The January transfer window has been and gone. Ipswich Town have been busy, while their automatic promotion rivals have dipped into the market too. Alex Jones takes a look at how Leicester City, Southampton and Leeds United have strengthened in the last few weeks.

East Anglian Daily Times: Enzo Maresca was unable to bring in any players last monthEnzo Maresca was unable to bring in any players last month (Image: PA)

Leicester City

How do you strengthen arguably the strongest side in the history of the Championship? Leicester are on course to smash all sorts of records. Their record since November 11th reads 10 wins, three draws and one defeat. They’re 11 points clear at the top of the table and average over two goals a game.

Yet a bit of discontent has started to brew at the King Power Stadium, with some fans voicing their frustrations about Enzo Maresca’s style of play. Their squad hasn’t changed too much, with Daniel Iversen and Luke Thomas leaving on loan for Stoke City and Middlesbrough respectively, while Alex Smithies made the decision to retire from football. However, they were hit with a big blow when Chelsea recalled Italian midfielder Cesare Casadei from his loan spell.

The 21-year-old hadn’t played a massive part in the Foxes’ league campaign, starting in eight of his 22 games, but he added real depth. Maresca was keen to add some quality and experience, pushing for Inter Milan’s Stefano Sensi, who moved to the San Siro back in 2019 for a fee of €25 million.

Bringing in someone with his pedigree could’ve been a game changer, having lifted the Serie A title with the Nerazzuri as recently as 2021. The two clubs agreed a fee and the 28-year-old completed a medical, but the deal fell through at the 11th hour. Whether that’s down to Leicester’s significant FFP concerns or something else remains to be seen, but it certainly left a sour taste in the mouths of supporters.

They finish the transfer window as one of two teams in the Championship not to sign a single player.

East Anglian Daily Times: Southampton signed two players on loan from AFC BournemouthSouthampton signed two players on loan from AFC Bournemouth (Image: PA)


Southampton were a bit busier, using their South Coast connections to work with Premier League side AFC Bournemouth. The Saints added two new players from the Vitality Stadium – both of whom joined on loan.

The first was Joe Rothwell, who moved midway through January. The 29-year-old played a starring role for Blackburn Rovers earlier in his career, but top-flight minutes were hard to come by, having featured just 31 times for the Cherries since joining them back in 2022. He’s already featured twice for Southampton and adds extra depth to their midfield.

David Brooks joined him a couple of weeks later. The winger beat Stage 2 Hodgkin lymphoma back in 2022 and returned to football in 2023, with a switch to St. Mary’s allowing him to build up his game time. He’s shown that he can be a top player in the Championship and the Premier League, meaning that Russell Martin has loads of options out wide.

The big blow will be losing Carlos Alcaraz, which seemed unlikely heading into the window. The dynamic Argentine impressed in the Premier League after joining from Racing Club last year, but adapting to Championship football has been a bit harder, especially under a new manager in Martin. As a result, he was allowed to join Juventus on loan, with the Serie A behemoths holding the option to buy him for a reported fee of €49.5 million.

It means that the January transfer window hasn’t been perfect for Southampton, but they’ve done enough to give themselves a good chance of maintaining their imperious run of form.

East Anglian Daily Times: Connor Roberts has dropped back down to the Championship to help Leeds United's promotion pushConnor Roberts has dropped back down to the Championship to help Leeds United's promotion push (Image: PA)

Leeds United

Daniel Farke wasn’t desperate to strengthen his squad, but the departure of Tottenham Hotspur loanee Djed Spence forced his hand. The Leeds boss had grown frustrated by the right-back’s attitude and time management, with The Athletic reporting that he even showed up late to the meeting where he was told that he’d be sent back to his parent club.

It left the Whites short of options. Archie Gray, a 17-year-old midfielder, has spent most of the season at right-back. Sam Byram has struggled with injuries while Jamie Shackleton has fallen out of favour at Elland Road, increasing the need for a top-level defender.

Enter Connor Roberts, a Wales international who provided four goals and six assists for Burnley last season as they strolled to the Championship title. He’s made just 14 appearances in the Premier League since the start of the campaign, and Vincent Kompany has allowed him to leave as a result. He certainly isn’t a bad option to have.

Aside from that, Leeds’ priority was to cut the squad. Leo Hjelde joined Sunderland on a permanent deal while Luke Ayling (Middlesbrough), Darko Gyabi (Plymouth Argyle), Lewis Bate (MK Dons) and Ian Poveda (Sheffield Wednesday) all left on loan. It was a low-key transfer window, but that was all it needed to be.

East Anglian Daily Times: Ipswich Town signed two players in the final week of the January transfer windowIpswich Town signed two players in the final week of the January transfer window (Image: Ross Halls)

How it compares to Ipswich

Ipswich signed four players in January, more than their three automatic promotion rivals combined. That’s because they needed to.

Granted, Leicester probably saw an extra midfielder as a vital part of their January plans, but their squad is that of a mid-table Premier League side. Southampton have added extra quality to an excellent squad that’s finally hit form, while Leeds have operated on a ‘one in, one out’ policy.

Any real additions would be seen as luxury purchases, and with numerous clubs walking on thin ice with FFP, it would be stupid to jeopardise their long-term futures. Why would any of the three relegated Premier League sides spend big money in January knowing that they have the quality to go up as it is? Especially when it would limit their spending power over the summer when recruitment will be key to avoid another relegation.

The risks and the rewards don’t match up. They did for Town, who needed to add extra quality and replace the injured George Hirst, who’ll miss most of the season.

East Anglian Daily Times: Kieffer Moore scored a brace on his second Town debutKieffer Moore scored a brace on his second Town debut (Image: Pagepix)

Kieffer Moore was the big one. The Blues will be paying a hefty chunk of his wages, but he adds quality, experience and physicality to their front line. Jeremy Sarmiento offers skill and flair, which will be crucial off the bench, while Lewis Travis is the top-quality alternative to Sam Morsy that the club were clearly lacking.

In Ali Al-Hamadi, Ipswich saw an opportunity to sign a talented attacker for less than £2 million and develop him into someone worth 10 times that. Whether that happens or not remains to be seen, but if nothing else, he adds a real spark in the final third, which is where Kieran McKenna’s side have struggled since the start of the year.

The January transfer window was Ipswich’s opportunity to try and level the playing field. Their squad is much stronger now than it was four weeks ago, while the other three teams look very similar.

The next few games will give us a good indication of how they compare heading into the run-in.