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Sep 1, 2014

Deadline Day: What did we learn?

ESPN FC's Ian Darke and Alison Bender review the biggest winners and losers of the transfer window.

Roman Abramovich's money does not just buy the best players; it buys the best negotiators

More than a week before the window actually closed, manager Jose Mourinho said there would be "no tick tock" for Chelsea, no pressure.

All their business was done. The latter ended up changing, as Loic Remy replaced Fernando Torres, but there was still no pressure, "no tick tock."

Almost as soon as the deal became public attention, it was wrapped up. Chelsea resolved the issue almost before anyone realised it. That stealth was a feature of their summer, right down to the speed with which deals for Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas were done.

The quickness was matched only by the quality. They got virtually maximum value with every transfer, and all were completed with the minimum of fuss.

That is another longer-term feature. Some officials at other European clubs have privately enthused about the slickness with which Chelsea conduct their transfer business. It is not just about the money they can throw around. It is how it is wielded and used. The consequence is a window in which, virtually unlike any other club, absolutely every deal was a positive and has created perhaps the most balanced squad.

The purchase of Fabregas and sale of David Luiz might well be the best moves of the market, and they even struck the right balance in the move for Remy.

The forward is probably not quite good enough to cause a commotion in demanding a first-team place over Costa, but thereby provides the perfect backup, while also offering the side a different option: his pace and that ingenuity of finish.

This summer, few finished deals like Chelsea. Only Manchester City are their equals. That is not coincidence.

The ESPN FC crew review all of Chelsea's summer signings and debate whether or not their list of additions was the most impressive this transfer window.

There was undeniable progress, but some of Manchester United's problems remain -- and not just on the pitch

As eye-catching and positive as the signings of Radamel Falcao and Angel Di Maria are, there remains one awkward fact: The club signed two massive names but ultimately failed in their two main objectives.

United started the summer wanting a commanding centre-half to replace the leadership of Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand and a dominant midfielder above all else.

They were meant to be Mats Hummels and Arturo Vidal. United got neither and didn't quite get players close to them, either.

Sure, Marcos Rojo and Daley Blind have signed and are undeniably fine options in similar positions. There is also the dynamic Ander Herrera, but United wanted another midfielder alongside him.

As with Falcao and Di Maria, there is still the slight feeling of only touching around the main areas rather than directly addressing them. It might yet have an effect on play, given that United need to get the ball out to the likes of Di Maria to get it to Falcao in the first place.

It also raises a few questions about their effectiveness on the market, in contrast to Chelsea.

Several sources state super-agent Jorge Mendes was key to bringing in their two biggest deals, and manager Louis van Gaal obviously had the connection with Blind.

It wasn't quite a case of the club learning from last year and completely nailing the market.

Some issues remain, as is the case on the pitch. At the same time, there should not be too much negativity. Falcao offers the star quality United craved and is one of the world's great players. He might also help solve a problem that could have grown to the size of the others, given that Robin van Persie is seeing a specialist about his knee.

Blind is an excellent addition, Rojo a promising one and the brilliant Di Maria offers the pace they were badly missing.

It is just not what they were most missing. It remains to be seen whether it will be enough to see them hit the top four, but Van Gaal at least has a far better base than a month ago. That is unquestionable.

ESPN FC's Steve Nicol predicts what Manchester United's starting XI will look like following the end of the transfer window.

Wenger still can't fully escape that self-defeating purism

It was perhaps appropriate that the last deals of the window involved United and Arsenal, because they have had very similar summers.

So much of what was said about the Old Trafford side could have described Arsene Wenger's, except for the fact it has all been said about Arsenal before.

Yet again, they failed in bizarre fashion to address key areas and are left with a squad inexplicably short of the quality it should, and could, have. The most frustrating aspect is that it initially looked so different.

An FA Cup had been won, and an elite signing in Alexis Sanchez quickly followed. Then ... nothing, until they absolutely had to sign forward Danny Welbeck because of injury.

Given both of their main purchases kind of only add to or enhance what was already there, the improvements feel cosmetic rather than deep.

They did not buy what was missing, most notably a properly top-class defensive midfielder that could have really lifted the team from Champions League qualifiers to proper title challengers.

That was because Wenger couldn't quite move off those ingrained ideals. Sources state William Carvalho was desperate to come, only for any deal to fall down because of a difference of between five and eight million pounds.

At that point, the question does arise over where the real value lies. Was a defensive midfielder worth more to Arsenal than saving that cash on principle? Probably. It's hard not to think of this summer as something of a wasted opportunity.

ESPN FC's Alison Bender gets the reaction of several Gunners' fans who were disappointed by the absence of Arsene Wenger on the last day of the transfer window.

Loans are here to stay

As many as 18 of the players signed by the 20 Premier League clubs came in through loan deals, the most striking of which was United's move for Falcao.

The glossiness of that move alone displays the increasing prominence of transfers structured like that. Loans are no longer just about young squad players getting time elsewhere. They are how the big boys build their teams.

The reasons for this have already been mooted, as clubs look for ways to get around financial fair play regulations. Unlike the players they involve, loans are here to stay.

One sale doesn't make a summer

Looking across the window, it's difficult to dispute that Liverpool and Southampton endured the exits that were most damaging to their teams.

Brendan Rodgers lost one of the best players in the world, and the south-coast side lost the entire core of their best team in decades.

At the time of the sales, it would have been fair to think both would drop from last season's positions. Yet, now that the window has actually closed, both look to have had two of the better windows in the league. Most of their main issues have been covered, and they have both added some real quality.

Miguel Delaney

Miguel Delaney is a London-based correspondent for ESPN and also writes for the Irish Examiner, the Independent, Blizzard and assorted others. He is the author of an award-nominated book on the Irish national team called "Stuttgart to Saipan" (Mentor) and was nominated for Irish sports journalist of the year in 2011. Follow him on Twitter @MiguelDelaney.

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