The January transfer window ended this week with only one Chelsea youngster departing on deadline day, but with a total of 24 players plying their trade away from Stamford Bridge, there’s always plenty to catch up on, even in this quieter week in terms of action and incident.
In the wake of Peter Odemwingie’s unfortunate shenanigans, Romelu Lukaku seems entrenched as West Brom’s first-choice striker, but despite starting both of their matches this week, he was unable to be his usual effective self as the Baggies fell to two consecutive defeats.
He got 90 minutes away to Everton in midweek and played a part in Shane Long’s consolation goal, putting the ball into the box and causing the commotion from which the goal occurred. He retained his place for Sunday’s hosting of Tottenham Hotspur, a team he terrorised in the reverse fixture earlier in the campaign, but was substituted early in the second half as a sacrifice for the team after Goran Popov was sent off for heinously spitting in the face of Kyle Walker.
In The Championship, Nathaniel Chalobah was amongst a number of Watford regulars rested for their trip to Bristol City on Tuesday night but the move backfired on Gianfranco Zola as the upwardly mobile Hornets fell to a rare defeat. Chalobah came on for the last quarter of an hour at Ashton Gate before being restored to the starting line-up for the weekend home clash with Bolton, and he once again played well in a 2-1 win which keeps them surging towards the top of the table.
Josh McEachran only had one fixture this week and started it in the unusual position of being a substitute. He has lacked form and fitness recently and Tony Mowbray may just have felt it the right time to allow him a bit of a break, but Middlesbrough were well and truly thumped away to Ipswich, going down 4-0. Josh entered the game at half time but nobody in red did themselves any justice in one of Boro’s least memorable outings in 2012-13.
Sam Hutchinson still isn’t fit enough to return to first team football at Nottingham Forest, with manager Alex McLeish saying this week that he had no idea about his availability and that the right-back was with Chelsea receiving treatment. After such a positive start to the season, things have taken an unfortunately predictable turn and it is desperately sad for Sam to be going through this yet again.
Todd Kane was only named on the bench for Blackburn against Bristol City, despite playing well of late, and only got a minute or two at the end in the form of timewasting changes.
In League One, Sam Walker and Billy Clifford continue to contribute to Colchester’s turnaround as they recorded a second straight win after nine losses in a row. They did so away to relegation rivals Portsmouth, thus claiming a very important three points. Clifford was his usual creative and influential self in an attacking midfield role (although he is yet to claim his first assist), whilst Walker has proven to be a decent upgrade on Mark Cousins in goal with a commanding and calm presence, and could do nothing about either goal he conceded.
Patrick Bamford returned to Milton Keynes Dons on deadline day and will remain at Stadium:MK until the end of the season, but he is still a fortnight or so away from fitness after damaging his hamstring in his last game for Karl Robinson’s men a month ago. With striker Ryan Lowe facing a three-game ban for serious foul play, however, he may be forced back sooner than expected.
Over in the Netherlands, it was a busy and somewhat tumultuous week for the young Blues over at Vitesse Arnhem. Patrick van Aanholt, Tomas Kalas and Gael Kakuta all took part in a Dutch Cup clash against Ajax in Emmen, one which the Gelderlanders lost 4-0 as Ajax took revenge for a weekend defeat in Eredivisie action against the same team.
Whereas Van Aanholt was the hero last Sunday, he was the midweek villain as he conceded a penalty in the hammering. What followed was less predictable, as manager Fred Rutten reportedly threatened to quit the club after a transfer window in which none of his requests were heard and no arrivals were made.
He remained in place as manager for Sunday’s trip to Nijmegen to face NEC but the effects of the stressful week were still evident as Vitesse lost 2-1. Kalas struggled at right-back, something he’s had to work hard through in recent weeks, and perhaps Rutten should consider returning him to his more favoured position in the middle of the defence. Kakuta and Van Aanholt also played the full match but neither were really able to affect things.
Kenneth Omeruo missed ADO Den Haag’s 7-0 walloping at the hands of PSV as he and Nigeria continue to go from strength to strength in the African Cup of Nations. They defeated the Ivory Coast 2-1 on Sunday to take a place in the Semi Finals, and the young defender has been one of the revelations of the competition. Playing at centre-back and not right-back, where he usually features for ADO, he has been mobile, composed and downright unyielding, improving from game to game and doing a number on Didier Drogba in his most recent outing.
Amin Affane still hasn’t featured for Roda JC in 2013, and there appears to be no explanation forthcoming with regards his whereabouts.
In Germany, Kevin De Bruyne and Werder Bremen played a turgid 85 minutes at home to Hannover on Friday night before two late Nils Petersen goals saw them win the fixture 2-0. De Bruyne wasn’t involved in either game but did return to his usual role in an advanced central midfield role, but in a very poor match wasn’t able to stand out.
Jeffrey Bruma continues to be a Hamburg player despite interest from elsewhere last month and continues to be pressed into starting duty due to Michael Mancienne’s injury. Unfortunately, he was booked and didn’t have one of his better games in a 0-2 loss inspired by Eintracht Frankfurt’s prolific forward Srdjan Lakic.
Thibaut Courtois conceded his first goal at home since October this week as Atlético Madrid bested Sevilla in a Spanish Cup tie in which all three goals came from the penalty spot. The crazy fixture also saw three red cards awarded and Courtois was his usual excellent self, only being beaten by the free shot from twelve yards.
On Sunday at home to fifth placed Betis he had a relatively routine day, dealing with the few attempts at goal with ease en route to his eleventh league clean sheet this season. Atlético racked up a remarkable 20th consecutive home win in the process.
Lucas Piazon was an unused substitute for Málaga on Sunday and the decision to shift his substitute-only role from England to Spain continues to be a baffling one.
In La Segunda, Ulises Dávila returned to a wide attacking role after an unsuccessful move to a ‘false nine’ placement against Villarreal last time out and had a good game as Sabadell came back from two goals behind to defeat Barcelona B 3-2. The Mexican had a number of good touches and hit the post in one of his best games in recent times.
In perhaps the most unlikely twist of the season, Jhon Pírez made his debut for Leganés some six months after joining the Madrid-based side, and played 65 minutes without getting injured in a 5-1 rout of Guijuelo. He was even involved in their third goal, with Batres following up his header, which had been saved by the goalkeeper.
In Belgium, Thorgan Hazard and Zulte Waregem beat Cercle Brugge 2-1 to extend the gap over third-placed to six points, and they have a game in hand to boot. They are in uncharted territory for a club of their stature and European football, perhaps even in the Champions League, beckons for next season. Hazard got 81 minutes against Cercle and had a tidy enough outing.
Finishing as usual with Matej Delac, the Croatian league remains on winter hiatus for another fortnight or so, but he has been involved in their friendly fixtures over the last couple of weeks.