x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

A seller's market in January

January may be a time for gambling in the football transfer window, but he who dares can lose.

Half the season remains, yet January can seem the last-chance saloon. This is where the desperate congregate, trying to present themselves as best as they can, for a final sup.

Transfers can intoxicate, prompting heady thoughts, whether of safety or silverware, but the reality is that this is a seller's market. If anything, prices tend to be driven higher on the final day, resulting in last year's £50 million (Dh287.5m) and £35m deals for Fernando Torres and Andy Carroll, respectively.

Twelve months on, neither can be described as a success, and each could be called an expensive failure.

Yet Liverpool also restored optimism by recruiting Luis Suarez last January and that kind of deal, long planned rather than a quick fix, is where the New Year trading is at its most effective.

The greatest scope for change is at the foot, not the top of the table. This is partly because it tends to be more congested and partly because there are more players available who can make a difference.

Without always attracting a great deal of attention, an astute acquisition can make a difference there.

The most dramatic examples were when Portsmouth salvaged survival from an improbable position in 2005/06, followed by West Ham the following season. But recruits do not come with a guarantee, as Birmingham City can testify.

At considerable cost, they loaned David Bentley and Obafemi Martins in January and while the Nigerian scored the winner in the Carling Cup final, their season culminated in relegation. This may be a time for gambling, but he who dares can lose.