Stars arrive with high expectations

Clubs are today breaking transfer records in the winter window, paying top dollars for talents in a bid to set themselves up for the season ahead.

Creative force: Armenia’s Henrikh Mkhitaryan has made an instant impact for the Gunners, creating three goals against Swansea, his first game for club.   -  AFP

I used to call it the period of panic buying but the quality of this year’s winter purchases have turned this mid-season transfer window into serious business. Earlier, moderate sums were exchanged for decent players, who were essentially looked as short-term fixes and not solutions to long-term problems. The pattern, though, has changed now. Clubs are today breaking transfer records, paying top dollars for talents in a bid to set themselves up for the season ahead. The 2018 window has seen quite a few high profile movements and the clubs are sure to enjoy long-term benefits of their latest recruits.

Hat-trick of assists

Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s move from United to Arsenal may have been part of a swap deal for Chile’s Alexis Sanchez, but to me it might be the coup of this transfer window. In his first start for the club, the Armenian showed his class, coming with a hat-trick of assists in a 5-1 mauling of a hapless Everton.

It’s hard to believe that Jose Mourinho had no use for him. Arsenal has landed the Mkhitaryan of Dortmund — a player who dictated games with oodles of creativity, forming a dangerous partnership with the nippy Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Players like Mkhitaryan need a vote of confidence from their managers, and Arsene Wenger seems to have given him the first dose of that.

Maverick

Arsenal had the busiest transfer window and it’s no surprise that they’re part of this list again. Alexis Sanchez had started becoming a presence at Arsenal and his departure needed a maverick, a not-so-regular player to come in at the Emirates. In Aubameyang, Wenger may have got his man.

The addition of him, too, should be considered as astute business and Wenger has to be commended for moving away from his philosophy of not allowing too much tinkering during the winter window.

Blazing debut: Chilean Alexis Sanchez made a goal-scoring start to his Manchester United career.   -  AFP

 

The former Borussia Dortmund star, who can play as a forward or a winger, has also made a positive start at the Emirates Stadium, scoring in the Everton win. The Gabonese international will look forward to reignite his telepathic understanding with Mkhitaryan, who is expected to excel as a double pivot alongside Mesut Ozil in the Gunners’ midfield.

Aubameyang is quick and lethal in the box. If I am not mistaken, Arsenal had put up a small heat map of Aubameyang’s goals from his Dortmund days and every goal, spare one, had come from inside the box. That, for me, is a phenomenal graph. With Mesut Ozil and Mkhitaryan working together, Aubameyang is going to benefit massively.

Destined for greatness

Philippe Coutinho’s move from Liverpool to Barcelona seems to have happened ages ago only because of the long-drawn nature of it. Coutinho was destined for Barcelona and it was always going to be a matter of time before he joined Messi and Suarez. He looked like a player who could steer Liverpool to domestic glory and maybe, he should have stayed. But then again, he’s almost certainly guaranteed a domestic title in Spain.

No friends at Emirates

Alexis Sanchez, who these days will have very few admirers in North London after forcing his move to Manchester United, also scored in his opening game for his new club. The Chilean scored from the rebound after Huddersfield goalkeeper Jonas Lossl parried his spot kick in the 68th minute. Sanchez, as usual, harried the opposition with his verve and played some delightful passes to Juan Mata and others.

Perfect start

Jurgen Klopp, forever trying to add some steel to his Liverpool defence, added Virgil van Dijk to his squad after long, agonising days of courting. The former Southampton defender became an instant crowd favourite when he scored with a powerful header in the Merseyside derby against Everton in the FA Cup third round win in early January. The £75m central defender, who since then found things a little tougher, is finally settling in. He came up with a commanding performance alongside Dejan Lovren in a 2-2 draw with fellow Champions League contender Tottenham Hotspur.

Spurs, too, has high expectations from its signing, Lucas Moura from Paris Saint- Germain. The Brazilian forward can play across the front three and will bring pace and directness to Tottenham’s game, offering another avenue of attack to Mauricio Pochettino’s side.