Yesterday was something of a rarity – a transfer deadline day with not only action, but action of the spectacular kind. Of course it was required, but few of us actually believed that significant numbers would come through the door. I said earlier in the week that we needed three players, at a minimum – a centre back, a creative central midfielder and a striker. I also said that we needed a left back, but the chances of signing three players were slim, let alone four, so it would not be a surprise to see someone ‘versatile’ come in.
As it happens, we signed the centre half, the midfielder and the striker, and got two bonus signings as well. I call them bonus signings because of their situations – Santos, our new Brazilian left back, only became available because Fenerbahce are embroiled in a match-fixing scandal which has already seen them removed from the Champions League and may yet see them follow the Juventus route down to the second tier of their national league. Meanwhile, Benayoun is on loan, adding experience and a work ethic that will hopefully rub off on a few.
The other three were the key moves. From front to back, Chu Young Park is the South Korean captain, and had a decent goalscoring record in a relegated Monaco team last season. He is perhaps the most risky of the three, and has the issue of mandatory national service in two years (which we will pay an additional fee to Monaco for, if he avoids it, in one of the strangest clauses you’ll find), but with Chamakh so woefully out of form and Bendtner leaving on loan, we needed a forward, even as a stop gap. I suspect Walcott will still get his wish to play through the centre on occasion, particularly once Gervinho settles.
In midfield, Mikel Arteta needs no introduction, and comes with vast Premiership experience (in fact, he has played more games than anyone in our squad) – an ideal signing when you consider how light we were in that area. Since Cesc’s departure, Ramsey has been asked to fill the void, and it has appeared to weigh heavily on him – whereas he would previously keep things simple, he appears to believe that new responsibility comes with a requirement for Hollywood passes. Perhaps now he has support, he can go back to doing what he does best. Speaking of Cesc, if you think that losing him was bad for us, you have to feel for Everton a little – how must their fans be feeling today?
But for me, the best signing was at the back, all six foot six of Per Mertesacker, who at 26 has amassed a whopping 75 caps for a German side who aren’t half bad. Previously captain at Werder Bremen (in fact, four out of the five signings have captained club or country in the past), he comes with experience, leadership and size. Judging from Wilshere’s tweets last night, there is a much-needed new excitement around the squad, a welcome fillip after the weekend’s horror show.
Personally, I’m delighted with the business, if a little puzzled why it came so late. Santos is an exception – he only became available because of Fenerbahce’s plight, so he could not have arrived sooner, but what stopped us signing Park, for example? Monaco were relegated in May, he cost next to nothing, and yet we’ve waited until three weeks into the season to sign him. Strange indeed. Still, better late than never.
I actually find the day after the window closes as fascinating as those frantic last few hours, particularly when it comes to how people judge the activity. And the one conclusion I’ve come to is that people are spinning the transfers to whatever suits their own view, with an utter refusal to change their minds. The same moves have been called inspired in some quarters, panic buys in others. Some say they are exactly what we need, some say that they are lacking in quality.
A couple of these struck me today. Firstly, Eurosport ran a transfer deadline day rater, which actually seemed to include the few days leading up to last night. Every club was given a grade, and here are a couple of their examples:
The £10m Arteta deal rescued Arsenal, who otherwise underwhelmed in the quality of their purchases.
Underwhelmed? Okay, so apparently the current South Korean captain, the mainstay of the German defence (who, as I recall, hammered England in the World Cup), and the current Brazilian left back are underwhelming quality? I find this sort of comment staggering, and to be honest it smacks of a very typical British arrogance towards any other league in the world. Sure, Park may or may not click, but I’m willing to bet that most of these writers have never seen Santos play, and to dismiss a 26 year old with 75 caps for Germany is daft in the extreme.
But it continues. The BBC ran a report, having spoken to ‘respected’ site Le Grove (oxymoron?) and AST spokesman Tim Payton. Now, I know Tim divides opinion, but I actually have a lot of time for him – in his position he has to take a club-challenging view, otherwise he would be somewhat irrelevant and unable to garner reaction from within the club, so while some of those views rub people up the wrong way, I can entirely understand why he must have them – it isn’t a case of lacking support for the club, quite the contrary, he looks for things the club can improve on and talks about them, which sometimes makes him appear negative. Having said that, the article had him quoted as saying:
“Mertesacker is just a cheap Jagielka.”
Interestingly enough, that quote has since been removed, and replaced with something much more complimentary, so it appears that Tim may have set them straight, or perhaps the quote should have actually been attributed to someone else (it actually sounds like the sort of outlandish comment you’d read on Le Grove). As for the quote itself, do I really need to analyse it? Why not.
Phil Jagielka. 29 years old, 9 caps for an England side who have played approximately twenty central defenders in the last three years.
Per Mertesacker, 26 years old, 75 caps for a Germany side who have reached at least the semi final stage of the last three international tournaments. European experience.
It is entirely possible that Jagielka was originally higher up the list, but maybe that wasn’t a list of preference, but a list of realism – you would have thought it would be easier (and cheaper) to sign a decent player from massively indebted Everton, than Werder Bremen’s vastly experienced club captain and star defender. As it turned out, the German’s price was lower, which tells you everything you need to know about the English premium. Don’t even get me started on the £17m demanded for Gary Cahill, despite the solitary year remaining on his contract. Congratulations Bolton, you have just lost yourselves a fortune.
Going back to that Eurosport grading article from earlier, this will make you laugh.
Tottenham’s success in retaining Modric despite a £40m bid from Chelsea and their removal of Crouch, Jenas, Hutton and David Bentley represented a job well done for their astute manager.
I’m sorry, what? Frankly, I don’t see the sense in turning down a huge offer for a player who doesn’t appear to have the stones to do anything but sulk from this point forward – for everyone bemoaning the Cesc debacle this summer, Modric has behaved a hundred times worse. And this is the same site that claimed Arsenal losing Eboue, Denilson et al was an ‘exodus’. Interesting.
My point is this – Arsenal’s transfer business can be spun in a number of ways, and it seems that people are taking the deals, and exploring them in a way which allows them to further their own angle.
As for my opinion? Prior to this week, I think the summer had been handled horribly – sales dragged on too long, pre-season preparation was badly affected, and purchases were delayed to the point that we’ve started the season not so much on the back foot, but slammed against the wall. However, those final few days provided the results we so desperately craved. Better later than never, certainly.
At last, I’m looking forward to the next game. And that alone says a lot.