Deadline day – the unanswered questions

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Focus Forum: Who were the deadline day winners & losers?

A record £210m was spent by Premier League clubs on transfer deadline day but the collapse of some of the window’s most talked-about moves leaves as many questions as answers.

Will unsettled stars be welcomed back?

There are likely to be some unhappy players around the Premier League after the close of the transfer window – leaving bosses to indulge in very careful man management before games resume following the international break.

Southampton’s Virgil van Dijk has effectively been in exile all summer, deemed not to be in the right frame of mind to figure in games having handed in a transfer request in an attempt to push through a move to Liverpool.

Philippe Coutinho is in a similar position at Liverpool, refused his move to Barcelona despite emailing a transfer request to the club’s hierarchy and a subsequent offer from the Catalans that would have amounted to £118m.

Liverpool’s owners, Fenway Sports Group, have so far refused to move on the stance they held from day one. The Spanish transfer window does not close until Friday evening, but they have maintained throughout the summer that there is no question the Brazilian will leave Anfield.

Arsenal actually score more goals and earn more points, on average, when Alexis Sanchez is not in the team

Leicester City’s Riyad Mahrez was allowed special dispensation to leave the Algeria national camp to sign for his new club – the only problem being this was a mystery not just to his current club, but also to a list of supposedly interested teams.

Mahrez, for now, must return to Leicester after what seems a rather embarrassing unscheduled excursion.

And of course, after a day of claim and counter-claim covering Europe and South America, Alexis Sanchez stays at Arsenal when at one point he seemed certain to join Manchester City in a £60m deal.

Sanchez’s frustration will be compounded by the fact it appeared the deal foundered over Thomas Lemar’s reluctance to leave Monaco for Arsenal, despite reports of a £92m fee being agreed.

With and without you…
Average goals for Average goals against Win percentage Pts per game
All stats refer to period since player joined their club
Liverpool with Coutinho 1.9 1.2 54.3% 1.9
Liverpool without Coutinho 2.2 1.4 53.3% 1.8
Arsenal with Sanchez 1.8 1 55.8% 1.9
Arsenal without Sanchez 2 1.2 61.5% 2
Southampton with Van Dijk 1.4 1.1 43.6% 1.5
Southampton without Van Dijk 1.1 1.4 30% 1.2

There will now be a significant period of reintegration for those players – and how successfully this is done will play a vital part in how their season unfolds.

Van Dijk’s head and heart have appeared elsewhere all summer since it emerged he wished to move to Liverpool but the Merseysiders were forced to back off and apologise amid claims of an illegal approach.

The talented Netherlands central defender was still holding out for a move even on deadline day itself but Southampton, who have seen the path to Anfield become a well-worn route for their players in recent seasons, held firm.

Saints’ new boss Mauricio Pellegrino faces the tough task of getting Van Dijk in shape to swallow that disappointment and return to the fray. There is little doubt he had no intention of playing for Southampton again but he cannot afford to waste time in a World Cup year and must knuckle down until January at least.

David Ornstein on what went wrong for Arsenal in transfer window.

Things may not be so difficult for Arsenal and Leicester City. Sanchez, rather like Luis Suarez after he became unsettled at Liverpool, has the driven winning mentality that ensures he can block out all outside distractions once he gets on the field. It would be no surprise to see him continue to exert a major influence on Arsenal.

And Mahrez has been outstanding for Leicester already this season despite making it clear all summer that he wished to leave.

Coutinho’s response to disappointment remains to be seen, although Liverpool’s worries have been eased by the fact they have so far been outstanding in attack even in his absence.

He has not played for them this season because of a back injury, although he reported for duty with Brazil, coming on as a substitute in Thursday’s World Cup qualifier against Ecuador to score their second goal in a 2-0 win.

Manager Jurgen Klopp insists he would have no trouble welcoming Coutinho back but it will clearly be a blow to a player regarded as a model professional if his hopes of a dream move to the Nou Camp have indeed been thwarted.

In each case, managers will be working overtime to heal any lingering hurt while every piece of body language will be studied by fans whose affection for players they have hero-worshipped has been stretched this summer.

Why could Chelsea not get all their key targets?

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain felt his career would be best served by a move to Liverpool rather than Antonio Conte’s champions Chelsea

Premier League champions Chelsea have brought in real talent in this window in the shape of £60m striker Alvaro Morata from Real Madrid and Monaco’s talented midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko – but there will still be frustration after several failures in the transfer market.

Romelu Lukaku was long-touted for a return to his former club but ended up joining Manchester United in a £75m switch from Everton, while a move for Juventus defender Leonardo Bonucci never materialised as he chose to stay in Italy at AC Milan.

There was also the surprise departure of midfield powerhouse Nemanja Matic – not simply his exit, but a move to Manchester United that will significantly strengthen a rival’s hand in the Premier League title race.

It was in the final week of the window, however, that Chelsea’s difficulties were laid bare as they struggled to get deals over the line.

The Stamford Bridge club agreed a £40m fee with Arsenal for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain only to discover the midfielder preferred Liverpool, before the steady pursuit of Swansea City striker Fernando Llorente was trumped by a late, swift £15m intervention from Tottenham.

Finally, and most bizarrely of all, Chelsea agreed a £35m deal with Everton for Ross Barkley, only for the 23-year-old England midfielder to change his mind on the move.

Everton major shareholder Farhad Moshiri said Barkley had even had a medical – a claim denied by Barkley’s camp.

It was another blow to Chelsea, although compensation came in the signings of Torino defender Davide Zappacosta and the £35m addition of Leicester City’s England man Danny Drinkwater.

Chelsea have normally been ruthlessly efficient in concluding business, so this week has been alien territory for them.

How will it affect their season and manager Conte?

The Italian has been keen to stress the squad needed strengthening and while it is stretching the point to suggest the champions have lost some of their allure, it has been a chastening week for all at Stamford Bridge.

What next for Barkley?

Ross Barkley opted to stay at Everton but another England midfielder, Danny Drinkwater, did complete a move to Stamford Bridge

The most astonishing turn of events on deadline day came with a deal that did not happen. Namely Chelsea’s aborted £35m move for Barkley.

Chelsea thought they had got their man after an improved offer was accepted by the Toffees and personal terms were agreed, only for Barkley to back away from the move at the 11th hour.

In a bizarre conclusion to the window, Chelsea were left embarrassed and frustrated, while Everton were left contemplating the return of a player they may now lose for a lot less in January or for nothing next summer.

Whatever the reasons for the breakdown of the move, Barkley’s first task is to get himself fit as he contemplates three months on the sidelines with a serious hamstring injury at a pivotal moment in his career.

So what next?

It is unlikely this means a long-term reunion with Everton.

Barkley’s relationship with manager Ronald Koeman is uneasy, with the hard-nosed Dutchman seemingly ambivalent to whether he stays or goes, especially having strengthened in his position with £45m record buy Gylfi Sigurdsson and £24m former Ajax captain Davy Klaassen.

Chelsea would appear unlikely to return to the negotiating table after Thursday’s events – so the beneficiaries may be Tottenham.

Spurs have held a long-term interest in Barkley and now have a strong hand to play in January, when he may be fully fit once more, or in the summer when he is available for free.

And, probably to Koeman’s agitation, Barkley is back on his agenda once more.

Will Man City regret missing out on Evans?

Has Pep Guardiola failed to address the biggest weakness in his Manchester City side?

Manchester City spent more than £130m strengthening a defence that was their weak spot last season by bringing in Kyle Walker from Spurs for £54m, Monaco’s Benjamim Mendy for £52m and Danilo from Real Madrid for £26.5m – but will they eventually regret missing out on the unsung Jonny Evans?

Manager Pep Guardiola wanted 29-year-old Evans to add steel and reliability in central defence but was left frustrated as West Bromwich Albion manager Tony Pulis attached a prohibitive £30m price tag and another avenue of opportunity was closed off by Eliaquim Mangala’s reluctance to join Crystal Palace.

Evans may not be one of the Premier League’s most celebrated defenders, and of course would have had his Manchester United links to overcome, but the Northern Ireland international has been simply outstanding at The Hawthorns.

City will hope captain Vincent Kompany stays fit and John Stones finds consistency after a transitional first season at Etihad Stadium, especially as Nicolas Otamendi remains unconvincing.

If not, Guardiola’s desire to bring the no-nonsense, almost old-fashioned, defensive reliability of this greatly under-rated player to City will appear even more understandable.

Have Swansea got the biggest bargain of the window?

Bayern’s highly rated Renato Sanches will seek to revitalise his career at the Liberty Stadium

Of all the eye-catching deals in this window, Swansea City may just have pulled off the biggest coup of all with the loan signing of Renato Sanches from Bayern Munich.

Sanches, just 20, was one of Europe’s hottest properties when he joined Bayern for £35m before starring in Portugal’s Euro 2016 win, where he was voted young player of the tournament.

He found life tough at Bayern but remains a prodigious talent rich in promise.

This deal is a coup for Swansea manager Paul Clement, who worked with Sanches as Bayern assistant manager and retains a close friendship with coach Carlo Ancelotti.

Sanches may be using the Swans as a stepping stone – but this is a win-win for both sides and could have the Premier League’s elite looking back at the end of the season pondering: “Why didn’t we think of that?”

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