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Liverpool and Arsenal set for showdown

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Arsenal

In: Abou Diaby (Auxerre, £3.5 million), Emanuel Adebayor (Monaco, £7 million), Theo Walcott (Southampton, £5 million rising to £12 million), Mart Poom (Sunderland, free)

Out: David Bentley (Blackburn, undisclosed), Quincy Owusu-Abeyie (Spartak Moscow, undisclosed), Jeremie Aliadiare (Wolves, loan)

Arsene Wenger and spending spree are rarely found in the same sentence, especially in January. Nonetheless, the Arsenal manager made three signings in six days which could cost the club £22 million.

Abou Diaby's physical stature - if not his callow performances - fill the void Patrick Vieira left.

Theo Walcott and Emanuel Adebayor add to his attacking options, but it is notable that, despite Arsenal's defensive difficulties, Wenger opted against any additions at the back.

Poom apart, his signings are made with a typical concern for the long term, but with the need to guarantee Champions League football in the first season at Ashburton Grove, should Wenger have prioritised the present?

Aston Villa

In: None

Out: Eirik Bakke (Leeds, end of loan), Stefan Postma (Wolves, free), Wayne Henderson (Brighton, £35,000)

Eirik Bakke's significance lies less in his ability as a combative midfielder than as an indication of Doug Ellis' mood and Aston Villa's finances.

David O'Leary's continual refrain was that, while he lacked the budget for new buys, he hoped to extend Bakke's loan from Leeds. Ellis scotched that, leaving O'Leary with one of the smaller squads in the Premiership. At least the unsettled Lee Hendrie and the transfer-listed Mark Delaney did not reduce the playing staff still further by leaving.

And in the same month when Villa were mentioned in conjunction with David Beckham; there would have been so much more to report if the fake sheikh was in charge...

Birmingham City

In: Chris Sutton (Celtic, free), Martin Latka (Slavia Prague, loan), DJ Campbell (Brentford, £500,000)

Out: Walter Pandiani (Espanyol, £1 million), Njazi Kuqi (Blackpool, loan), Andrew Barrowman (Walsall, free)

A belated reminder of the qualities of his squad seemed to have stifled Steve Bruce. The Birmingham boss initially talked of making three buys, but the return to fitness and form of some of his underachievers coincided with a revival in their home form.

So his major signing involved a striking upgrade; out, at a £2 million loss, went Walter Pandiani, who scored against Liverpool and Manchester United but no-one else; in came Chris Sutton, yet to score but already central to Birmingham's gameplan. In a matter of weeks, he has already shown the catalytic qualities Christophe Dugarry displayed to save Birmingham from relegation three seasons ago.

Indeed, defensive injuries mean Bruce could benefit from two Suttons; instead, Czech Martin Latka is the late, and short-term addition to his back four while Brentford's FA Cup hero DJ Campbell represents a late impulse buy. Bruce finally got his three arrivals.

Blackburn Rovers

In: David Bentley (Arsenal, undisclosed), Florent Sinama-Pongolle (Liverpool, loan), Martin Olsson (Hogaborgs, nominal fee)

Out: Matt Jansen (Bolton, free), David Thompson (Wigan, free), Garry Flitcroft (Sheffield United, free), Andy Taylor (QPR, loan)

With a minimum of fuss, Mark Hughes has quietly disposed of three fringe players; it is testament to the consistency of a small squad that none got much of a look-in.

The one position where he sought to strengthen was in attack where Paul Dickov's shoulder injury and Craig Bellamy's stop-start season have increased their reliance on the game but limited Shefki Kuqi.

Teddy Sheringham was one target; but a deadline-day double deal made David Bentley's loan deal permanent and introduced Liverpool's speedy striker Florent Sinama-Pongolle. But Bellamy's fragile fitness remains crucial.

Bolton Wanderers

In: Matt Jansen (Blackburn, free), Oscar Perez (Cordoba, free)

Out: Martin Djetou (released), Fabrice Fernandes (released).

A traditional conclusion to January involves Sam Allardyce frantically faxing the FA with details of his three last-minute recruits. Not this year.

To some, that is a sign of progress; Bolton no longer need relegation firefighters. For others, however, it is indicative of insufficient resources being made available to Allardyce. Captain Kevin Nolan's call for the board to finance his spending was not heeded.

The return of the quartet at the African Nations Cup will alleviate a lack of numbers, Oscar Perez provides cover for the injured Ivan Campo and Matt Jansen's versatility provides cover in the three attacking positions, but should Bolton just miss out on a Champions League place they could regret their caution.

Charlton Athletic

In: Marcus Bent (Everton, £2.5 million)

Out: Dean Kiely (Portsmouth, £750,000), Danny Murphy (Tottenham, £2 million), Jonatan Johansson (Norwich, loan)

Alan Curbishley has doubled his Bent quotient and, like Darren before him, Marcus made an immediate impact with a debut equaliser at Chelsea. With five former Ipswich players in his side, Curbishley may not limit his scouting trips to Portman Road in the future.

Danny Murphy's descent from automatic choice to fringe player was completed by his late move to Tottenham, removing some of the craft from one of the bigger squads in the division.

Dean Kiely's departure hardly came as a surprise but, after trying three goalkeepers already this season, it was widely anticipated that the Charlton manager would sign a fourth. He hasn't but the names at the top of his summer shopping list could include Robert Green; consistent clean sheets have eluded Charlton since that excellent start to the season.

Chelsea

In: Maniche (Dynamo Moscow, loan)

Out: Wayne Bridge (Fulham, loan)

The solitary flaw in Jose Mourinho's theory of two players per position always appeared to lie in midfield. Being reunited with Maniche should provide the remedy and, if the Portuguese is unable to show the stellar form of his Porto days, Mourinho's try-before-you-buy agreement means he will not prove costly.

Wayne Bridge's star has waned to the extent that he is now third choice left-back; William Gallas' versatility means the England man can be allowed to leave on loan.

Everton

In: Alan Stubbs (Sunderland, free)

Out: Marcus Bent (Charlton, £2.5 million), Per Kroldrup (Fiorentina, £3 million)

The sequence of four successive wins, meaning that the threat of relegation has receded, removed the element of panic-buying associated with desperate managers.

Everton, after rediscovering their form of last season, recaptured the reliable Alan Stubbs while preserving the proceeds of Per Kroldrup's move for the summer.

A £2 million loss on the lesser-spotted Danish defender was, however, an admission of failure and after Marcus Bent's move and the failure to sign Nicolas Anelka, among others, Moyes looks a striker light for the rest of the season. But surely reports of a move for Robbie Fowler were far fetched?

Fulham

In: Simon Elliott (Columbus Crew, free), Antti Niemi (Southampton, £1 million), Wayne Bridge (Chelsea, loan), Michael Brown (Tottenham, undisclosed)

Out: Liam Fontaine, Adam Green (both Bristol City, loan), Zesh Rehman (Norwich, loan)

Few have as much to show for their January work as Chris Coleman, despite limited outlay. Benefitting from Jose Mourinho's trust, the Fulham manager has borrowed Wayne Bridge and reunited him with Antti Niemi, regularly among the Premiership's top five keepers and available cheaply once Southampton's prospects of promotion disappeared.

Enterprising in attack, Fulham's defence has been porous at times, but that could change. The combative Michael Brown joins a midfield marked by a spiky streak but with a willingness to play attacking football.

Simon Elliott, the fourth addition, is a product of Coleman's scouting in MLS. The Welshman is one of the few to tap in to the American market; perhaps he is looking to add Craven Cottage to Harrods on the tourist trail.

Liverpool

In: Jan Kromkamp (Villarreal, swap), Daniel Agger (Brondby, £5.8 million), David Martin (MK Dons, undisclosed fee), Paul Anderson (Hull, swap), Robbie Fowler (Manchester City, free)

Out: Josemi (Villarreal, swap), John Welsh (Hull, swap), Florent Sinama-Pongolle (Blackburn, loan), David Raven (Blackpool, loan), Mark Gonzalez (Real Sociedad, loan)

Rafael Benitez, we thought, was predictable. Not in his team selections, or his substitutions, but in the transfer market. Signings centred on Spain, much as long balls are aimed at Peter Crouch.

So what, then, is Robbie Fowler's homecoming - an inspired gamble, a rare show of nostalgia from Benitez or a public rebuke for more profligate strikers?

Elsewhere, he has concluded his lengthy search for a central defender (Daniel Agger, kept under wraps so far) and appears to have got the better part of a swap deal with Villarreal, trading the ineffective Josemi for Jan Kromkamp.

But whoever Benitez targets in the summer, the focus will be on Fowler when his short-term deal expires.

Manchester City

In: Albert Riera (Espanyol, loan), Georgios Samaras (Heerenveen, £6million), Matthew Mills (Southampton, undisclosed)

Out: Robbie Fowler (Liverpool, free), Jonathan D'Laryea (Mansfield, nominal fee)

The Premiership is preoccupied with the search for a new Vieira. Stuart Pearce took the rhyming option and added a Riera. The consequences may be felt most by Kiki Musampa after the arrival of another left winger on loan from Spain. Riera has been quickly acquainted with the reality of City - uplifting derby victory followed, almost inevitably, by drab defeat.

Robbie Fowler bowed out with a salute to Manchester United fans; Pearce seemingly prefers pace in attack. In his place, some of the Shaun Wright-Phillips revenue has been spent on Heerenveen's Georgios Samaras, though, with Pearce forced to virtually double his bid to secure the Greek, an early example of his ability would be timely.

One talented youngster - centre back Matthew Mills - was secured, but his arrival was overshadowed by Joey Barton's sudden wantaway tendency and an unsuccessful attempt to borrow Wright-Phillips. The midfielder, however, remains in Manchester, the winger in London.

Manchester United

In: Nemanja Vidic (Spartak Moscow, £7 million), Patrice Evra (Monaco, £5.5 million)

Out: David Bellion (Nice, loan), Sylvain Ebanks-Blake (Royal Antwerp, loan), David Jones (NEC Nijmegan, loan)

For a manager who has often professed a dislike of mid-season spending, Sir Alex Ferguson has been active, and wishes he could have increased his outlay.

The arrivals of Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra, besides yielding an uncompromising centre-half and speedy left back, may have rid the defence of complacency, with greater competition for places.

But injuries to Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and John O'Shea accelerated his hunt for a midfielder; had any been signed, the newcomer would have been burdened by comparisons to Roy Keane.

But an approach for AC Milan's Johan Vogel failed, and the search will resume in the summer. The sight of a striker and a centre back paired at the heart of midfield at Wolves was both an indictment of previous buys and an indication of the urgency of finding Keane's replacement in the summer.

Middlesbrough

In: None

Out: Szilard Nemeth (Strasbourg, nominal fee), Abel Xavier (released)

Trapped by the footballing equivalent of negative equity, Steve McClaren is stuck with what he has. Attempts to shift his big earners have failed, and now the Middlesbrough manager has a coterie of disgruntled players in his squad.

Ugo Ehiogu agreed to join West Brom only for injury-hit Middlesbrough to veto the move while Steve Gibson's demands that McClaren sell before be buys, together with the failure of a late bid for Joey Barton, precluded any arrivals.

On the plus side, at least the sacking of Abel Xavier will mean he no longer needs to wear sunglasses on the training ground.

Newcastle United

In: None

Out: Laurent Robert (Benfica, free)

Graeme Souness has had his gold credit card cut up. Without a budget to buy, he made the most optimistic of approaches for Nicolas Anelka - lacking only a transfer fee. But no signings do not mean it has been a quiet month on Tyneside.

Instead of arrivals, Newcastle have had scarcely-veiled verbal sparring between chairman - conscious of a £50 million outlay - and manager, unable to swing the proverbial cat in the vicinity of the treatment table lest he decapitate Kieron Dyer.

The presumption is that Newcastle would rather extend their overdraft to fund their next manager and not the current incumbent.

Portsmouth

In: Benjani (Auxerre, £4.1 million), Emmanuel Olisadebe (Panathinaikos, undisclosed), Pedro Mendes, Sean Davis, Noe Pamarot (all Tottenham, combined cost £7 million), Wayne Routledge (Tottenham, loan), Dean Kiely (Charlton, £750,000), Ognijen Koroman (Terek Groznyi, loan), Andres D'Alessandro (Wolfsburg, loan)

Out: Laurent Robert (end of loan), John Viafara (Real Sociedad, loan)

If a computer dating programme never matched Harry Redknapp with a wealthy Russian, it is a wonder. Redknapp, rapidly revisiting his estimate of players required upwards during the month, has enjoyed spending Alexandre Gaydamak's money, though Portsmouth's predicament has restricted him.

Porto's Benni McCarthy rejected a move to a club with 'no ambitions' while the Celtic pair of Chris Sutton and John Hartson both declined the chance to become the third striker signed in January alone. But Redknapp responded in typical fashion to coach Joe Jordan's suggestion that eight additions were needed. He got nine.

Benjani is a club record buy, Wayne Routledge rectifies a lack of right-sided players while the other former Tottenham trio strengthen the spine of the side and the dependable Dean Kiely has displaced those bought by Velimir Zajec and Alain Perrin in goal.

Perhaps the most interesting signing of all is Andres D'Alessandro, a latent talent eyeing the World Cup and signed by the man who revived Paolo di Canio's career. But while Redknapp has recruited extensively - and still laments the 14 that got away - Portsmouth's results have taken a turn for the worse.

Perhaps buying the players was the easy bit.

Sunderland

In: Kevin Smith (Leeds, free), Rory Delap (Southampton, free)

Out: Mart Poom (Arsenal, free), Alan Stubbs (Everton, free), Carl Robinson (Norwich, £50,000)

Such is Sunderland's predicament that January, usually a last-chance saloon for the relegation-threatened, is less of a concern than detoxing for the Championship.

Hence just two low-profile additions; Leeds reserve Kevin Smith and Rory Delap, the Southampton squad player who is the replacement for Carl Robinson. while the experienced Alan Stubbs' return to Everton allows Mick McCarthy to give his younger defenders a greater taste of the Premiership.

The summer, when the vultures may come calling for Julio Arca or Dean Whitehead, may prove the pivotal transfer window.

Tottenham Hotspur

In: Danny Murphy (Charlton, £2 million), Hossam Ghaly (Feyenoord, undisclosed)

Out: Pedro Mendes, Sean Davis, Noe Pamarot (all Portsmouth, combined cost £7 million), Philip Ifil (Millwall, loan), Reto Ziegler (Wigan, loan), Wayne Routledge (Portsmouth, loan), Michael Brown (Fulham, undisclosed fee)

Having accumulated 12 midfielders, it was evident that a little pruning of Spurs' squad was in order. Aided by Portsmouth's new-found largesse, Martin Jol now has a trimmer squad and a bigger budget.

Danny Murphy, who almost joined Spurs instead of Charlton, finally makes the move to White Hart Lane and offers the versatility and technique to fit into any of Jol's many midfield permutations.

Hossam Ghaly, signed from Feyenoord, is the other new face in the centre of the pitch but the failure of the bid for Jonathan Zebina means the defence is unchanged.

But Mido's absence in Africa showed Spurs' reliance on the Egyptian to provide an aerial option in attack and Jol's inability to add another striker to strengthen their push for a Champions League place may have been his major regret when the window shut.

West Bromwich Albion

In: Williams Martinez (Defensor, loan), Nigel Quashie (Southampton, undisclosed)

Out: Darren Moore (Derby, £500,000), Riccardo Scimeca (Cardiff, free), Rob Earnshaw (Norwich, £2.75 million), Lloyd Dyer (Millwall, free)

As a player, Bryan Robson was noted for the timing of his arrival in the penalty box.

As a manager, he just beat the transfer deadline to secure the signing of the forceful Nigel Quashie, a belated triumph in a cruel month.

Because West Brom have haemorrhaged players, even though none were considered a first choice by their manager, while there has only been one other addition.

That Ugo Ehiogu's on-off transfer resulted in the centre back remaining at the Riverside was a particular frustration. Robert Earnshaw's goals saved West Brom from relegation last year, but there will be no repeat after Robson sold the reserve to Norwich

West Ham United

In: Dean Ashton (Norwich City, £7.25 million), Yaniv Katan (Maccabi Haifa, £100,000), Lionel Scaloni (Deportivo la Coruna, loan)

Out: David Bellion (end of loan), Moses Ashikodi (Rangers, free), Tomas Repka (Sparta Prague, free)

Few would have imagined that Tomas Repka would prove irreplaceable. He nearly did, though; the search for a replacement for the widely-derided and homeward-bound right back was fruitless until, in the closing minutes of the window, Deportivo la Coruna's Argentine defender Lionel Scaloni squeezed through.

In attack, however, Alan Pardew now has five forwards and still repelled Spurs' inquiry about Teddy Sheringham. That even his board wondered if he paid over the odds for Dean Ashton, however, means West Ham's record buy has to vindicate his manager's judgment.

Wigan Athletic

In: David Thompson (Blackburn, free), Neil Mellor (Liverpool, loan), Reto Ziegler (Tottenham, loan), Paul Scharner (Brann Bergen, £2 million)

Out: None

Paul Jewell could be forgiven for thinking he has the Midas touch; for three signings to score debut goals within a month is a remarkable success rate.

It also brought welcome options to a small and injury-hit squad. Scharner, the giant Austrian, has already made his presence felt in both the centre of defence and midfield while the versatile Thompson's combination of competitiveness and incisive passing makes him well-suited to Wigan.

After also recruiting Henri Camara, Arjan de Zeeuw and Pascal Chimbonda in the summer, Jewell should expect calls from his peers looking for a few tips.

Email newsdesk@soccernet.com with your thoughts.