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Deadline day moves: tactical analysis

A quiet deadline day produced a few intriguing, if obvious, moves, with Mario Balotelli's expected return to Italy providing a tantalising prospect for Milan fans

Michael Regan

Mario Balotelli

For all his talent and trophies, it's never been entirely clear what Mario Balotelli brings to a side. He boasts tremendous pace, is a spectacular physical specimen, and can finish with aplomb, but he never really seized any of his multiple chances to prove he could lead the line, and now he leaves abroad in search of a fresh start. At Milan, he will likely replace the unlucky Giampaolo Pazzini, who has three goals in three starts in 2013, as the central striker in Milan's fluid 4-3-3. Max Allegri is keen for his three attackers to rotate across the pitch, which will suit Balotelli's preference to drift towards the channels, where Montolivo will attempt to find him with chipped balls in behind.

Paul Scharner

Paul Scharner is perhaps the perfect stop-gap measure for Wigan's currently depleted defence, with Ivan Ramis out for the season: his remarkable versatility allows him to cover multiple roles both in midfield and defence and will boost morale as a former fan favourite. His time away from Wigan since his departure in 2010 was spent rather unsuccessfully at West Bromwich Albion and Hamburg, and as he's clearly out of favour in Germany with just one start this season, a six month spell back in the Premier League is ideal. The Austrian will likely be deployed as part of Wigan's three-man backline, but the return of Alcaraz will render his role as a useful back-up. His role will stretch beyond that, however - he'll provide valuable experience on the training ground, crucial in what is shaping up to be a difficult relegation dogfight for Wigan.

David Beckham

David Beckham has followed in the footsteps of many once-pacy wingers in making the transition inside to a deep-lying playmaking role, and deployed in the centre of a flat midfield four for LA Galaxy, his job was to provide accurate long diagonals for the wide players to chase.

That won't be the case in Paris - Carlo Ancelotti famously likes his side to play narrow, and prefers a four man diamond midfield. That was the position where Beckham was deployed when under the Italian's stewardship at AC Milan, but as the Englishman is approaching 37, it's likely this move has been engineered by the French giants with the need for experience in mind. PSG will be targeting an extended run in the Champions League and Beckham's continental know-how could prove handy, and the good samitarian nature of the deal only encourages the feeling that this more of a symbolic move than anything.

Christopher Samba

One year ago, amidst the dark clouds that surrounded Blackburn, Christopher Samba handed in a transfer request having seen a QPR bid for his services - it triggered a change in heart in the Congolese defender, and he eventually moved to Anzhi, in Russia.

His move to West London is a year late, but he is needed more than ever. Ryan Nelsen has left to coach Toronto, Anton Ferdinand has joined Bursaspor on loan, while Clint Hill has been decent but has lost his agility and was torn to pieces by the nimble Luis Suarez. Samba will provide consistency, aerial dominance and tenacious tackling - just what QPR need in a relegation dogfight. His heading ability will be particularly important, as Nelsen and Ferdinand are the club's top two for aerials won, while he'll also be a threat at the other end attacking set pieces.

Luciano Becchio

Chris Hughton's primary focus after taking over Norwich was to solidify the side's defence - after a poor start, he has drilled the importance of structure and discipline into his team. Their deep, compact two banks of four stops many sides scoring against them, but also restricts their attacking thrust, and they're heavily reliant on set-pieces to score goals, with 48% of their overall tally coming from dead ball situations.

Therefore, Hughton has spent much of January looking for a new striker, and after missing out on his original target, the prolific Celtic striker Gary Hooper, Becchio is a decent compromise. The Argentine will link up with former teammates Wes Hoolahan and Robert Snodgrass - the latter will cut inside from the right and look to thread passes with his left foot for Becchio to chase.

Nacho Monreal

Arsenal's issues at left back have become more pronounced in recent weeks - Kieran Gibbs is injured, while Andre Santos has obvious deficiencies in his defensive game. Thomas Vermaelen could theoretically be used out wide, but has never looked entirely comfortable, so Arsene Wenger has sought to reinforce his squad by returning to Malaga, who supplied the Gunners with the best signing of the summer.

Monreal won't have as big an impact as Santi Cazorla, but he will certainly challenge for a starting spot. In contrast to the more attack-minded Gibbs and Santos, Monreal is a defender first and foremost - strong in the tackle, his positioning is excellent and boasts decent pace. He won't bomb forward regularly, and might be encouraged to cross from deep positions for the aerial target of Oliver Giroud, but his reliability will be his strongest asset - and some might argue that's what Arsenal need most of all right now.


The timing and destination for Willian's latest move might have surprised a few, but he's a good fit for Anzhi Makhachkala, at least on paper. Guus Hiddink's side boasts a strong spine, with Samuel Eto'o dovetailing in behind the physical Lacina Traore, while former Real Madrid Lassana Diarra is the combative presence in midfield. The loss of Christopher Samba is unfortunate, but Joao Carlos is a similarly physical defender who was excellent in their recent Europa League campaign, while Yuri Zhirkov provides attacking drive from full-back.

Wilian's best position is on the left of a 4-2-3-1, a position currently filled by Oleg Shatov. The Russian playmaker has enjoyed a fine campaign, but can be re-deployed in the centre of midfield, opening up room in the starting XI for the new signing. Willian will cut inside and dribble directly towards goal, which will open up space for Zhirkov to overlap and provide width. The arrival of the Brazilian promises to make Anzhi a more proactive, attacking side.

Danny Graham

A Newcastle fan in childhood, Danny Graham isn't thought of fondly in the hearts of Sunderland supporters, but Martin O'Neill won't mind, as long as his new signing from Swansea delivers goals. That's something the Wearsiders desperately need, as their reliance on Steven Fletcher is obvious.

Graham provides competition and depth up front, and in the face of a disappointing season for Stephane Sessengon, that might prove crucial. This will be a different challenge for the Welsh striker - at Swansea, he was used to patient possession play and looked to get on the end of incisive through-balls, whereas Sunderland's game is geared around crossing from wide positions. Initially, Graham will have to be used to the bench, as Fletcher remains the best striker at the club - but his physicality and decent link-up play might see him challenge for a starting spot.

Urby Emmanuelson and Stanislav Manolev

Fulham's spending over the past year hasn't been entirely coherent, but there's been a clear focus on reinforcing the full-back positions this window. Stanislav Manolev can play anywhere down the right and is intended to provide depth in defence, with Stephen Kelly off to Reading and only Chris Baird able to provide competition for Sascha Riether.

Urby Emmanuelson is similarly versatile and despite starting off as a left-back at Ajax, has been used across the front third and even upfront for AC Milan. His form might have suffered as a result - without a natural position, he's had to constantly adjust his approach to games according to where he is deployed.

Having coached Emmanuelson at Ajax, and with John Arne Riise out of form and favour, Martin Jol is likely to deploy the Dutchman on the left side of his defence, where he'll provide constant support with energetic bursts forward, while he is also an option on either wing.