As we move into the first round of Premier League fixtures in February, plenty of fans will be excited to see what their club’s new January signings have to offer. From Bruno Fernandes at Manchester United to Pablo Mari at Arsenal, players up and down the country will be hoping for a dream debut.
It doesn’t always work like that, of course – January arrivals often take a little bit of time to bed in – but there are a few players in years past who wasted absolutely no time before getting up and running.
Virgil van Dijk
It feels like Van Dijk has been at Liverpool for much longer than his two years, but his first game for the club really set the tone for a player who fit in at Anfield right from the get-go.
After joining from Southampton in 2018, the Dutchman was thrown in at the deep end with a Merseyside Derby against Everton in the FA Cup. Liverpool’s line-up wasn’t too different to what we’ll see this weekend, though Loris Karius, Emre Can and substitute Dominic Solanke were among those no longer in the picture.
James Milner and Gylfi Sigurdsson exchanged goals either side of the half-time break, before Liverpool’s new man capitalised on a Jordan Pickford misjudgement to score a late winner.
A Pickford misjudgement late in a derby? Now, where have we heard that one before?
Van Dijk isn’t the only Liverpool man to enjoy a goalscoring debut after joining in January. Back in 2011, Andy Carroll was the big-money attacking signing, joining for £35m from Newcastle United, but Suárez’s arrival from Ajax in the same window proved far more important.
The Uruguayan had already scored 12 goals in his final half-season in the Netherlands when he arrived at Anfield, and manager Kenny Dalglish opted to ease him in, bringing him off the bench with Liverpool 1-0 up against Stoke and less than half an hour remaining.
Ultimately, he needed just 16 minutes to make an impact, rounding Asmir Begović and putting just enough on his shot to beat the sliding Andy Wilkinson. Things went pretty well for the Reds striker after that.
Kepa Blanco looks at Luis Suárez’s 16 minutes and laughs. In 2007, with West Ham chasing Premier League safety and Carlos Tevez still yet to break his Premier League duck, Alan Curbishley turned to Sevilla in search of salvation and picked up the Spanish striker on loan.
West Ham were on a six-game winless run, soon to be seven, when Kepa was thrown on with the Hammers 2-0 down at home to Liverpool. He needed a single minute to make his mark, turning in a cross from fellow sub Bobby Zamora, though it ultimately wasn’t enough on the night.
Things would get better for the 23-year-old a few weeks later, though, when he was on the pitch to help West Ham hold on for a famous victory at Arsenal and become the first ever away side to win at the Emirates Stadium.
Scharner wasn’t a deadline day signing – he joined Wigan a little earlier in the January window – but the Austrian made as quick an impact as anyone else on this list.
Wigan had impressed in their first Premier League season but were quietly putting together a very tidy League Cup run too. Bournemouth, Watford, Newcastle and Bolton had all been swatted aside without the Latics conceding a single goal, but a semi-final against Arsenal would offer a sterner test.
Scharner had arrived from Brann in time for the first leg and was called into action earlier than expected when a Lee McCulloch injury forced manager Paul Jewell to bring him off the bench.
That record of no goals conceded still stood firm with 12 minutes left, but Wigan could have done with a goal to take back to Highbury for the second leg. Cue Scharner, who headed home a Gary Teale delivery to seal victory.
Arsenal took a two-goal lead in extra-time of the second leg, only for a Jason Roberts away goal to turn the tie on its head a minute from the final whistle. Without Scharner’s input in the first leg, they’d have never even got that far.
Larsson’s arrival at Manchester United was the sort of didn’t-see-it-coming deals that you don’t really tend to get these days. The Swede was 35 when he arrived on loan from Helsingborgs in 2007, but he made an instant impact.
The former Celtic man was another to make his debut in a cup game, in this case the FA Cup against Aston Villa, and put United ahead after being handed a starting spot by Sir Alex Ferguson just five days after rocking up at Old Trafford.
The goal was vintage Larsson: a split-second to take his chance, and no chance of the ball going anywhere other than the top corner of Gabór Király’s net. He left the field late on with the scores level, but there was still time for his replacement, a certain Ole Gunnar Solskjær, to squeeze home a winner.
Larsson played just 13 times for United, scoring three goals, but certainly left his mark. The spell left its mark on the player, too – more than a decade later, he would say not staying at Old Trafford longer was “the only regret I have in my career”.
…what a way to announce yourself to the Stretford End faithful! 💥 pic.twitter.com/sgDA0NxpTe
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) January 7, 2019