January Transfer Window Review

A window which started out so brightly, with the signing of Danny Grant, who was then followed into Canalside by Rolando Aarons, Sorba Thomas, Richard Keogh, Duane Holmes and Jayson Leutwiler, but ultimately the failure to sign a striker overshadowed what was a very tidy window from Town up to that point.

The Departures

The departure of Ben Hamer was an interesting deal, a player who had performed well for the majority of the season until Ryan Schofield overtook him in the pecking order while he was out injured and ultimately spending £10-15k a week on a backup 'keeper is not true value for money. Leutwiler coming in as a backup which should in turn ease the pressure of Ryan. Obviously, there is going to be a downgrade in ability between Hamer and Jayson, but if Schofield was always going to be number 1 for the rest of the season (even if Hamer stayed), then I don't think the change from Hamer to Leutwiler is a bad thing.
The most important deal in the window in my opinion was the departure of Adama Diakhaby. I think he is the worst signing we have ever made considering the amount we spent on him (which when you consider wages, transfer and agent fees comes close to £25 million.) He is the proof that when you throw money around like it is confetti, you have to live with those mistakes. There were reports last January from France that Amiens were interested in Diakhaby, which then must have resurfaced this window, but a deal could only be completed if Amiens met Diakhaby's wage demands which in the end they did. I think this was the same with Alex Pritchard, who was of interest to a number of Championship clubs, reports suggested that Town had accepted a bid from QPR and that Derby wanted him in a swap for Duane Holmes, but nothing materialised. This could be part of the reason why the Duane Holmes deal took quite a long time to be completed.
Ben Jackson and Mustapha Olagunju also left on loan – two players that I think have potential to break into the first team in future. They were surplus to requirements this season, so those moves makes sense.

Players only leave if teams meet our valuation

Karlan Grant's departure to West Brom for £16 million albeit split over 6 years, shows that we aren't one to cave into other teams demands, although it may have cost us in the short term. Town missed out on Willock as they couldn't afford to sign him and with the possibility of Grant staying. When Town realised that Grant would definitely be going, it seemed that Rolando Aarons would be the man to replace him, but for a delay on the Newcastle end meant the deal couldn't be met in time for the deadline. In this deal, I think you could criticise Town for leaving it till the last minute to tie a replacement up, but ultimately it was out of their hands.
It is reported that Town pulled out of the Adebayo bid due to being messed around by Walsall and if that is true then it is embarrassing. Town desperately needed a striker and they were not in a position to take the moral high ground and say 'we only complete deals that match our valuation'. Fair enough it is a deal totalling millions, but for £250,000 I think you can sit happily even if you may have overpaid slightly. Luton snuck that transfer away from Town and had agreed a lower fee, but for the sake of a few thousand quid I don't see the thinking behind pulling out of that deal.
With the collapsing of the Aarons deal late on in deadline day in October, I had sympathy for the club, it was not their fault and it is just one of those things with football. What happened on deadline day in February is inexcusable, it may not have been their fault, but its twice in two windows that Town have run around last minute trying to get a deal done and failed. It shows a clear lack of planning that they were again trying to complete last-minute deals.
I think if I take a step back and look from a club perspective and not as a fan. The Diakhaby deal was probably the blockage in the chain for us to be able to sign a striker. The club will have known a few days before the window shut that there was a chance that Diakhaby could be leaving, so lined up a striker if he left. Possibly the Adama deal took longer than expected to be completed, which led to Walsall pulling the plug on the Adebayo deal. Clearly the club wants to reduce the wage bill with no source of revenue coming in and with Diakhaby being the second-highest earner at the club, the club decided they could only sanction signing a new striker if Diakhaby left.

The Striker Debate

I think going into this season, it would have been nice to have signed another striker, but not essential. Josh Koroma was going to be our main source of goals, Campbell would create space and Danny Ward was looking like someone we could use to change games. Unfortunately Koroma got a long term injury at the start of December and Danny Ward can’t seem to gain fitness. So we are relying on 2 academy players – one of which the club are monitoring his game time carefully and the other still needs a loan move. Which leaves Town with Fraizer Campbell who can realistically play each game. Even though Koroma is now a ‘winger’ he effectively is a striker and links up well with Campbell. Town needed to sign a striker to replace Koroma, they did it with Holmes when Eiting got injured and also with Keogh to cover for injuries in defence, so I don’t get why it was different for the Koroma injury.
There are reports that Town is looking at Oumar Niasse, who is free agent. The 30 year old was released from Everton in June 2020 and has not played since. I would worry about his fitness levels, but Town are desperately in need of a striker, so they may take the risk and sign him.

A clinical number 9

A would make an argument that Town never replaced Jordan Rhodes, a striker who could flip a game on its head, knew where the net was and only cared about scoring goals. James Vaughan and Nakhi Wells sort of filled the gap left by Rhodes and while you could argue about including Karlan Grant in that discussion, he is better as an inverted left winger. I think this is shown even clearer when you think that the last time Town had a number 9 hit double figures in a season which was Nakhi Wells in 2016/17 and he only just did that, scoring 10 goals. So to conclude I would argue that a need for a clinical out and out goalscoring number 9 is not a new issue, it has been one that has been apparent for a number of seasons and it shocks me that we still haven't fixed that.

My Final Thoughts

The annoying thing from my perspective is that I think this was nearly a brilliant window. If Pritchard had departed (Derby and QPR were in for him, but he wasn't willing to take a paycut) and Town had signed another striker then I would have graded it a 9/10, but I can only give it a 5/10. With it only being that high as Adama Diakhaby is no longer a Huddersfield player.
I can understand from a club point of view that it is in the Club's best interests to wait for the summer and on that basis, I will support the club decision not to spend million's this January. But if by the end of the summer window, Town hasn't produced a team to challenge for a top-half finish next season then I think the fans will be right to ask questions.