Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Transfer Window - what recession?

After much 'January is not the time to buy players', many teams did just that with a couple of the bigger boys slapping down the wedge, the big money business was transacted mainly in the striking department. Manchester City surprised no one by signing Edin Dzeko after a long but otherwise uncontested pursuit. Aston Villa then surprised everyone by shelling out around 24 million for the much maligned but ever goal hungry Darren Bent.

The rest of the interesting business thereafter surrounded Liverpool and Chelsea. First Liverpool shelled out a little over 23 million for the Mike Tyson impersonating Luis Suarez from Ajax. The initial thought was to give Fernando Torres a world class strike partner but this plan went astray when Chelsea turned Torres' head with a written bid for the out of sorts hit man. Liverpool rejected the offer but the damage was done, Fernando had heard the drums and he duly submitted a transfer request. Liverpool accused Chelsea of tapping up Torres despite doing the exact same thing with Suarez, Charlie Adam and then later on Andy Carroll. Regardless, Chelsea continued their pursuit and late on Monday a deal was done for a reported fifty big ones.

Liverpool, keen not to leave themselves goal shy in the face of losing their most potent forward instantly turned to the aspiring Geordie Jailbird Andy Carroll. The Toon, knowing Liverpool were soon to be flush with cash slapped a thirty five million price tag on their raw centre forward and Liverpool duly paid up. Chelsea then finished up the big name transfers with the capture of David Luiz, probably the best and highest quality piece of business of the lot. No one however bought poor Charlie Adam despite Harry 'you can never have enough attacking midfielders' Redknapp's best efforts to make a last minute attempt. I read with interest that Adam feels upset that he was not allowed to move despite submitting a written request, presumably that was his signature on the contract he signed with Blackpool also.

So where does all this and other activity lead us and did any clubs significantly change their position for the second half of the season?

Chelsea look outwardly like big winners. Their ageing and threadbare squad had just endured a hellish run of results that have effectively finished their title challenge with the thought of knocking over Barcelona in the Champions League also provoking giggles from all considered. Adding a 23 year old quality defender and one of the most prized strikers in World football at just 26 years of age is surely sound business. With Torres however their is a suspicion that we may have have already seen the best of him. Those tight hamstrings and a dodgy knee possibly sending him the same way of Michael Owen. Whether Ancelotti can find an effective combination with the ageing and sulking Drogba an Anelka will be a challenge too. After the Summer they may both be gone however.

So sound business from Liverpool selling Torres for a huge sum? Well not necessarily as they have turned around and written cheques for that and more for two centre forwards unproven in the Premiership. Suarez had a great World Cup but everyone knows it is folly to buy players on that basis (Ilie Dumitrescu and El Hadj Diouf both spring to mind). Scoring goals in the Eredvise is all well and good but his biggest contribution to Ajax's season so far was a multiple game ban for sinking his gnashers into an opponents shoulder, no doubt Dalglish will just say he is 'competitive'. Carroll is the most intriguing transfer of the lot as Liverpool are spending a lot of money on potential. No one knows yet whether he is going to turn into a combination of Zlatan Ibrahimovic (on a good day) and Didier Drogba or Zlatan Ibrahimovic (on a bad day) and Jason Lee (he of pineapple dodgy barnet fame and lets face it Carroll is sporting a very dodgy barnet). His Premiership performances have been good so far and he looks the part but the number 9 shirt at Liverpool is a hell of a sight more daunting than the same one at St James, we will watch with interest. The other interesting point at Liverpool is who is driving the player purchases. Comolli is notionally tasked with buying young talent but that is probably more along the lines of cheaper younger players. If Dalglish has been heavily involved then this could be the precursor to a longer stay which he undoubtedly wants. Dalglish always enjoyed spending big money on attacking players in his previous guises, Barnes, Beardsley, Shearer, Sutton so again, we will watch as this develops.

Villa look on the right path and whilst Bent probably isn't good enough for the highest echelon, he's certainly good enough to improve them upfront. Sunderland have taken the cash and made a couple of potentially shrewd midfield signings, their season should continue in a positive manner.

Manchester City have attempted to stop buying quantity and are now attempting quality. Dzeko comes with a bulging reputation and his ability to forge a partnership with the gargoyle like Carlos Tevez may well decide their final placing in the table. They still look good for the top three.

West Ham have brought in badly needed reinforcements and Robbie Keane and Wayne Bridge will add much needed know how and quality. Their Premiership ambitions remain uncertain however.

The rest of the league is a mixture of free or cheap transfers and loan signings. Fulham look like they have done some good business and Mark Hughes may finally be on the road to redemption if he can build on some seeds of better times at Craven Cottage.

Birmingham look a better team for Martins, Bentley and Davies, Stoke have also brought in reinforcements along with Blackburn Rovers and one can only hope that Blackpools' new purchases along with the retaining of Charlie Adam will be enough to keep the season's one true highlight in the division.

It would seem that most of the purchasing was done out of measures of desperation rather than anything else. Chelsea, so frugal for so long have reacted to the possibility of dropping out of the top four by spending big. Villa and Liverpool had a quick glimpse of the abyss and acted swiftly. ManYoo, Arsenal and Spurs, content with their seasons in the main watched and waited.

It is however a slight myth to suggest that this was one of the most extravagant transfer windows ever. Much of the money was simply recycled within the English game with Liverpool's lavish outlay financed mainly by Chelsea. Only the David Luiz and the Edin Dzeko deals sent significant money outside of the English borders.

One other interesting point is the complete absence of the other European powers at the table. Both Luiz and Torres in particular as well as Dzeko are all players that would have usually been coveted on the Iberian Peninsula. Other than Barcelona or Real, it doesn't appear there is much money in the Spanish game and both those two have spent serious money in the past few years. Mourinho's protestations that Madrid don't have a decent striker available beggars belief given their recent outlays and it is interesting that a loan for Adebayor rather than a big money move for Dzeko provided the solution. We are discounting the possibility of a Real move for Torres ever due to his loyalty to Atletico - Liverpool fans will testify to his great character and principles on these matters.

How all of these further outlays and financial commitments will impact on the clubs in light of the impending financial fair play regulations remains to be seen. It also is unknown how successful the majority of these transfers will be, some look sound business whereas some look overpriced and ill judged. All in all a very interesting and ultimately dramatic transfer window with a certain Mr Harry Redknapp's nose no doubt severely out of joint.

As a footnote, a huge thanks and lots of love to my lovely lady wife for providing me with a lovely son yesterday, now that is definitely no nonsense.