The August 2012 Transfers Article
Everyone else is doing it (or something similar) so I’m going to do a quick skim through all of the teams, looking at the business they did yesterday and in the summer generally:
Despite making a few signings for once, all the focus will be on the departures of Alex Song and especially Robin van Persie. It’s fair to say that last year they relied on him heavily and they needed to replace him with one or two good strikers. In the event, they have replaced him with two strikers, in Giroud and Podolski. In fact, it’s Song’s departure that now looks to be the one that’s left a hole, with Wenger choosing not to sign a replacement holding midfielder. Added to that, I’m definitely not convinced the two strikers they have bought will be good enough. Giroud was top scorer in France, but so was Chamakh, and Podolski’s form outside of Cologne and the national team has been patchy. On the plus side, Santi Cazorla looks to be a great addition, although was it really needed?
I maintain that they will be fine, but they are making it difficult for me to do so. Last year, they were terrible in the run-in, but that was as much to do with injuries and McLeish’s negative tactics as anything else. They strengthened without going over the top – Ron Vlaar the pick of the bunch, after Brett Holman agreed to join in March. After a couple of poor performances to start the season, Lambert kicked into his usual look-at-the-lower-leagues mode, signing a player each from the Championship, League One and League Two on Deadline Day. The big outlay came for Christian Benteke, the Genk striker costing £7 million. They haven’t lost anyone major but haven’t really replaced them – they’re relying on Lambert’s tactics to work and the lower league starlets like Westwood and Bowery to perform at the top level, if that’s even the plan. I am a bit more concerned for them now.
People will be raving about Chelsea’s business because they splashed a lot of cash on some exciting forwards, even though they can only play two wingers at a time. Thus the likes of Marko Marin and Victor Moses are unlikely to see the light of day very often this season, which seems an enormous waste – I can see at least one of those soon becoming part of the enormous list of players that Chelsea loans out every season, an absurd commentary on the owner and club’s greed. Not only that, but there are holes that are yet to be filled – with Essien out on loan, Mikel John Obi remains holding the fort as the main defensive midfielder, although unloved Oriol Romeu is knocking around somewhere, and at centre-back, they remain merely OK, as the Super Cup Final showed. It still has the feeling that Roberto di Matteo (and his boss) is indulging the core of the squad while buying nice frilly bits for the outside to make it look better than it actually is – that should be fine against the weaker teams, but I’m not convinced it’ll work against the big boys, especially in Europe.
This summer, David Moyes has generally focused on getting his attack right. Allowing the fading Tim Cahill leave for the USA for £1 million may prove to be a shrewd move; the signings of Steven Naismith from Rangers and Kevin Mirallas from Olympiakos may be shrewder. Steven Pienaar returns after a disappointing spell at Spurs to add flair. But at the last minute, it seems as if Moyes has noticed the lack of defensive cover and signed Bryan Oviedo from Copenhagen as a back-up to Leighton Baines. Even so, I still think they might not have the depth defensively to continue this form. They are so used to coming good at the end of the season, that doesn’t necessarily mean they will if they’ve been playing well since the beginning – I’m not sure they can go the distance.
I’m a lot more confident about Fulham than I was a week or so ago. The inevitable exits of Dembele and Dempsey, combined with losing Danny Murphy to Blackburn, meant they were looking a bit thin in midfield, and the gradual exits of Zamora, Johnson and Pogrebnyak left them short of options up front. Things have changed, though, especially after yesterday. Signing Berbatov for £4 million is a classic clichéd coup, Kieran Richardson adds an option on the left to cover Riise or play left wing, Iranian winger Ashgan Dejagah I know nothing about but could be good (I suppose), while the earlier signing of Petric looks to be a clever one. The only disappointment will be that the mooted late swoops for Palacios and Huddlestone failed to materialise, so they still look a bit thin “in the middle”, and that may prevent a final push for a European spot.
Well, where do you start? £25 million spent on two former Swansea players and yet they couldn’t stump up enough for a quality player who actually said he wanted to join the club. It’s a bit of a mess really. Brendan Rodgers couldn’t have managed it more haphazardly if he tried – the Carroll saga was ridiculous, the lack of a replacement for him (along with Kuyt and Bellamy) leaves Liverpool with less strikers than a Vincente del Bosque wet dream, and I also think allowing Maxi Rodriguez to leave was a bit silly too. On the plus side, Aquilani’s finally gone. That’s about it, really. Regardless of whichever club it is, that’s a bit crap. They could be worse than you think.
From the perspective of Roberto Mancini, City’s transfer business has been good. Extra midfield reinforcements have arrived in Rodwell and Garcia, while the unhappy Adam Johnson has been replaced with a relative like-for-like in quota-busting youngster Scott Sinclair. Nastasic and Maicon add further depth defensively too. But from a neutral perspective, I don’t think it’s good at all. In Rodwell and Sinclair, two of England’s best young players will now be sat on the bench for most of the year. Added to that, Micah Richards’ future seems more uncertain with the arrival of Maicon in his position. I’m also not convinced by Garcia – there’s little rational thought behind this; he just gives off a vibe of “flop”. Maybe because he may end up on the bench too. Is he going to start ahead of Barry or Milner in the middle? I’m not convinced – he’s probably a better player but that doesn’t mean Mancini will pick him. Aquilani proves good midfielders don’t always succeed, so I’m going to stick my neck out and say people will be wondering what the fuss was about at the end of the season.
All the cries of “why have you bought Van Persie?” have disappeared since the day of Wayne Rooney’s injury – not only because of the injury but because of the goal Robin scored that day. Rooney had looked out of shape and out of sorts against Everton and was deservingly dropped. In recent years, he has lost a lot of the flair that made him such an exciting young player. He may have scored 27 goals last season, but in signing Van Persie, the only man to score more goals in the Premier League last season, does it matter any more? With Shinji Kagawa starting well, I wouldn’t be surprised if Rooney’s days at Old Trafford were numbered. In other news, Michael Owen left. How we laughed.
Despite being told that they finished 5th because of “luck” last year, Newcastle have a genuinely good side, especially in terms of the first XI. In Cabaye, Ben Arfa and Cisse they have a Francophone triangle that even Wenger is probably envious of, and Fabrizio Coloccini is one of the most underrated centre-backs in the Premier League. So they didn’t really need to add much. Vurnon Anita seems like a good addition to the midfield ranks, while I’ve been impressed in the past with Gael Bigirimana at Coventry despite their poor showing last year as a whole. Losing the likes of Best and Guthrie shouldn’t be too much of a concern. They’ll almost certainly be in the mix for Europe again.
Chris Hughton has continued Paul Lambert’s policy of looking to the lower leagues to find talent by signing Leeds’ Robert Snodgrass, one of the best attacking midfielders in the Championship for the past couple of years, and Barnsley’s Jacob Butterfield. They’ve signed a few defenders too – Whittaker should be good, Bassong merely OK, and I don’t know what Michael Turner is all about. But there’s nothing there to convince me they aren’t still going down.
Queens Park Rangers
Signed a lot of players. Some were good, some were shit. Will it work? Who knows. Pfft.
Like Norwich, Reading seem to have gone back to the Championship to improve their very Championship squad. Gunter, Mariappa and McCleary might work in the Premier League in the same way Noel Hunt and Mikele Leigertwood might. Guthrie and Shorey have come in as well but the big, potentially crucial signing was Pavel Pogrebnyak, who might just prove to be the difference between certain relegation and possible survival. OK, he’s a goal poacher who probably won’t contribute much to the whole team but you’d fancy him to knock in a good percentage of the chances that he’s given. Like the other two promoted sides and other teams expected to be in the bottom half, they don’t look fantastic defensively, but given that other teams are like that, it’s not so much of a disadvantage. Having said that, with West Brom better than I expected and Stoke improving, they may now be in relegation territory. Pog aside, there is a lack of outright Prem quality there.
Another team that initially went back into the Championship for players, Jay Rodriguez and Nathaniel Clyne added options but I’m not convinced they will make the difference. However, Steven Davis and Gaston Ramirez might. The midfield is key, of course – Grant Holt’s success of last year will give Southampton faith that Rodriguez and Ricky Lambert will make the step up, but the difference between Championship and Premier League midfields is more substantial and bringing in quality midfielders like Davis and Ramirez are a big boost to their chances of staying up. The late signing of Zambia’s Emmanuel Mayuka could go either way but he’s certainly highly rated. But again, they still lack defensively – if they go down, that may be why. I’m not as confident as I was that they will stay up.
I tipped Stoke for relegation in my predictions but already I’ve been convinced they should be OK (just) thanks to the signings they’ve made. Deadline Day deals for Steven N’Zonzi and Maurice Edu strengthen the midfield department, while Charlie Adam and Michael Kightly add some rare flair and creativity if Tony Pulis knows how to deal with such traits. American Geoff Cameron apparently has a great long throw which is always important for a Pulis side. Jamie Ness arrives from Rangers as a very highly rated midfielder who has also played at the back during pre-season.
£25 million on two players sounds like a lot, but if it’s what turns you from a mid-table side to a side that could potentially challenge for Europe, it’s worth it, and Steven Fletcher and Adam Johnson are very good players at this level. Adding Saha and Cuellar on frees adds options, while Danny Rose is a replacement for Kieran Richardson on the left. Other than that, relative stability. Before they largely gave up at the end of last season, they were one of the most difficult teams to beat in the Premier League. I think they could do very well.
Swansea have probably done the best deals this summer. They made £23 million from the replaceable Joe Allen and Scott Sinclair, and brought in the highly-rated Michu (a revelation so far), Jonathan de Guzman and, yesterday, Valencia’s Pablo Hernandez, all for a total of £7.5 million. Are Premier League teams stupid for spending so much when Swansea are buying just as effectively on a much smaller budget? Allen’s purchasers could do with a long, hard look at themselves.
It was all looking so promising yesterday. It seemed that Spurs would add Joao Moutinho and Hugo Lloris to their good signings of the summer so far. Then the Moutinho deal fell apart. Yes, they got Clint Dempsey “instead”, but it is relatively meaningless – he seems like a signing just for the sake of it, given that it was later announced that Aaron Lennon had signed a new 4 year deal. The departure of Luka Modric, an inevitability for much of the summer, left the club without a quality playmaker. Moutinho was meant to fill that gap. He hasn’t, and thus Spurs are on the back foot. With Villas-Boas already coming under pressure from fans and the media alike, it’s looking bleak already. It’s absurd, of course, but don’t be surprised if he’s out by Christmas. Not that he’d deserve it, but that’s the situation he finds himself in. Again.
West Bromwich Albion
I’m surprised the football hipsters haven’t paid more attention to Claudio Yacob. I wasn’t sure if he would be the most sensible signing, not knowing anything about him (and obscure South Americans have a tendency to be a bit hit-or-miss) but he seems to be making a big impression at The Hawthorns. West Brom’s great start, though, is as much evidence of how stability is a good thing – Yacob and Lukaku are great additions to a side that ended last season well under Mister Roy, and Goran Popov (once tipped to join Stoke) comes recommended by followers of Eastern European football. I feared things would turn a bit stale there. I wasn’t sure if Steve Clarke would be up to the job. Evidently I was wrong. There’s plenty of time for them to struggle yet, but I’m now thinking I got it wrong. West Brom should be fine.
West Ham United
A week ago, or even two weeks ago, a lot of people seriously seemed to think West Ham were going down this year. I didn’t understand this, and feel vindicated by their win over Fulham today. Of course, it’s wonderful to be smug with the benefit of hindsight, since I didn’t know Andy Carroll was going to sign, and it is still only one result, but even so, they already had plenty of decent strikers. Sam Allardyce is not a popular figure but he is the master of creating teams that are difficult to beat, and he has another here. Carroll, the player that West Ham turned down when offered for £100k by Newcastle, is merely the icing on the cake – reuniting with Kevin Nolan will be great for him too. Benayoun, Diarra, Diame and Jarvis are all good signings too. I can’t see how they will be in trouble this year.
It wasn’t such a great transfer window for Wigan, loosing three important players in Victor Moses, Mohamed Diame and Hugo Rodallega. The addition of Arouna Kone and loan of the promising Ryo Miyaichi will make up for the loss of the attackers, and Ivan Ramis is a good addition to midfield, but they will inevitably be down the bottom again. The two James Mc’s – McCarthy and McArthur – need to be kept hold of in January and kept fit. If they can keep this side together as it is, they might just get away with it, most likely by virtue of other teams underperforming. Martinez is a brilliant manager. It’s a tough call but I don’t think they will beat the drop this year.
Queens Park Rangers
Oh, you’re not going to let me get away with it, are you? OK, well I’ll do it, but in metaphor.
When I was a wee lad (think late 1990s here), I once saw on the telly an episode/part of a programme (I don’t know the name of this programme) where a young, vaguely attractive woman in a shopping centre was “cornered” by the telly programme presenter and invited to participate. They took her somewhere (presumably within the shopping centre) and gave her some designer clothes to try on and model. After some sexy music and footage of her getting undressed (sort of – part of her getting undressed, anyway. I think that’s what happened – that’s what I remember. I’m totally serious here. Daytime TV too), she re-emerged in said clothes, which some presumed fashion guru spoke about the clothes a bit. The young woman was then given the option of keeping one of the sets of clothes – her own, or the new designer stuff. The other set would be binned (my mother assured me that it would go to charity, not in the bin – to this day I’m still not sure if I believe her).
The young woman was sensible – she did not give in to vacuous superficiality and kept her own clothes, which to me as a child insecure about losing stuff that belonged to me was a great relief. This is basically what Swansea and Norwich did last year, and Southampton and Reading are did this year – they kept what made them great to begin with, instead of giving in to football’s designer labels (that’s big name players for those not following).
QPR, on the other hand, have done the exact opposite – they’ve chucked their own clothes in the bin for the labelled ones in a bid to please the television people and the wider world. Underdog Billionaire Tony Fernandes has shat money out of his ears for Neil Warnock and Mark Hughes to spend on glitzy names like Wright-Phillips, Ferdinand, Cisse and Zamora. The guys that won the club promotion have been increasingly marginalised – the likes of Routledge, Leigertwood and Gorkss quickly disappeared to other successes, while Taarabt wasn’t given too many chances considering how important he was in the Championship title-winning season, and Helguson, Buzsaky, Orr and Smith have now left Loftus Road too. Now they’ve gone on another spending spree, moving up to a higher class of player – Julio Cesar, Mbia, Granero, Bosingwa, Park, da Silva, and, er, Andy Johnson.
It’s a bold statement to make, but the legacy of all of this will be felt. The wages have to come from somewhere. Loftus Road is still a tiny stadium, small enough to still be known as a “ground” without being looked at funny. Is it worth the risk with the TV money going through the roof? I initially put QPR towards the relegation zone in my predictions. I then moved them up when I saw the players they were bringing in. I was particularly impressed by the signing of Junior Hoilett, the young occasional Canadian one of Blackburn’s few bright spots last season. Though they have a bunch of strangers playing for them at the moment, I think they might just get away with this. They may struggle initially, which might be enough for Fernandes to get rid of Hughes, but if they do, I think they’ll surge to safety at the end.
Anyway, I should try and find some videos of this show, and in the process attempt to discover if there is actually any heterosexuality in me. Let me know if you know what it’s called, because I have no idea.