One Window Closes, A Competition Opens

With the transfer window slamming shut and dust settling over the international break, it is finally time to see if those frantic last minute wheeling & dealings pay instant dividends for those clubs that were actively involved in the transfer scramble. Although many deals went down to the wire, we were all left wanting for a transfer deadline headline grabber. This time around there was no midtable club snapping up a couple of young Argentinean stars from a bent businessman with an unpronounceable surname. We weren’t even thrown an 11th hour, 8 million pound Raf van der Vaart bone, but never the less it appears the power gradient amongst the top 6 contenders felt an unsettling tremor.

MANCHESTER UNITED

It could be argued that due to some preparation reminiscent of a scout troop, no last grasp dealings were needed by the Manchester United, who have once again laid claim to their customary location on the roof of the table. With much summer conjecture regarding a high quality playmaker, Sir Alex has kept his faith in the rapidly developing Anderson and Tom Cleverly, who hasn’t put a foot wrong since being promoted to the first team. The sheer ease in which Man United have begun this premier league campaign is as difficult to  fathom as the existence of granny porn. Faced with an potential Arsenal-esque crisis brought about by the loss of both their world class centre backs, they have showed their depth of squad and management smarts by taking 9 from the first 3 and doing it not just with consummate ease, but with poise and flair to burn. Much like an all knowing grandpa preparing for the long winter, Ferguson did his shopping and preparation early, giving his new troops time to settle in. This has appeared to pay off with Jones already being talked about as a future England captain, De Gea showing flashes of brilliance (blended with something resembling a Monty Python blooper reel) & Ashley Young in everything but Roo’s hair replacement salon. The former Aston Villa man has been particularly impressive,  seemingly bending them in at will and even managing to maintain that club form whilst staring for the 3 lions over the international break, with his goal saving Capello an embarrassing misstep against a determined Welsh side. Still some disappointment lingers regarding the much publicised move for Wesley Sneijder which never came into fruition. One would feel that with a player of such high class added to this young squad, they would better equipped to deal with the midfield class of the likes of Barcelona.

Summer trading: 8/10

11th Hour Dealings: 0/10

LIVERPOOL

In much the same vein as Sir Alex, Kenny D was extremely active in the market early in the summer, showing no fear in splashing the cash and at times well above the going rate. Forking out close to £20 million alone for Luka Modric’s boot lacer, Jordan Henderson was considered risky business by many, but clearly Liverpool have strengthened right across the park. Due to the additions of Downing and Adam, players like Andy Carroll can now expect 5 star service, which according to his national coach means he’ll have his pint topped up long before he’s had a chance to see the dirt at the bottom of the glass. Liverpool made further reinforcements with the transfer deadline looming in the form of Sebastian Coates, the young Uruguayan who apparently came recommended through national teammate Luis Suarez. With Jamie Carragher seemingly one yard slower with every passing season and the lack of a consistent presence to pair him with, this was a much needed signing up at Anfield. The Liverpool faithful are hoping his form at the Copa America was more than a flash in the pan and are holding hope that with his recommendation for his countryman, Luis Suarez hasn’t bitten off more than he can chew. The big story for Liverpool on deadline day was the transfer of Raul Meireles to Chelsea. Despite taking some time for the heavily inked Portuguese to settle in last season, throughout the back end of the year he was close to Liverpool’s best performer. So his last second run to the capital has left the Liverpudlians surprised and disappointed to have lost the influential midfielder.

Summer trading: 8/10

11th Hour Dealings: 5/10

CHELSEA

Chelsea have attempted to conduct their offseason business on the back pages this summer, with barely a day passing in the press without some mention of Luka Modric. This has somewhat overshadowed a few key signings that have given their squad both a little of the old & the new. In his brief cameo against Norwich City, Juan Mata already showed glimpses of brilliance and a clear cut ability to break stoic defenses down. A potent penetrating player has largely been lacking for Chelsea in recent times (if you exclude their off field antics) and much like Aguero on debut for City, Mata showed that he could be Chelsea’s trump card when facing lower ranked opposition who excel in clogging up the defensive third. With Mata offering the new, Lukaku looks very much a chip off the old Drogblock. Comparisons will be inevitable, but all the qualities such as strength, speed & power we’ve come to know from Drogba are ingrained within the potential of their young Belgian signing. Liverpool’s loss was certainly Chelsea’s gain as Meireles opting for a last ditch move to Stamford Bridge. He might not waltz into the first team, but due to some very solid performances for both club and country last season, many suspect Chelsea picked up a Raul deal at £12 mill. With all the talk surrounding the Manchester teams, Chelsea have quietly strengthened to a point where they could really make a deep run on a number of fronts. If this team can gel and turn potential into points, then there is every chance we could see the blues at the top of the heap come next May.

Summer trading: 9/10

11th Hour Dealings: 7/10

ARSENAL

Arsenals offseason focuses more about the ‘out’ column than the ‘in’, but some last minute scrambling at least equips Wenger with some dice to roll. The dust was finally blown off the chequebook with 4 new faces arriving around deadline day. Obviously 75 odd caps for Deutschland commands instant respect, but with significant question marks over his speed, time will tell if Per Mertesacker will cut the premier league mustard. With a huge frame and a sound knowledge of the game, there is no doubt he will bring a set piece presence that arsenal have been lacking in recent times and with Thomas Vermaelen back on the physio table, Arsenal hope their new German signing adjusts to life in the premier much faster than he completes the 40 yard dash. But Mertesacker’s signing was  just the beginning for Arsene Wenger, who reacted to the thumping at the hands of United by breaking all his own rules and signing postpubesent players. Some of whom may even have their best football behind them. Despite this fact, both Yossi Benayoun and Mikael Arteta could be effective signings for Arsenal as they are both players with amazing vision and skill. The fact that neither player has been dominant since returning from long injury layoffs means Arsenal have taken a significant gamble. But shelling out a mere £10 million for Arteta and acquiring Yossi on a season long loan deal has limited any financial risks if these players once again acquire long term injuries. After all, they are now Arsenal players making that a distinct possibility. But if they manage to stay fit there is little doubt they will both be shrewd signings, as their talents on the football pitch have long been on display in the premier league. As far as the players go that forced a move away from the Emirates this summer, it appears that most Arsenal fans were shattered to see Fabregas return to Barcelona to become Xavi’s boot lacer & bench warmer, but few tears were shed regarding the loss of Samir Nasri. His blinding form at the beginning of last season was a distant memory as he went missing for long periods as last season came to a close, and despite a bright start at City a £25 million return represented very good business for Arsenal for a player refusing to resign. It will be interesting to see if his fate becomes similar to that of Flamini, Hleb, Henry, Overmars & Anelka whose careers all felt a significant decline following a move away from Arsenal.

Summer trading: 7/10

11th Hour Dealings: 9/10

MANCHESTER CITY

Somewhere in between denying Carlos Tevez a family reunion and insulting cancer sufferers, Man city have managed a relatively productive summer. Surprisingly enough, this time around they focused on quality instead on quantity. Bringing in Sergio Aguero looked a sure bet to greenlight Tevez’s move away from Eastlands, but the fact that both players are still pulling on the sky blue gives Man City some amazing quality and depth up front. The challenge for Mancini will now be to keep everybody happy, as bringing in established talent as opposed to up-and-comers often results in inadequate space in the dressing rooms to house everyone’s egos. God knows Ballotelli needs a shed to himself, and a personal bib assistant to boot. But Mancini cannot complain about lack of talent at his disposal and is even equipped to cope with injury & the added toil of champions league football. The Samir Nasri transfer was on the cards for some time so was not a huge surprise, but the same cannot be said regarding their deadline day signing of Owen Hargreaves. My theory is it was purely a move to get under the skin of their cross town rivals, as behind De Jong, Barry and Toure, his chances of seeing significant playing time are slim at best. The one thing that is for sure is there are now no more excuses for City. Nothing short of trophy laden success will be good enough this season, and if this merry band of highly paid stars cannot function as a unit, Mancini will be headed for the door quicker than you can say ‘ravaged with it’.

Summer trading: 8/10

11th Hour Dealings: 6/10

TOTTENHAM

When your greatest achievement during an offseason is holding onto a player, it can’t have been the most productive of summers. This was the case at Tottenham Hotspur, where despite improving in key areas, the club was left a few players short of being considered title contenders. Losing their champions league place was always going to make it difficult for Spurs to attract Europe’s best, as well as hold on to their own players that starred in that competition last year. In Adebayor they have found a striker with raw talent, but the fact he has been passed around like a soggy roach the last few seasons points toward a player that has a tough time impressing coaching staff & management. Excellent defensive midfielders are a rare breed in football these days, which left me scratching my head as to why Scott Parker was not snapped up sooner. Despite his age, it seems the tough tackling Englishman still has a lot of good football left in him and he is definitely a class above the likes of Fletcher, Carrick, Diaby, Song & Lucas, all of who are/have been first choice for bigger clubs in that position. Spurs were also left wanting in the backline, with the chase for Gary Cahill turning out to be a fizzer. They have also no established right back with Walker unproven and Corluka a statue. One thing they managed to achieve, however, was to clear out a number of players who were surplus to requirements. This means that the 1st of January might mean more than just a hangover for ‘Arry Rednapp this year, as there should be some money to spend. However with Tottenham already at the foot of the table, it could be a case of too little, too late for a top 4 push come the new year.

Summer trading: 5/10

11th Hour Dealings: 6/10

BEST OF THE REST

An article abpout deadline day could not pass without some mention of Stoke, QPR & Aston Villa who were extremely active late in the piece. Sure, they were all taking players that were no longer wanted by their previous clubs, but that is not to say that they won’t vastly improve the fortunes of their new sides. Stoke probably had the best of it signing 2 strikers in Crouch and Jerome, and in signing Wilson Palacios, they have found a player with plenty of premier league experience & great defensive abilities. Keeping in mind it was only 2 years ago that ‘Arry was saying things about his new signing Palacios such as “he’s everything I’ve been wanting in a midfield player” during a self back patting exercise. QPR have an entire new team following their deadline scramble, with plenty of names that were, at some point, considered top billing in the premier league such as Dyer, Ferdinand & Wright-Phillips.

Well, the team sheets are settled until January at least and even though it feels at times that football in played as much off the pitch as on it, we can breathe a sigh of relief that the time has come to watch the fellas kick it around out on the grass for a while. Hook it to my vein.

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Posted on September 9, 2011, in football. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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