on Sunday marked his Premier League debut.
It’s almost like Elneny was a sop to the Arsenal fans after Wenger promised Arsenal would be “busy” in the January transfer market. In truth, Wenger trusted the untrustworthy Mathieu Flamini far more than Elneny, who has swapped the Europa League with FC Basel for the FA Cup with Arsenal. We imagine he always dreamt of coming up against David Meyler at a half-empty Emirates.
Alex Pato (Chelsea)
Finally at Chelsea many, many years after Roman Abramovich saw him at AC Milan and fell a little bit in love. Manager Guus Hiddink clearly had no room in his plans for the Brazilian but claimed the move was not a “gamble” because he was only signing on loan from Internacional. A month after his signing, Hiddink declared that he was finally ready to make his debut.
“He’s not ready for 90 minutes but he’s ready to play part of the game,” said Hiddink before leaving him on the bench alongside perpetual unused substitutes Loic Remy and Ruben Loftus-Cheek. They may be wise to invest in a pack of cards.
Oumar Niasse (Everton)
£13.5m. Yes, £13.5m.
“He’s not back up for anyone,” said Everton boss Roberto Martinez after 427 ‘Everton finally sign Lukaku back-up’ headlines. “He has his own ability, his own conditions and is someone who can stretch defenders. Physically he can cope with the physicality of the Premier League straight away. He doesn’t need to adapt.” On Tuesday night he finally made his Premier League debut, playing a grand total of two minutes against Aston Villa; he played on the left and touched the ball twice.
Steven Caulker (Liverpool)
“We looked for Premier League experience because in this short time, you need that experience,” said Jurgen Klopp. It made perfect sense until Caulker appeared in the 89th, 90th and 90th minutes in each of his three Premier League appearances to date. Largely as a striker. He did play as a centre-half in the FA Cup against West Ham – helping Liverpool to a clean sheet – but since then he has been back on the bench as Kolo Toure enjoys a renaissance.
“When I woke up this morning, it still felt very surreal,” said Caulker on the day he arrived on loan from QPR. It still does, Steven, it still does.
Henri Saivet (Newcastle United)
“Henri was nice and composed in the middle,” according to Steve McClaren after the Frenchman’s first Premier League start following his £4.5m move from Bordeaux. So of course he took him off after less than an hour. He did the same against Everton and Cheick Tiote got the call to return to the starting line-up for a comfortable win over West Brom, with Saivet getting a minute on the pitch for his first win in a Newcastle shirt. Whoop.
It remains to be seen whether Saivet or striker signing Seydou Doumbia will play the smallest part in Newcastle’s relegation fight; at least Doumbia got off the bench during Newcastle’s 5-1 defeat to Chelsea and the 1-0 loss at Stoke (though he probably wishes he hadn’t).
Patrick Bamford (Norwich)
Yes, Norwich. Who knew? After playing less than two hours of Premier League football at Crystal Palace in the first half of the season and declaring his loan spell “terrible”, he joined the Canaries, talked about “total football” and set about proving to Alan Pardew that he had made a grave error by ignoring him in south London.
Norwich boss Alex Neil said he was worth north of £10m and then played him for 34 minutes in a 2-0 defeat to Aston Villa in which the Canaries played very little in the way of “total football”. He has since played one minute in the Premier League. Is this loan spell “terrible” too, Patrick?
Costel Pantilimon (Watford)
When your manager says this – “We respect a lot the status of Gomes because he’s an amazing player. Of course Pantilimon is a good player” – you must know exactly where you stand. Or rather sit. The Romanian has swapped one Premier League bench for another in what must go down as one of the more pointless transfers for both club and player. Even though he has played twice in the FA Cup and kept clean sheets against Nottingham Forest and Leeds, Quique Sanchez Flores has already warned that Heurelho Gomes could take his place when it gets tasty.
The bizarre part of this tale is that the giant Romanian was Sunderland’s first-choice keeper until mid-January. “It is a strange situation,” he admitted. “I don’t really know what happened in the last three weeks. I had a discussion with the manager [Sam Allardyce] and I didn’t feel what he said reflected the reality. It is his call though.” Pantilimon may have the last laugh when he is still sitting on a Premier League bench next season.
Leroy Fer (Swansea City)
Having suffered Premier League relegation with his last two clubs, it made total sense that Swansea would bring in the Dutchman on loan as they found themselves fighting for their own survival.
Very delighted to have joined @SwansOfficial on a loan deal… Let's go!!! 🙏🏾
— Leroy Fer (@LeroyFer10) February 1, 2016
Lovely enthusiasm but there hasn’t been a whole load of ‘going’ since then: Fer had played 15 minutes of Premier League football before starting in a much-changed side at Arsenal as Swansea have preferred both Jack Cork and the 33-year-old Leon Britton. Admit it, you had forgotten he was at Swansea, hadn’t you?
Alex Pritchard (West Brom)
After news of the Tottenham midfielder’s loan to West Brom broke on deadline day, I searched for a picture of Alex Pritchard. He looked tiny. “No way he is going to play in a Tony Pulis side,” I said. I was wrong in that Pritchard has actually played – 45 minutes in 1-0 defeat to Newcastle that very much flattered the Baggies – but he has not been seen since. Not being a centre-half or a defensive midfielder puts him at an obvious disadvantage.
“He’s trained well, he’s worked well and he’s desperate to be involved. But sometimes you have to hold them back and we have a responsibility to Tottenham for that,” says Pulis. Surely he would be better off training at Tottenham if he’s not going to play for West Brom? Maybe he should have had a conversation with Serge Gnabry before he made this particular loan switch.