The January transfer window. What a load of rubbish. It’s a month of frantic deals between clubs that often don’t really need any new players. Extraordinary amounts of money changes hands, inflating a footballer’s market value artificially and inflating their already huge egos.
There’s nothing that can be done about this frenzy. FIFA insists that transfers between top clubs occur within a pair of strict windows and the Premier League must abide by that. Great news for the vultures that prey on the endless coverage on TV and the internet, but it’s a bore for everyone else. Even so, sometimes the smaller January window can unearth some real talent for the English game.
For some clubs, it’s a chance to correct bad decisions made in the summer. That’s exactly the situation Liverpool found themselves very soon into the 2012-13 season. Brendan Rogers, fresh from a successful stint as Swansea manager, found himself gambling on new players arriving when they did. £35m Andy Carroll was shipped out and Fabio Borini was brought in but, when the latter became injured, Liverpool were left with only Luis Suarez as the sole striker.
As much as I hate to say it, the much-hated Uruguayan did an admirable job when he wasn’t missing the target and getting up everyone’s noses, but the club couldn’t escape their mid-table status. Over in London, Daniel Sturridge was getting a little fed up with being a bit-part figure to Fernando Torres at Chelsea, goal-machine that the Spaniard is, so his move to Merseyside seemed to be a perfect fit. So far, it has. Sturridge and Suarez have created a strong partnership in the brief time they’ve been on the field together. The youngster has notched up four goals already, the most of any January signing, and his three assists mean he’s ready to make others look good. It’s the form he showed at Bolton and had glimmers of early in Chelsea’s Champions League-winning year, so let’s hope he can transfer it to future England peformances.
Sturridge was joined at Liverpool by Phillippe Coutinho, at one point described as “like Messi”, although who hasn’t. The little Brazilian provided two assists in the 4-0 win against Wigan Athletic and showed he knows where the goal is by finding the back of the net against Swansea and Wigan. Both signings show that Liverpool are moving in the right direction. All they need to do now is replace Suarez with an amazing scorer of goals that isn’t a complete rectum.
With Sturridge moving up north, a hole was there to be filled. It’s all well and good letting £50m superstar Torres hoover up the goals, but when they dry up, who’s going to keep Chelsea holding on to a Champions League spot? That responsibility was handed to Newcastle United top-scorer Demba Ba. For the second season in a row, Ba was one of the few reasons United had to be cheerful, particularly in late 2012 as injuries took hold and the Europa League participants slid down the domestic table. It was inevitable that the man from Senegal would head to greener (or bluer) pastures and stake a claim for a regular place at Chelsea.
It hasn’t been easy for Ba since moving to London. He has managed two goals for Chelsea and was arguably the man in the 1-0 win to West Brom, but he hasn’t had the same opportunities to prove himself that he did at Newcastle. Ba has only played the full 90 minutes on three occasions and his progress wasn’t helped at all when former team-mate Fabricio Coloccini booted him in the face and broke his nose, leaving him to wear a silly facemask. Hard life eh, Demba?
As was the case at Chelsea, Newcastle now were wondering where the goals were going to come from. Not one to rest on his dwindling reserves of goodwill, Alan Pardew jetted off to France and brought home half of the country with him. There are now ten French players in Newcastle’s first-team squad, the same amount as English players, not forgetting imports from French-speaking countries like Senegal, Burundi and the Ivory Coast.
Then again, if the French can rescue the struggling Toon then fill the squad with them, by all means. Moussa Sissoko has been a real revelation, bagging two goals in the 3-2 win against Chelsea and picked up one of his three assists in his debut. After going the distance in his last six minutes, Sissoko is on three goals and three assists from seven games in midfield. The rest of La Resistance are no slouches either; Yoan Gouffran has a goal and two assists of his own, whilst Mathieu Debuchy enjoyed a clean sheet in his first game and has provided another assist. They might have seen more of Massadio Haidara were it not for Callum McManaman’s criminal challenge. I expect big things from Newcastle next season if everyone is fit, considering they’ll almost certainly not have Europe to worry about.
Down at the dregs of the table, the January transfer window is a chance for a new manager to exert his influence on his woefully inadequate charges, bringing in some fresh blood to replace the old duffers. A club so far adrift is usually one with no money, but that didn’t worry ‘Arry Redknapp, the messianic head coach of QPR who splashes cash like it’s going out of Cyprus (it’s topical, trust me). His six new signings have had limited joy out of steadying the ship, with the return of Chris Samba one step towards having a solid defence, but time is running out. Spectacular goals from Andros Townsend and Jermaine Jenas, plus regular input from Loic Remy may be nice, but I still don’t feel QPR have the grafters necessary to save them.
To me, the January transfer window just seems like a necessary evil to patch up the holes left by the January transfer window. It’s a paradoxical peril that wouldn’t exist if clubs could snap up the stars all year long. It drives people like Danny Graham to leave Swansea months before his side lift the Capital One Cup, only to head to the rivals of his boyhood idols, Sunderland. It prompts teams like Norwich to steal the likes of proven goalscorer Luciano Becchio from the Championship, only to discover he might just not have what it takes to perform on the big stage. It sees people like the (admittedly pretty impressive) left-back Nacho Monreal sign for Arsenal when they already have a great one (although Kieran Gibbs was injured).
January is a time to run off the Christmas over-indulgence but it seems like some managers still have a bit of a fuzzy head when it comes to big-money transfers.