The dubious honour of writing a new TF blog falls to me. The idea is to cover non-NUFC English football and over the coming weeks that’ll include anything that springs to mind which affects football in this country. Midweek cup results, finances, controversies, Lawro’s gaping buttons, FA/UEFA/FIFA bashing, there’s room for it all. If this turns into another ‘EPL’ Big Club Only blog gleaned from the same papers and TV coverage you all watch then it’ll have been a failure. So on that note, the first one’s about Liverpool and the Transfer Window.
Transfer deadline day came as something of an anticlimax to fans of many clubs at the top of the Premier League. While Manchesters United and City along with Arsenal had their dealings concluded well in advance of 11pm on August 31st, many others were still trying to pull off a coup as late ticked into too late.
Spurs were still haggling over Joao Moutinho as the deadline passed, even after losing both Luka Modric and Rafael Van Der Vaart, two players responsible for both Spurs style of play and success in recent years. Good players though Dempsey, Sigurdsson and Dembele are, they will struggle to fill the smallish boots of their immediate predecessors.
Liverpool got rid of Kuyt, Bellamy, and Carroll and replaced them with.. erm … no-one in the end. Brendan Rodgers has since said he wouldn’t have let Carroll go if he’d known no-one was coming in. For a club that struggled to score last season, getting rid of all their strikers but one would seem a risky strategy. Admittedly the strikers which left are the ones who couldn’t score last year but this has all the signs of financial pressures overriding football necessity. Where have we heard that before? Owner John Henry even wrote an open letter to fans pledging never to indulge in the kind of risky spending that is somehow different to the kind he did himself last year. They could still sign a free transfer or two to boost their numbers, but as well as Sibierski did for NUFC, we know from bitter experience such actions are only plugging holes, not a forward-looking plan for the future. Rodgers hasn’t been helped by Dalglish splurging a lot of money on players they’ll never be able to recoup their money from ( a trick he also pulled at Newcastle). Their dealings in the transfer window were puzzling at best though, as what money they did have was spent on players who don’t look to be the answers to their particular problems, and Rodgers has to take some responsibility for that. There’s only so many bad decisions even a great club can absorb before they’ve lost whatever they had forever. Liverpool may already be past that point and need to start again from scratch, in which case maybe Rodgers really is the man for the job. It’ll be interesting to see what the reaction of the board will be if their worst season in recent memory unfolds, as it very possibly could.
Chelsea, in a move differentiated from Liverpool’s only by the fact they appeared to do it deliberately, let go Drogba, Kalou & Lukaku leaving only Torres and Sturridge and brought in droves of very good midfielders. Are midfielders the new strikers? Or maybe both clubs will be devoid of options when their strikers become unavailable, as they inevitably will.
The most striking move further down the league pyramid was Watford signing 5 on loan from Udinese on deadline day. That’s to go with the 5 they signed on loan earlier in the month, also from Udinese. Without having overly researched this, my spidey sense tells me that Udinese or their owners have a financial stake in Watford. There have long been murmurings about possible unfairness caused by the loan market, for instance when one club or another loan players from a higher level unavailable to competitors, whether that is achieved through financial links as here or by ties of friendship or family, a case in point being overtly displayed when Manchester United withdrew their loans to Preston in response to the sacking of Darren Ferguson. Owners are not allowed to have stakes in clubs competing against each other. These recent events might suggest that even clubs unlikely to compete should be barred from common ownership, purely to protect the integrity of the competition. Competitors of those clubs involved will certainly think so.
To go back to the Premier League dealings, many at the top of the tree do not appear to have strengthened their squads, either at all or in ways that appear most necessary. Are these clubs run by football incompetents? A more likely explanation is that the clubs have not been able to conclude all the moves they wished to within their budgets. Could it be that financial reality is finally affecting behaviour in football? Whether because of the worry of going bust, or the threatened sanctions of UEFA’s Financial Fair Play, with the notable exception of those who appear bent on facing down the authorities, the bottomless pockets of financial doping and the effect that has on the integrity of competition could be going out of fashion.