AAs the January transfer window drew to a close, the narrative across France was one of survival rather than improvement. The most active clubs in Ligue 1 are those trying to stay in the division, rather than those fighting for a Champions League spot. None of the clubs occupying the European places have made significant additions, leaving the heavy lifting to those hoping to avoid the drop, with St-Étienne, Bordeaux and Troyes all particularly active.
With the league title seemingly sealed but uncertainty lingering over their form in Europe, not to mention their Coupe de France exit on Monday against Nice, PSG looked likely to be active in the market. There were plenty of exits talked about, from Georginio Wijnaldum to Colin Dagba, but in the end they could only see Rafinha and Sergio Rico, both on loan. Tanguy Ndombele and Ousmane Dembele’s moves have failed to materialize, leaving Mauricio Pochettino with the same conundrum he faced before January: a bloated squad which, despite their obvious gifts, will likely fall short again in Europe.
In the battle for the top three, Marseille – who knocked Lyon out of the Coupe de France on Tuesday night – have made some minor improvements, signing Cédric Bakambu and former Arsenal left-back Sead Kolasinac. Both players fill in the gaps in the squad – Bakambu has already looked like a sharper option than woefully underachieving Arkadiusz Milik, while Kolasinac is likely to be second choice behind Luan Peres.
Nice have signed Jordan Amavi from Marseille on loan. He will provide fierce competition for Melvin Bard at left-back following the departure of Hassane Kamara. Billal Brahimwho arrived from Angers, is an intriguing prospect who could push the team’s summer signings, Justin Kluivert and Calvin Stengs, for a big role.
The relegation battle was therefore where most of the action took place, with St-Étienne, Bordeaux and Troyes striking deals at a blistering pace. St-Étienne picked up a vital win over Angers last week and then added a few experienced players including Eliaquim Mangala, Bakary Sako, Joris Gnagnon and Enzo Crivelli. The team is still unevenly built, but these moves give the team high-level experience. Troyes, who have struggled for goals, have also bolstered their attacking options in intriguing ways, securing loan deals for Lébo Mothiba and Iké Ugbo, who was one of the best strikers in the Belgian league last season.
Bordeaux, however, continue to look out to sea. They managed to move high earners Ótavio, Laurent Koscielny and Josh Maja but their new arrivals are unconvincing, apart from Marcelo – even if he comes with question marks. given the petulance he has displayed under Peter Bosz – and Anel Ahmedhodzic, the young Bosnian international who looks like a good investment for the most elusive defense in the league so far this season.
Best window: Lyon
Bruno Guimarães’ departure is a blow – he has a magic wand in his right foot and his friendship with fellow Brazilian Lucas Paquetá has helped both on and off the pitch – but the Lyon side have improved in January. Tanguy Ndombele has played the best football of his career at Lyon and, although the option to buy his loan (50 million euros) is unlikely to be activated, he will contribute to a team that desperately needs of goals. The same goes for the versatile Romain Faivre, who will probably replace Houssem Aouar in the short term. Lyon needed to bring in more attacking options without sacrificing the renewed solidity they have shown so far in 2022, and their signings have done just that.
Worst showcase: Lille
The club’s inability to tie players to long-term contracts continues to haunt them, with left-back Reinildo Mandava following Jonathan Ikoné out the door. Lille did well to keep Sven Botman but, with Burak Yilmaz and Jose Fonte not getting any younger and no compelling options to replace Mandava, they missed an opportunity to improve ahead of their Champions League draw with Chelsea later that month- this. They signed Hatem Ben Arfa and Edon Zhegrova, but they already have Renato Sanches, who is capable of playing in a wide role, and Isaac Lihadji, Timothy Weah and Angel Gomes as attacking options. Ben Arfa can contribute the odd goal, but he seems an additional obstacle to the development of this trio.
Best shot: Romain Faivre in Lyon
While €15m for Faivre seems a bit high considering Brest only paid him €400,000 18 months ago, it should prove to be good value in the long run. The 23-year-old attacking midfielder is comfortable on the flanks or in the centre. Some might see him as another obstacle to Rayan Cherki’s development, but he is a natural replacement for Houssem Aouar and may even be a long-term upgrade, given the academy product’s somewhat indifferent form this season. .
Most confusing move: Paul Bernardoni to St-Étienne on loan
Although Bernardoni’s form has admittedly dropped this season, he is a more than helpful Ligue 1 goalkeeper. His move on loan from Angers to St-Étienne is baffling for a host of reasons. In Étienne Green, St-Étienne has a young stopper who continues to shine, having made his debut with the England Under-21s. Angers are having a decent season but are not yet safe from relegation. Their back-up keeper, Danijel Petkovic, was pretty decent for Lorient in their last regular streak, but that was over two years ago. With Angers next five games against European contenders, things could look a lot less comfortable in the international break unless Petkovic can make the best of his time at Lorient.
Away that did not take place: any other player in Newcastle
One could certainly criticize the choice of Bruno Guimarães to sign at Newcastle. Suffering relegation in the next few months would be overwhelming for a player who hopes to represent Brazil at the World Cup later this year, even if it comes with a better salary. He had continued to improve at Lyon this season and will be fondly remembered by fans, but what about the other players linked with a move across the Channel?
Hugo Ekitiké remained in Reims, a club with barely any great means, despite a series of dizzying offers; and Sven Botman rejected a litany of appeals from Newcastle. Given the poor quality of their other signings, with the exception of Guimarães, relegation will continue to be a threat to Newcastle, and the club will have learned a good lesson from the debate between sporting success and financial reward when it comes to their ability to attract players. Saint James Park.