Evaluation of Albion’s Transfer Dealings Hinges on Loan Striker
Brighton and Hove Albion concluded a busy January transfer window on Monday evening, securing the deadline day signing of Czech Republic international Jiri Skalak, whilst out of favour midfielder Rohan Ince joined Fulham on loan until the end of the season.
Skalak was the fifth notable first team signing for the Albion, with further additions arriving to supplement the development squad. Ince was added to the list of players leaving the club on loan, which included Jake Forster-Caskey, Adam Chicksen and Elvis Manu, who joined MK Dons, Gillingham and Huddersfield Town respectively throughout the month.
Experienced midfielder Steve Sidwell, Portland Timbers’ Liam Ridgewell, Irish attacking midfielder Richie Towell and livewire winger Anthony Knockaert were recruited in January with time to spare and despite plenty of rumours that circulated on the final day of exchange, Skalak was Albion’s only first team arrival, leaving FK Mladá Boleslav to experience his first taste of English football.
Unconvincingly announced as a striker, Skalak scored six goals in 16 games for his previous club and has represented his country from under-16’s level through to the senior national team. His goalsoring statistics do nothing to excite Albion’s goal-hungry supporters, however his flexibility within the attacking positions will no doubt add depth to Chris Hughton’s forward options.
The frustrating element for Albion fans will be the unsuccessful search for a prolific goalscorer that has plenty of proof in the pudding. With the club experiencing one of its best chances to reach the Premier League, experimental signings will not enthuse fans who desire solid additions to improve weakened areas within the team, the final third.
Middleborough took a huge leap towards promotion, adding Jordan Rhodes to their goal-shy frontline, in a bold move that sent out a big message to the rest of the league. Unfortunately, Albion’s move for Skalak, which could turn out a masterstroke, didn’t have the same effect and quietly went under the radar within the final hours of the window.
Of course, the 23-year-old is largely unknown by most and could be a pivotal part of Hughton’s promotion-chasing squad, but Albion fans cannot be blamed for being underwhelmed at his arrival, as the Seagulls failed to bring in a proven name at Championship level and gambled a smaller stake for the Premier League prize dangled in front of them.
Cautious gambling could however turn into clever business. If Albion complete a 93-day emergency loan deal for a Premier League striker within the following weeks, Hughton’s game plan will be revealed and Albion’s problematic striker search will finally be resolved heading into the Championship’s pivotal stretch.
Glenn Murray’s name has yet to be ruled out and although Eddie Howe named the striker in his 25-man squad at Bournemouth, the former Albion man is clearly bottom of the pecking order following the 17m splashed out on striker’s throughout January. Lewis Grabban and Josh King were introduced from the bench against Crystal Palace, whilst Murray remained in the dugout as the Cherries’ fourth choice forward.
Whether it’s Murray or not, Hughton must look for one final addition when the loan window opens on February 9th. His January transfer dealings were positive steps but Albion are still in need of a bigger leap.