Deadline Day: Liverpool sign two defenders as Minamino joins Southampton

By Sports Desk February 01, 2021

Liverpool's need for defensive reinforcements was always likely to dominate the headlines on transfer deadline day and so it proved as the Premier League champions made two late signings.

Centre-back Ben Davies arrived from Preston North End, while Liverpool made a further addition to the heart of their backline with the loan signing of Ozan Kabak from Bundesliga strugglers Schalke until the end of the season.

Those signings came on a day that saw Joel Matip ruled out for the rest of the season with an ankle ligament injury. Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez are long-term absentees and Liverpool were forced to play Jordan Henderson and Nathaniel Phillips at centre-back in Sunday's win at West Ham.

Heading for the Anfield exit door is Takumi Minamino, the forward moving to Southampton on a six-month loan deal having only joined Liverpool last January.

It came after Southampton loaned veteran Shane Long to promotion-chasing Championship side Bournemouth.

Bournemouth also sanctioned the departure of Joshua King to Everton for a nominal fee until the end of the season.

There were outgoings at Arsenal as well, with Shkodran Mustafi signing for Schalke on a short-term deal and Joe Willock going on loan to Newcastle United, who let DeAndre Yedlin leave for Galatasaray.

Arsenal also sent Ainsley Maitland-Niles to West Brom on loan.

Turkish giants Galatasaray acquired Gedson Fernandes on a temporary deal from Benfica following an unsuccessful stint at Tottenham.

In Serie A, Parma landed Bayern Munich's teenage forward Joshua Zirkzee in a loan deal that contains the option to sign the 19-year-old permanently.

Atalanta are firmly in contention for a top-four finish in Serie A and bolstered their ranks for that push with the capture of Ukraine midfielder Viktor Kovalenko from Shakhtar Donetsk.

Roma can afford to have hopes of a title challenge and brought in teenage full-back Bryan Reynolds from MLS outfit Dallas on an initial loan deal, with an obligation to buy, to help them.

Frozen out at Juventus, midfielder Sami Khedira is back in the Bundesliga following a switch to Hertha Berlin, but one of European football's most exciting talents is heading to Italy after Udinese signed Jayden Braaf on loan from Manchester City with an option to buy.

Elsewhere, Everton defender Jonjoe Kenny joined Celtic on loan for the rest of the season, Brighton and Hove Albion signed highly rated midfielder Moises Caicedo from Independiente del Valle, West Brom loaned Okay Yokuslu from Celta Vigo and defender Teden Mengi moved from Manchester United to Wayne Rooney's Derby County on a temporary basis.

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    United have become accustomed to not challenging for the Premier League title since Alex Ferguson's retirement in 2013, but the 2021-22 season saw them plumb new depths.

    Under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, caretaker manager Michael Carrick and then interim manager Ralf Rangnick, United accumulated just 58 points, their worst record in a single Premier League campaign.

    But on top of that, champions Manchester City's haul of 93 points meant United finished the season 35 points adrift of the summit – that is comfortably the furthest off the top the Red Devils have ended a term in the Premier League era.

    It was also the first time since 1989-90 that United failed to finish a league season with a positive goal difference, as they scored and conceded 57 goals.

    United looked to get their preparations for next season started early by confirming the appointment of Erik ten Hag in April, and he has already taken up his role with a view to having a head-start when pre-season begins in late June.

    And CEO Arnold, now in charge following the departure of executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward, insisted club chiefs share the fans' frustrations but was keen to emphasise the board's confidence in bringing success back to United with their long-term strategy.

    Speaking at an April fans' forum from which the minutes were released on Thursday, Arnold said: "Suffice to say, we are not happy with where we are in terms of performance on the pitch.

    "We understand fans are frustrated and want to see change and improvement. I can assure you that we share that frustration very intensely within the club.

    "But we also feel confident that change is coming because of the action being taken to drive long-term success. The appointment of Erik ten Hag was the most visible example of that action, and the most important. We're pleased to have got that done early and we can't wait for Erik to get started.

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    Thousands of supporters protested the Glazers' ownership during United's last three home matches of the season, but Arnold is convinced the club is doing more than most to engage with and listen to fans.

    Additionally, he is hopeful an improvement in on-field matters next season will breed wider positivity.

    "As stated earlier, everyone at the club, from the owners down, accepts that performances this season have been well below what we expect," he continued. "We are taking decisive action to improve things and there is huge commitment and passion across the club to return to where we think we belong: challenging for, and winning, titles.

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    The Madrid captain is the leading scorer in the 2021-22 Champions League, finding the back of the net 15 times in 11 matches – including back-to-back hat-tricks against Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea.

    Benzema's penalty settled a pulsating semi-final second leg against Manchester City and the 34-year-old also helped himself to a brace in the first leg.

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    "It's down the middle, we can hurt them in certain places," he said. "Vinicius [Junior] and Benzema, for me are our main threat.

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    Jordan Henderson and the Champions League trophy will become well-acquainted again if Liverpool beat Real Madrid in Paris on Saturday – though he might not be allowed to take it to his local pub.

    Phil Thompson was the Reds' captain in 1981, when Liverpool also faced Madrid in a European final in Paris.

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    "He put it on the front seat and everybody else had to get in the backseat and whatever. But he knew we had to look after it. He knew he was responsible for it.

    "I think the rest is history about going to some of the pubs in Kirby [a town on the outskirts of Liverpool]."

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    Though Thompson insists the cup never left his sight.

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