x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

The transfer window shatters as it closes

The transfer deadline built slowly, and ended with a crescendo. Richard Jolly reflects on the signings, and the implications these last-minute purchases could have on the clubs involved.

Mikel Arteta, the Spainsh midfielder, felt the time was right to leave Everton for Arsenal.
Mikel Arteta, the Spainsh midfielder, felt the time was right to leave Everton for Arsenal.

If a sound of ripping has been overheard near certain Premier League clubs in the last few days, it should be no surprise. Plans have been hastily torn apart, new ones formulated in double-quick time, gambles taken and money diverted around the division at surreal speed. That is what the last days of the transfer window do.

The most dramatic volte-face came at the Emirates Stadium. Never a believer in retail therapy, Arsene Wenger has tended to sit out the scramble for reinforcements. Not this time: Arsenal's 8-2 defeat to Manchester United was sufficiently crushing that football's ultimate business brain entered what is often a false economy. Wenger spent £26 million (Dh155.5m) in two days. No one else paid out more at the end of August.

With five additions ranging from 26 to 31, in Park Chu-young, Per Mertesacker, Andre Santos, Mikel Arteta and Yossi Benayoun, Arsenal's ideas of organic development have been sidelined. Experience, belatedly, has been prioritised. Nevertheless, it is hard to shake off the impression of panic buying, with Wenger priced out of moves for his preferred targets, such as Yann M'Vila and Gary Cahill, and settling for whoever was available. Tottenham Hotspur, too, were thwarted in a quest for Cahill and Harry Redknapp's knack of securing a surprise signing deserted him.

Chelsea also had a late rethink. A summer-long pursuit of Luka Modric was eventually abandoned with Raul Meireles, the substitute playmaker, signed with minutes to spare.

Blackburn Rovers ended up with Yakubu as the addition to their attack; the Nigerian was not Plan B, let alone Plan A.

Everton, meanwhile, can be nostalgic about the days when they thought that continuity would be enforced. Instead, stripped of Arteta and losing two strikers, Yakubu and Jermaine Beckford, as only one, on-loan Denis Stracqualursi, arrived, they illustrated the Social Darwinism of the transfer window. The weak can be preyed upon.

Both the cash-poor and the risk-takers can suffer. Newcastle United have had seven months to invest some of the £35m proceeds of Andy Carroll's move to Liverpool on a striker, but a deadline-day attempt to hijack Bryan Ruiz's move to Fulham failed and Alan Pardew will have to make do for another four months.

For all the activity at the end, those who got their original targets, such as Stoke City, who finally landed Peter Crouch and Wilson Palacios from Tottenham, are in the minority. Queens Park Rangers, who moved into a different financial league after the Malaysian businessman Tony Fernandes's takeover and who completed seven signings in the final week, at least have sound reasoning to support their recent dealings. Others do not.

Indeed, it is telling that many of those who have started the season well - the two Manchester clubs, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Aston Villa, for instance - concluded key deals with weeks to spare. City's £38m striker Sergio Aguero represented the biggest buy, while the Premier League's total spend was of £485m, £120m higher than last year.

One of the trends was the unusual willingness of the top clubs to trade with one another. Meireles, Benayoun, Craig Bellamy and Emmanuel Adebayor all left one of last season's top six for another. So, after being released by Manchester United and picked up by Manchester City, did Owen Hargreaves.

In some ways, the midfielder epitomises the final pieces of business. There is invariably a risk attached. In Hargreaves's case, it is whether he leaves City with memories of his footballing prowess or his fitness problems more pronounced.

For Bellamy, who has returned to Liverpool, Adebayor, who has been loaned to Spurs, or the QPR recruit Joey Barton, it can be boiled down to a question of talent versus temperament.

Like Liverpool, City can reflect with satisfaction upon a final few days that enabled them to reduce their wage bills by disposing of most of their unwanted players. The concerns should lie with the panicking clubs who acquired footballers they did not really want.