How many hours have we football fans wasted this past month? Cumulatively – taking into account how long we spent scouring the papers, staring at Sky Sports News or following links to dodgy websites – the figure must be in the millions. Such is life with football’s transfer window.
Before the window opened I attempted to round up all of the gossip circling England’s biggest clubs, to assess what the impact of the prospective transfers might be on the competition at the top of the Premier League. It turned out to be something of a hypothetical exercise, because at the end of the window most of the contenders are more or less where we left them.
Arsenal were linked with more players than any other club before the window, with targets covering almost every position. With the club having fallen behind even neighbours Tottenham in the title race, the speculation suggested that Arsene Wenger’s usual prudence was going to be abandoned. In fact Wenger did pull of the biggest coup of the window, but it cost him no money at all: bringing back Thierry Henry to the club in a short-term loan from New York Red Bulls. Despite Henry’s stunning impact on his second debut for the club, results have continued to be poor and fans increasingly frustrated. Arsene needs to learn nostalgia is no substitute for cold, hard cash.
Chelsea have been more active, although still far less than anticipated. Andre Villas-Boas offloaded Nicolas Anelka to Shanghai Shenhua, but ignored Carlo Ancelotti’s advice to dispense with Didier Drogba, too. Two rumoured arrivals did become reality – Gary Cahill from Bolton and Kevin De Bruyne from Genk – alonsgide Lucas Piazon from Sao Paolo and Patrick Bamford from Nottingham Forest – but a range of others did not. Interestingly, with last January’s £50 million purchase Fernando Torres still misfiring, AVB spent no more than £7 million on any one of his new recruits.
Kenny Dalglish mush have had his confidence knocked following the less-than-stellar performances of his summer recruits so far – freebie Craig Bellamy aside – because he restricted himself to two new players recruited from the lower leagues: Jordan Ibe from Wycombe and Danny Ward from Wrexham. The biggest story at Anfield has been the possible departure of Andy Carroll, which was probably only prevented by a lack of suitors. Carroll did manage to bag a goal during the window to show what he could offer, but unfortunately left it until the evening of deadline day, a little late to entice anyone to come in for him.
Newcastle, still the most likely destination for Carroll if he does leave Anfield, decided to spend their money elsewhere. Their rumoured targets were Auxerre’s Alain Traore and Montpellier’s Olivier Giroud, suggesting Alan Pardew’s ‘buy French’ policy was going to continue. This has been borne out to some extent, as they added Papiss Demba Cissé – from French-speaking Senegal and having spent most of his career in France – to their attack for £10 million.
Another departure story dominated Manchester City’s transfer window, as expected. Carlos Tevez flirted with Inter and Paris St. Germain, and even had dinner with AC Milan, but none proved willing to match City’s demands for a permanent £25 million transfer. Towards the end of the month we even heard some rather far-fetched reports that he would be returning to Championship West Ham or reuniting with Mark Hughes at QPR. In the end he stayed at the Etihad Stadium, or rather he stayed in Buenos Aires while remaining a contracted employee of the club based at the Etihad Stadium. City have misplaced their goalscoring touch to such an extent in recent games – with Edin Dzeko lacking form and Mario Balotelli common sense – Roberto Mancini may now even be reconsidering inviting Tevez back into the fold. But I doubt it.
The question mark hanging over Manchester United going into the window was whether Alex Ferguson was going to buy a much-needed replacement for Paul Scholes. The candidates were Rasmus Elm of AZ Alkmaar, Christian Eriksen of Ajax, and Inter’s Wesley Sneijder. In the end Fergie must have decided the simplest way to replace Scholes was to simply get Scholes back, and tempted him out of retirement. Expect the speculation to mount again in toward the summer.
Finally, it was Tottenham that pulled off the biggest surprise of the window, and one nobody saw coming. It wasn’t exactly of Robinho proportions, however, as Harry “the accused” Redknapp brought in striker Louis Saha from Everton. How a player deemed surplus to requirements at mid-table Everton can offer much to high-flying Spurs is anyone’s guess. Although with Roman Pavyluchenko having left for Lokomotiv Moscow – confirmed late as the Russian transfer window is open for another few weeks – they have ended up in credit.