Transfer Madness: The Fallout

 

Following my previous blog post about the implications of Arsenal’s spending on the future of manager Arsene Wenger, this post will deal with the effects the transfer window has had on some of the other teams and players in the Premier League. Like any transfer window whether its in summer or winter, there have been some big money moves, and some not-so big money moves, with plenty of loan deals thrown in for good measure as well. There are also deals which raise fans’ eyebrows and turn heads as they see players who they weren’t expecting to turn up at their training ground any time soon.

 
One of the most notable moves that failed to materialise was that of Riyad Mahrez, who was the subject of a deadline day approach from Manchester City. The Leicester City winger, who has been vying for a move ever since he extraordinarily won the Premier League with The Foxes two seasons ago, has since handed in two transfer requests in the hope of securing his move to a club who are actually supposed to win League titles. Leicester would not be forced into selling him however, even though City offered £65 million for him. Leicester justified rejecting this offer by pointing to the incredible fees clubs in the Premier League have been receiving for their top players recently, demanding instead a fee of around £80 million. This was somewhat fanciful for a player Leicester signed for £450,000 back in 2014, and so their decision to play hardball in negotiations for Mahrez who you can hardly blame for wanting to move to this seasons’ likely champions is one which will only have a negative impact on him for the rest of his season.

 

Undoubtedly Mahrez will eventually be sold in the summer, and you have to admire Leicester’s resolve in standing firm and not selling their star player midway through a season, but we have seen the effect of clubs not allowing their want-away stars to leave. Southampton experienced this with Virgil Van-Dijk, who after not getting the move to Liverpool he so desired in the summer, virtually went missing for The Saints during the first half of this season. They did manage to command an even higher fee of £70 million, to make it a world record fee for a defender, but at the same time from a footballing point of view they would have been better off selling him in the summer when they would have had more time to find a replacement.  

 

As always in the January transfer window, there were lots of short-term loan deals which clubs use to find some of their fringe players more first team football, or even offloading underachieving players before they can sell them off permanently in the summer. One such deal that could fall under both categories would be striker Daniel Sturridge’s move from Liverpool to West Bromwich Albion, where he moved on loan until the rest of the season. This is what can only be described as a coup for West Brom, a team threatened with relegation who are on their second manager of the season after Tony Pulis was sacked, yet they have signed a forward who only a few seasons ago scored 21 league goals when Liverpool narrowly missed out on a league title.  At the very least, this shows that there can be unexpected positive outcomes for some clubs during transfer windows.

What next for the Gunners?

 

Following on from my previous blog post, it seems following this increased recruitment of players that Arsene Wenger is no longer top of the hierarchy when it comes to recruitment at Arsenal. He has a reputation as a manager who comes across as stubborn when it comes to signing big-money players, ignoring the deafening clamour from Arsenal fans who demanded marquee signings year after year. To be fair to him his lack of spending was down to keeping the bigger picture of financial stability firmly in his mind’s eye after a huge outlay of funds went to moving to the Emirates stadium twelve years ago. So either the relatively new strategy of spending large amounts of money on already established players is a sign that Wenger has finally realised that this is the only way to keep up with the Manchester clubs, Chelsea and Liverpool; or that it is more the case that he has been ordered to buy these players by the club’s board, or even considering the possibility that he didn’t sanction these transfers in the first place, and that it was out of his control.  

 

The evidence does seem to point that way, in that Arsenal now have someone at the club with the job title of head of recruitment, even though it was felt that Arsene Wenger was previously the one who oversaw such matters. It begs the question then, that after 21 years at Arsenal, with over a thousand games as manager under his belt and numerous amounts of silverware, that Wenger’s grip on power at the club may be loosening. He did sign a new two year contract at the club before the start of this season, but it is my opinion that his reign may come to a premature end in terms of his current contract still having more than a year left to run, if he is not able to capitalize on tying Mesut Ozil down to a new contract and the signings of Mkhitaryan and Aubameyang.

 

With his team faltering in the Premier league, that last Champions league spot looking increasingly out of reach, Wenger’s best chance of holding onto his job for another season may rest entirely on whether they can win the Europa League, which by doing so would give them a back-door entrance into Europe’s top competition. This was an approach taken by Manchester United last season after they themselves failed to finish in the top four, and is probably more realistic for Arsenal if they cannot turn around their plundering form in the league. What is clear, is that a large percentage of Arsenal fans would have already liked to have seen Arsene Wenger shown towards the door, but have seen him hold onto power like a Prime Minister with a tiny House of Commons majority. The wolves have been scratching away at the door for years though, so surely an unsuccessful season this year will result in his exit and ultimately the end of an era at Arsenal.

 

If Wenger does depart it will leave a pair of shoes that will be almost as hard to fill as his former rival Sir Alex Ferguson left when he retired from his post as Man. United manager after over 26 years in the job. This would no doubt be welcomed by many Arsenal fans, but in football these days it is rare, and almost unheard of, for a manager to be afforded as long as Wenger has when he hasn’t lived up to the fans’ high expectations in a long while. Owners, chairman, CEOs, board members, and all kinds of investors in such a prestigious club such as Arsenal want to see tangible reward for their investment in the club, and with the money spent on transfers, you feel Arsene Wenger is at the last chance saloon when it comes to the club where he has spent almost a third of his life at the helm.

 

     

 

Arsenal’s Transfer Madness

 

It was a very busy transfer window for Arsenal football club and their much maligned manager Arsene Wenger. It was one which the Arsenal manager described as “the most destabilising” in all his twenty-one years at the club. The reason we can surmise from this categorisation was that it was a window which saw their talismanic striker Alexis Sanchez, move to arch rivals Manchester United. It of course must be very destabilising to have your best player of the last four seasons plucked away in the middle of a season which hasn’t exactly gone to plan yet again – with Arsenal occupying sixth place in the premier league, six points behind North-London rivals Tottenham.

 

This has been on the cards for some time however; Arsenal only just held onto Sanchez when Manchester City came calling in the summer, and his departure is a byproduct of the lack of progress made by Arsenal after several high profile signings in recent years. From this it could be argued that Arsenal have slowly been destabilizing themselves, as their failure to take advantage of a high amount of investment which has seen players such as Sanchez, Mesut Ozil and Alexandre Lacazette come in for huge amounts of money saw them fail to finish in the top-four last season. Lacazette is still settling in; Ozil has shown what a good player he can be, but his form is somewhat inconsistent; and Sanchez was often the bright spark amongst Arsenal’s underachieving squad.

 

The silver lining to this very dark cloud is that Arsenal do still seem able to attract top players, and the deadline day acquisition of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from Borussia Dortmund for a record fee illustrates this. He is an exciting forward who scored goals for fun in the Bundesliga, and although it remains to be seen whether he can continue this form in the premier league, Arsenal fans can’t really have wished for a better player to fill the void left by Sanchez, especially as Aubameyang is joined at Arsenal buy his former Dortmund teammate Henrikh Mkhitaryan. The pair linked up very well during their time in Germany together and this is something that Arsenal fans will be hoping they can replicate in order to push their team forward to try and salvage a champions league place this season.

 

Arsenal did have to sacrifice one of their top goal-scorers in recent years, Olivier Giroud. He moved to Chelsea for £18 million, which, ten years ago, would have been one of the biggest transfer fees of any Premier league club. In today’s climate however, such a fee doesn’t even register when you consider that Philippe Coutinho moved from Liverpool to Barcelona for £142 million in the same month. The Gunners also said farewell to Theo Walcott, a player that you feel never quite reached his full potential at Arsenal, although, like Giroud, he did score over 100 goals for the club during his stay in North London.     

 

Sanchez to United – Done deal!

 

So Alexis Sanchez got the move he wanted, although it wasn’t the one everyone thought he wanted. It turns out that Manchester City were so unwilling to meet Arsenal’s bargain price for their main man, that they were willing instead for him to go to their biggest rivals for free. Well, I say free, the deal that saw Sanchez move to Manchester United included Henrikh Mkhitaryan travelling in the opposite direction.  

 

No money changed hands in the end, which looks like very good business for Man. United, considering they now have arguably one of the best players in the world on their books, and in doing so they have offloaded a player that never really seemed to fit in under Jose Mourinho’s organised, defence is the best form of attack playing style. He will, you would think however, fit more easily into Arsenal’s team, as their free flowing style of play where attacking players don’t take up solid positions is much more likely to suit Mkhitaryan. There is just the minor issue of who drops out in favour of the Armenian, in that he is not really a like for like replacement for Sanchez, but Arsenal suffer so many injuries that I’m sure there will soon be place for him to make his own,(until he himself gets injured).

 

Jose Mourinho, was in an uncharacteristically good mood when he spoke to the media about the signing of Sanchez, seemingly smug at the thought of the Chilean choosing him over Arsene Wenger, who sees yet another one of his top players move to their rivals for the league, and more likely these days, a top four spot. You would think that Wenger would have by now have got the memo, and that along with the numerous Arsenal players that have jumped ship and left him for clubs with more realistic prospects of winning premier league titles and champions league trophies, that he might finally do the same. And yet, he seems determined to do the opposite, with another disappointing and indefensible defeat at Swansea, it looked like Wenger was going down with his ship.

 

However, things are now looking up for Wenger and his Gunners, with the announcement that they have secured the signature of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, for a club record fee of £56 million. This is another huge signing for Arsenal after they smashed their transfer record in the previous transfer window, with more good news in light of this signing with Mesut Ozil signing a new contract that could potentially keep him at the club until 2021. But these positive moves in the transfer market are overshadowed by a backdrop of player unrest, and players like Sanchez who feel they have more chance of winning silverware elsewhere. To make this move happen they even have had to let their most prolific striker in recent years, Olivier Giroud, move to Chelsea, another in the endless list of their top players joining premier league rivals.

 

Sanchez to City, or not?

So it is that time of year once again. The time to be checking those sports news apps and watching Sky Sports news around the clock, seeing Jim White’s bright yellow tie glistening in all the ridiculousness. The January transfer window is a place where desperate managers go to try and save their seasons’, filling those holes in defences which have leaked far too many goals, or if they are that way inclined, trying to find a striker who can hit the back of the net after finding out that their top scorer so far this season happens to be a defender.  Embarrassing.

 

The January transfer window seems to be full of embarrassment. Whereas summer transfer windows seem to go on forever, where clubs can take their time to get the best deals and wait for players to become available, January is a month crammed full of cut-price and dodgy deals, with players on the move again after not settling at the club they only moved to last summer, and managers who have to admit that their recruitment drive during the summer failed to plug those all too familiar gaps in midfield

 

It used to be more fun. Gone, (since Birmingham sacked him in November) are the days where you would see Harry Redknapp hanging out the window of his Range Rover talking to a Sky reporter freezing his nuts off about how he would be signing Niko Kranjar again for the 18th time. I recall with glee the time that Peter Odemwingie made the long trip down from the West Midlands to London (also in a Range Rover, probably), after feeling hopeful of a deadline day move to QPR, only to find out that it had all been in vain and that the deal had fallen through. This was after he had spoken all too enthusiastically to live cameras about how he was looking forward to signing for QPR, and his career only seemed to go downhill after that.

The big news that has everyone excited this window is that it looks like Arsenal forward Alexis Sanchez is on the move, after failing to agree a new contract and with his current one set to come to an end this summer. It seems clear to outsiders that Sanchez really does not want to be at Arsenal any longer, with them only mustering a few measly F.A. Cups in his time there which doesn’t seem to count for much anymore. It is less clear, however, as to where his next destination will be. Many thought Manchester City after he almost signed for them last summer, but sky sources are now indicating that this deal is dead in the water, albeit that this transfer failed in a far less embarrassing way than it did for our friend Peter Odemwingie.

Manchester United are now favourites to swoop in for the Chilean, after City’s refusal to pay Arsenal more than £20 million. £20 million?! Man City are a club who didn’t think twice about buying a reserve full-back from Real Madrid for £27 million, yet they won’t fork out a similar price for a world-class striker who is proven in the premier league! Transfer madness, still at its embarrassing best.
By the way, the full-back City bought from Real Madrid is called Danilo, although you wouldn’t be expected to know that because he’s hardly played this season. Money well spent!