Strangely for a unilateral decision, it makes a lot of sense and may help the English game. The Premier League will end the domestic transfer window before the first ball of the new season is kicked. An end to the speculation which dogs not just Arsenal but most other top flight clubs. Until FIFA catches up, the speculation over players joining the likes of PSG and Barcelona won’t cease.
Is it a good idea? There’s some merit in it if you’re a smaller club whose stars are being cherry-picked by the bigger fish in this rancid pond. It’s likely to see domestic transfer fees rise; the shortened window will focus minds and puts selling clubs in a stronger position. It won’t for a few seasons at least, be a buyers market.
The obvious danger is that the hard-to-shift-now players will become even harder to shift. Kieran Gibbs and Carl Jenkinson are the obvious examples, but the same issue applies to the young Guns who won’t make the grade. Does it improve their situation or make it worse? Or no change at all? They can’t attract new employers with the major obstacle remaining despite this rule change: wages.
For club managers, it presents some security but not entirely. The continent’s bigger fish can play a longer game, waiting until this deadline passes before moving to disrupt potential Champions League rivals. Hopefully, UEFA will be quickly encouraged to follow suit. The prospect of this being followed rapidly by FIFA seems fanciful at present.
And what of the nefarious loan system? Will they address the iniquitous nature of stockpiling of talent? That may not receive such universal backing from the clubs.
Looking After No. 1
One player whose future would be resolved by now under these new rules is Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. There are reports that Chelsea are preparing a £35m bid for the midfielder. Wing back. Winger. Whatever he is. Therein is the problem. His pace naturally lent itself to the wide role but versatility has proven his downfall. Not so much a square peg in round holes but a round peg of varying sizes fitting into whichever hole is empty.
But the Ox is divisive. His future is split between those who would happily sell and those who see a future for him at the club. Every player has his price and £35m works for me in this case, so long as we reinvest to improve the midfield. Ox wants a career in the centre of midfield. Will he get it at Chelsea? Will his situation necessarily improve at Stamford Bridge? Even with that fee, there’s no guarantee of first team football. Sentiment is in short supply in London’s Russian enclave.
Arguments based around his statistics are built on shifting sands. On the face of it, they aren’t impressive but don’t factor in the high number of substitute appearances nor the various roles he has played in the side, notably the full back / wing back positions. Not so much “Lies, damn lies and statistics” as obscuring the truth.
If the Price is Right
But at the heart of all this is the fee. You cannot refuse that sort of money for Ox as he is now. We’ve lived off potential for a decade. Project Youth – a pejorative term now – had potential at the heart of its flawed execution undermined a concept which almost worked. Had the youth received better leadership, they would have done so. As it was, events at St Andrews reverberated through the hearts and minds of the squad, diminishing us on the pitch.
We’re still paying for the legacy of the project even now. The high salaries paid to the likes of Gibbs, Jenkinson and Wilshere make them expensive acquisitions for suitors not just in fees but also on the wage bill. No change in the transfer window date will alter that.
For supporters, the sale of Oxlade-Chamberlain would represent something of a watershed. He wants more playing time and a future in the centre of midfield; he’s not going to get that here or at Stamford Bridge without performances to back him up.
Ox was a relatively expensive acquisition, not a product of our academy. The ruthlessness of clubs and players is something supporters don’t find an easy accommodation. Our hearts and souls are invested in Arsenal Football Club; should we reciprocate their view of us and act like ‘customers’? If we do, football changes for ever.
UItimately, every player and a club has a cycle. Do we need to be quick to recognise when they end? Not in the heat of the moment, when the natural reaction is that “he’s sh…” (you know how that ends) but in the natural train of events. The days of one-club men, of long-serving servants is over; the modern game lends itself to a mercenary attitude. Not quite ‘Jon Stark – Boots for hire’ but it’s the path we’re treading.
Later today, the next instalment of ‘Times of our Lives’ will be posted on Dad’s Jukebox but other than that, that’s it for today. £35m? Ox’s price is right…