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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 11 December 2018

Chelsea's Olivier Giroud deal among five best Premier League transfers this winter

Richard Jolly looks at five player transfers during the 2017/18 winter and discusses their implications

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte made a good decision to sign Olivier Giroud. David Klein / Reuters
Chelsea manager Antonio Conte made a good decision to sign Olivier Giroud. David Klein / Reuters

Olivier Giroud

The first thing to note was the length of the contract: just 18 months for an £18 million (Dh94m) signing. Antonio Conte’s lack of trust in Michy Batshuayi, who has been loaned to Borussia Dortmund, is costly and Chelsea could end up writing off a large sum in a short time.

It also marked a stark break from their policy of not paying fees for players in their thirties, and it meant Arsenal almost doubled their money on a player who delivered 105 goals for them. And yet considering Chelsea’s striker search had taken them to such improbable targets as Peter Crouch and Ashley Barnes, Giroud represents a far better option.

Conte wanted a target man and Giroud has proved capable of leading the line for an elite team which, as Alvaro Morata struggles with the burden of a first season as an automatic choice, is useful. So, too, a capacity to make an impact from the bench.

Only Jermain Defoe has more Premier League goals as a substitute.

if the criticism at West Ham was that Andre Ayew, centre, did too little in between scoring, Swansea will accept that trade-off. Gavin Barker / EPA
if the criticism at West Ham was that Andre Ayew, centre, did too little in between scoring, Swansea will accept that trade-off. Gavin Barker / EPA

Andre Ayew

An Ayew has already boosted Swansea City’s survival hopes: Jordan, with a burst of four goals in seven league games. Brother Andre is the superior player, as Swansea know after he struck 12 times for them in 2015/16.

His return from West Ham United, for a club-record £18m, has shown a belated commitment to spend after Swansea made the division’s biggest profit in the summer transfer market. The Ghanaian should add pace, explosiveness and goals.

During his first spell in Wales, the feeling was that he did not fit "the Swansea Way" - the passing game they had played for several years. But that no longer exists, and if the criticism at West Ham was that Ayew did too little in between scoring, Swansea, who have the joint fewest goals in the league, will accept that trade-off.

Eliaquim Mangala, left, is a more obvious fit for Sam Allardyce than Pep Guardiola. David J Phillip / AP Photo
Eliaquim Mangala, left, is a more obvious fit for Sam Allardyce than Pep Guardiola. David J Phillip / AP Photo

Eliaquim Mangala

“Defensively he is a top, top, top player,” Pep Guardiola said on Tuesday. The new signing Aymeric Laporte, he said, added “something special on the ball", so Mangala was allowed to join Everton on loan.

Tall, good in the air and limited in possession, the Frenchman is a far more obvious fit for Sam Allardyce than Guardiola, who likes footballing centre-backs. The interest lies more in the implications: while Phil Jagielka and Ashley Williams’s ages mean Everton require long-term additions, they are unlikely to go down.

Mason Holgate had produced the best form of his Everton career in the early weeks of Allardyce’s reign. Michael Keane has impressed few at Goodison Park since his £30m switch from Burnley but returned to the team against Leicester City.

If Mangala plays, the younger generation of defenders may suffer.

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Read more

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Watch: Conte 'relaxed' about the future but 'worried' for Chelsea's top four chances

Richard Jolly: Manchester City target Laporte can tick every box for Guardiola

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Mauricio Pochettino has long wanted a winger, and Lucas Moura offers a quality option. Andrew Couldridge / Reuters
Mauricio Pochettino has long wanted a winger, and Lucas Moura offers a quality option. Andrew Couldridge / Reuters

Lucas Moura

After Dele Alli, Christian Eriksen and Son Heung-min excelled against Manchester United, the temptation is to say that Tottenham Hotspur did not require another attacking midfielder. Their duller display against Southampton, when Eriksen was injured and the others below par, indicated otherwise.

Mauricio Pochettino has long wanted a winger – Wilfried Zaha was a target – and even with Erik Lamela fit again, Moura offers a quality option. That he scored 19 times for Paris Saint-Germain last season shows his potential potency. That, in an age of escalating transfer fees, Tottenham paid just £23m for a 25-year-old player who cost PSG £38m, means he bears the look of a bargain.

And Pochettino has a habit of improving players.

Islam Slimani, left, does not offer the pace Newcastle United needed, but he brings aerial ability and more pedigree as a finisher. Darren Staples / Reuters
Islam Slimani, left, does not offer the pace Newcastle United needed, but he brings aerial ability and more pedigree as a finisher. Darren Staples / Reuters

Islam Slimani

Watford, West Ham, Chelsea, Southampton, Besiktas: Slimani spent January being linked with clubs. Tammy Abraham, Javier Hernandez, Daniel Sturridge, Nicolai Jorgensen: Rafa Benitez has spent two transfer windows pursuing strikers.

He finally landed a quality one in Slimani, still Leicester’s record buy and one of the highest scorers in Algeria’s history. Given Newcastle’s meagre return of 23 goals in 25 league games and the reality that no one has got more than four, he represents an upgrade.

Slimani only started two league games for Leicester this season, becoming one of several forwards to fail to break up the title-winning partnership of Jamie Vardy and Shinji Okazaki.

But while he does not offer the pace Newcastle needed, he brings aerial ability and more pedigree as a finisher.