Loan signings star in Premier League relegation battle

Carlos Vela’s second late goal in as many games on Monday night has kept West Brom stuttering along since the arrival of Roy Hodgson. Vela isn’t the only January loan signing making a big impact in possibly the tightest relegation battle the Premier League has ever seen. However, the Mexican’s 87th minute strike against Stoke may prove invaluable, especially alongside his last gasp effort against fellow strugglers Wolves last week. The forward is the difference between two precious draws and two damaging, morale-sapping defeats. That’s how fine the margins are at the bottom and why Vela, along with his fellow January movers, may prove so pivotal in this season’s relegations scrap.

Many of January’s loan signings were made to benefit the parent club as much as the acquiring club. Whether it is to gain first team experience, shift back-up players on big wages off the books or put a player in the shop window, the situation seems to benefit everyone – especially the players themselves. Vela is clearly thriving on it.

Another to benefit is Hoffenheim’s Demba Ba who has proved an excellent acquisition for West Ham, scoring twice in the stunning comeback at the Hawthorns and netting in the 3-1 win over Liverpool at the weekend. His strength, pace and ruthless finishing has given the Hammers’ attacking threat a shot in the arm and he may prove to be a real gem during the run-in. Indeed, Robbie Keane who is currently sidelined, has the potential to play a big part in the relegation run-in, after beginning his loan spell in decent form before being curtailed by injury.

Perhaps even more inspirational than the aforementioned players has been Jamie O’Hara, who was loaned to Wolves by Tottenham in the January transfer window and not only scoring two important goals, but offering Mick McCarthy’s side a huge amount of quality from central midfield, which they were lacking before. O’Hara has been instrumental in the last four games, where the side has picked up seven points, sweeping aside an unbeaten Manchester United side in the process. Again O’Hara is down the pecking order at Spurs and has been farmed out in order to gain experience and work his way back to full fitness following a lengthy spell on the sidelines.

Another loanee from Spurs is David Bentley whose short-term move to Birmingham coincided with the Blues’ good run of form this month. Bentley has largely shown his quality in flashes so far for Alex McLeish’s men, but if he can rediscover the form he showed at Blackburn before his move to north London, he could prove a golden acquisition.

Another player who belongs to one of the Premier League’s big clubs, but is way down the pecking order, is that of Roque Santa Cruz who, like Bentley, has the potential to fire his new side to Premier League safety if he can recapture his form from the same Blackburn side. Santa Cruz is back at Ewood Park following a loan move from Manchester City, but has yet to find the net and really hasn’t found anything near his best form.

The relegation battle is certainly set for a thrilling end and one of these players, cast aside by their parent club for varying reasons, has the potential to be the difference between relegation and survival. It may only be a five-month loan deal, but they could end up heroes for much longer.

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