No clear winners in a tinted window

'NEVER buy in January,' the big clubs used to say. But like a lot else in football, the old mantra has been turned on its head: all of £420 million having been splashed to almost double the previous £225m record set in 2011.

You could say they spent like there's no tomorrow – because there isn't one.

When the window slammed shut at 11pm in London on Wednesday, clubs big and small have four long months to make the best of what they've got, stew on the duds bought and bargains missed.

Resistance is futile unless you're Harry Redknapp and can argue the fax paper ran out. Oh, Harry, deadline day ain't the same any more.

So, who of the Big Six came out best after all this manic wheeling and dealing?

And how will it affect what we still call the business end of the season?

In keeping with the frantic final hours, there were no clear winners. In fact, judging by the lack of vision shown by certain clubs, the window might have been one-way or at least heavily tinted.

Predictably perhaps, the biggest net spenders were Manchester City and Chelsea, but both still managed to show degrees of caution. In City's case, it was refusing to be held to ransom; in Chelsea's more like not knowing what they were doing.

Having looked a gift horse in the mouth with Alexis Sanchez, City seemed to panic after Leroy Sane's injury. Fearing all the hard work of the last six months might still be wasted, they wanted Riyad Mahrez as an instant replacement. But knowing City were desperate, Leicester doubled their asking price and City backed off.

Now they are missing three of their best players yet did manage to break their transfer record by signing Aymeric Laporte to whom they gave an instant baptism against West Brom.

Extending their lead to 15 points though was hardly consolation as the title was already as good as theirs – it's in the three other competitions where their firepower shortage may tell against them.

However it is looked at, it is a strange situation to be in when they've spent £400m. But no stranger than Liverpool's. Having raked in £145m for Philippe Coutinho and spent £75m on Virgil van Dijk, they did precious little else except allow Daniel Sturridge to leave on loan.

Having already weakened their attack, they weakened it even more and now have only Danny Ings and Dominic Solanke in reserve. The Fab Three are fab but Kopites can't get their heads around the policy.

Liverpool are far from the finished article and need more than Naby Keita to complete the job. The cash is burning a hole in Jurgen Klopp's pocket and his backside and midriff are exposed.

The Reds' total 'profit' was exceeded only by their feeder club Southampton who chalked up a £55m surplus in January.

Unless they clinch a top-four place, patience may wear thin with the manager's refusal to countenance a Plan B.

Getting outclassed by Spurs wiped the smile off Manchester United faces after they'd swapped a flop for a potential star. But Sanchez must have thought he was back at Arsenal from the way his teammates defended and hardly gave him the ball.

If Jose Mourinho thought he was close to completing his jig-saw, he must think again – and perhaps should have spent some money in the window. One player he was linked with is Lucas Moura, a brilliant Brazilian deemed expendable by PSG, who has ended up at Spurs for a chop-yer-hand-off £25m.

Yes, Daniel Levy has done it again. Like a little old lady waiting till the last day of the sale for the "must go" items, he's shored up a thin Spurs squad for next to nothing.

Moura was also linked with Liverpool and just may remind them of what they missed at Anfield on Sunday. A mazy dribbler who can play behind the front three or on the wing, he is the nearest thing to Coutinho – and cost £120m less!

Spurs' decisive move certainly put Arsenal's shenanigans to shame. To be fair, they have removed a player who had become toxic for one who wanted to come – and isn't half bad, either.

And they've managed to sort out a tangled threesome to reunite Henrikh Mkhitaryan with his old Dortmund partner, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, a prolific scorer in the Bundesliga, for a relatively reasonable £56m.

They had to offload Olivier Giroud, much to Arsene Wenger's reluctance, to swing it while Chelsea loaned Michy Batshuayi to Dortmund. A complicated deal and one not driven by the manager.

Aubameyang is not a Wenger type of player. He's 28, troublesome and goes AWOL on and off the field at frequent intervals which is why Dortmund were glad to see the back of him.

But if he can find the net – and his chances of doing so have been boosted by assist king Mesut Ozil's decision to stay – he could yet prolong the twilight of Wenger's career.

The wheeling and dealing was not done by the Frenchman but by new Mr Fix-its in a further sign of his waning power. Arsenal are preparing a long goodbye.

Chelsea have done well to swap their Belgian misfit for the under-rated Giroud and have added a left-sided utility player in Emerson, but they are no longer shopping in Harrods – a sure sign the days of 'money no object' are over.

So, what to make of it? City have got a top defender but must wrap their attackers in cotton wool; United are still miles behind. Arsenal have gambled and may get lucky. Spurs and Chelsea have done shrewd business but must brace themselves for an onslaught on their stars from Real Madrid in the summer.

Liverpool? It sums up the window that the club that spent and received the most for individual players have the biggest question marks. You feel with all that cash, fans shouldn't be biting their nails for the rest of the season.

£1 = RM5.53

Bob's latest book, Living the Dream, is available at Borders, MPH, Kinokuniya, Popular bookstores. Also at Gerakbudaya bookstore (No. 2, Jalan Bukit 11/2, Petaling Jaya) where Bob will be signing copies on Saturday, Feb 3 from 2.30 to 4.30pm. He will be talking about Malaysia's fascination with English football.