The Zombies sublime, Time of the Season, feels somehow appropriate this morning. The international transfer window opens tomorrow with a sense that it is going to send newshounds into a frenzy.
There are many reasons for supporters of the élite to be excited. United are set to land Ibrahimovic tomorrow with Mkhitaryan next week. Chelsea have all but signed Batshuayi for €40m and we’ve landed Granit Xhaka. A sense of a new beginning for everyone.
It’s noticeable that the transfer market for English clubs certainly, has, price-wise, gone mental. The new Premier League broadcasting revenues have sent prices sky-rocketing at home and abroad. Real Madrid are this morning, supposedly looking to bring in £125m from the combined sales of Morata and James Rodriguez. No disrespect to either but last year, they would barely have brought in half that total.
For the most part, when it comes to fees, it’s paper talk. If someone did a survey, you’d probably find that in the upper echelons of the game, the ‘undisclosed fee’ is the most frequent amount of money paid for a player. You wonder how long this will last; it’s not in the buying club’s interests necessarily, to declare the moneys paid straight away.
There are some fairly educated guesses about what each club’s transfer kitty is and knowing what they’ve spent helps a selling club more. But, issuing the list in the autumn? Is there a problem with that? I suppose the bigger question is do we need to know?
Some find solace in the knowledge of how much a player cost. Not that the fee is any indicator of their form at a new club. It seeks, in most cases, to inflate expectations, increasing the pressure on the player to perform from the outset.
The problem is that the modern game has become so enamoured with money and bragging about their commercial triumphs, that supporters want to see that money invested in big names, big signings. The final day of the transfer window has become a separate industry, with its own stars and increased sex toy sales.
But it’s activity which is more important. The actual signing of players who improve the squad matters more than the size of the transfer fee or their pay packet. We know that from painful experience down the years, with this cycle of under-investment in terms of key positions in the squad not yet ended.
The Vardy saga showed the issues of last season had not gone unnoticed. Xhaka’s arrival laid the foundations for Arsenal to build on. Being rebuffed by the Leicester striker is not great disappointment in the sense that his age made him a short-term solution. The money side of it? Well, the club made him an offer of what they thought him worth; he got more or enough from Leicester to not make moving to Arsenal worthwhile.
That’s an issue Arsenal have to face up to. Even smaller clubs can make their star players very wealthy indeed. We’re big enough to outgun all but three of the top flight financially but the gap to those below is closing. Rapidly.
The time for taking intuitive punts on players is gone. They rarely work any more; undiscovered gems generally don’t exist, or are certainly harder to find, with the saturated global football coverage. There are left-field signings and Vardy to some extent would have been one, more on his style than any sense of anonymity.
English football may be in the international doldrums but on a club level, there’s no time for introspection or navel gazing. The Premier League and UEFA has made football a ‘now’ commodity where the rich have to deliver immediately or doom and despair takes over. The clubs get no sympathy from me; they created the beast and it’s out of their control once they bring supporters into the equation.
Arsenal are no different. The empty promises over the years have worn goodwill thin. A strong summer of intent would bring some of that back. I’m inclined to believe that the club is working on bringing players in. Despite the failure, I can’t believe Vardy was the only striker targeted this summer.
There’s a hint of opportunism about the bid with Arsenal surprised to find the release clause really was that low. But I do think it was more planned than that, despite the popular theory it wasn’t and that he’s the only striker targeted.
Wenger would comment on Alexandre Lacazette – he never does – but it didn’t stop the speculation – it never does. And over in Japan, a little-known forward on these shores, reckons Arsenal are in for him. Takuma Asano claimed that he’s in the frame for a move to north London. I think it’s just Wenger’s mod sensibilities surfacing, with the Vapors on his current playlist.
Before we dismiss it out of hand though, Park Chu-young anyone…
Still, if he’s genuinely running out of options, Robin van Persie is reportedly on his way out of Turkish football. Let’s see him come up with a website for returning to the Emirates.
What jolly japes this transfer window may yet turn out to be.