So the transfer window is shut, and if there was ever an advert for not getting involved, it was yesterday’s madness. There is little doubt that our squad remains a centre back short, and that we will spend the rest of the season looking on anxiously whenever one of them goes down, but despite the obvious hole there are few dissenting voices this morning.
It is easy to see why. Not only is it extremely difficult to come up with names of defenders who could slot in and do a job this season, as opposed to arriving in the summer and preparing for the next, but the fees demanded are preposterous, for frankly very average players. Gary Cahill is probably the best of the bunch we were linked with, but the mooted £12-15m is quite ridiculous.
Transfer deadline day can be a damp squib, but there were some significant moves yesterday. But for each of them, you can question the sums of money being thrown around, and understand why Wenger, and indeed Ferguson, stayed well clear. The summer is a good time to rebuild, January is a good time to frantically throw money around trying to capture anyone. Just look at Spurs’ hilarious and failed attempts to bring anyone in at the last minute.
Torres moved to Chelsea for £50m, which clearly strengthens them while posing the question of how Drogba and Anelka now fit in. But despite the brilliance of the player, it is an extraordinary amount of money for a player who has been below his best for the past couple of years, largely because of muscular injuries that it is hard to claim he is free from. Liverpool were so reliant on him under Benitez that he was constantly forced to play when half fit, and that took its toll. If he does fire for Chelsea, it poses a lot of questions about his recent form for Liverpool.
On the face of it, losing Torres is a blow for Liverpool, but from a business point of view, £50m is an enormous fee that should have allowed the club to do some serious rebuilding. Instead, £35m of it went on the immediate replacement of Andy Carroll who, while undoubtedly a good player, is worth absolutely nowhere near that sum of money. The only surprise was that Newcastle took any time in considering what was a ludicrous offer rather than giggling and snatching their hand off. Arriving alongside Carroll is Luis Suarez, prolific in Holland, but no more so that Mateja Kezman and Alfonso Alves were before him. Personally, I think Suarez will be a success, but it is hard to argue that losing Torres and around £7m to bring in the pair amounts to a good day of business.
All of which leaves Arsenal where we started. The squad is big, and largely healthy, but much will depend on the fitness of the centre backs and Song for the rest of the season, as losing those players would have the most dramatic effect on the quality of the team. Suddenly Djourou in particular is a vital cog if we are to continue challenging on all fronts.
It is a strange post-window feeling – we had a gap to fill, we didn’t fill it, yet there are general nods of understanding around the fanbase, an acceptance that the option of a stopgap signing at an inflated price may not have been a good one, particularly for a manager so insistent on avoiding being ripped off. It was wise not to get involved.
It is certainly more important that the players who have been rotated in over the past few weeks improve their performances than we bring in a player or two. Wenger has been giving the squad players plenty of match time in the cups over the past few weeks, and while we’ve come through each of the tests, not many of them have made a case for a regular berth in the side. Sunday’s scraped 2-1 win over Huddersfield was another prime example – the lack of drive when certain players are missing is alarming, and once again it took the late introduction of Cesc to give the side the focus needed to go on and win the tie.
No doubt we will be put through the ringer again in the next round – away to Leyton Orient is another chance to give the fringe players a go. I have no problem with that policy – we are still in four competitions and there is little doubt that the players should be comfortably good enough to dispatch lower league opposition, but they are playing below the standard we expect at the moment.
That said, we got through, and the rotation means that others are fresh for tonight’s clash with Everton, who were impressive in their cup meeting with Chelsea on Saturday. Everton have caused us a few problems in recent years, and this fixture last season saw us put in a dreadful performance, only to be rescued by a late Rosicky equaliser. But the fixtures are falling kindly at the moment and we have no excuses for not putting a run together. Everton are still struggling to score, and a continuation of our improved defensive record would give us the platform for three points.
It is a week of tricky fixtures for those at the top – United face Villa, while Chelsea and City travel to Sunderland and Birmingham respectively. A win tonight puts the pressure on others.
Enjoy the game.