Is deadline day now more interesting than the football?

A definite perk of being a
Sky Sports reporter

Have you recovered from Monday night? Did the window bring all you wanted for your club? 

It certainly provided Sky Sports News viewers with enough purple sex toys, banana outfits and Jim White for a year.


The Headlines

Manchester United pulled a gem from the rough, surprising everyone by signing the prolific Radamel Falcao from Monaco on a loan deal. When waking up on the 1st of September, not many would have believed that the Colombian would be pulling on the famous number 9 shirt for the Red Devils. 

Danny Welbeck
Divisive among Arsenal and Man U fans alike

Similarly, few would have believed that Danny Welbeck would be on his way to the Emirates. The 23 year old Englishman has divided the football world perfectly. Some Arsenal fans are beside themselves, lambasting his lack of ability to hold down a starting place in the Man U team. However, many Manchester forums are frustrated to see one of their home grown talents leave. The chasm existing between the two is telling.

Welbeck – who has been with Manchester United since the age of 8 – scored 9 goals from 15 Premier League starts last season. This is not bad considering he was played on the left wing for the majority of the season, and not his preferred position.

This transfer window saw the highest amount of money spent ever. With close to £850 million spent – a humungous increase from £630 million last summer – this is evidence that clubs are turning to their coffers in order to help their fortunes on the pitch, rather than look from within. 

So, has the hype around deadline day meant that it has become more important than the football itself?


A Metaphor for Modern Football

Barry Glendenning in the Guardian writes of how Transfer Deadline Day may be a more important day in the footballing calendar than the FA or Capital One Cup Finals. 

How The Guardian depicted
the mayhem of Deadline Day

He writes; “The people of sky sports have attached such monumental significance to this glorified trolley-dash through the supermarket of international football humanity that it has now eclipsed the FA Cup and Capital One Cup to become English football’s second most prestigious tournament.” 

This is an undoubted worry with the game at the moment. Success is now perceived to be achieved through purchasing rather than nurturing. Yes, this is a sweeping statement that is far too general. However, the fact is that to win the Barclays Premier League you need a squad with enough quality and quantity to last 38 Premier League matches plus Cup matches. 

Arsenal played 56 games last season. While I agree that the modern footballer should be able to cope with the challenge of playing one or two games a week for 9 months, the reality is that with internationals, training sessions and fatigue, the need for rotation is imperative. 

When you add in the addictiveness of the modern spectator for football gossip, you have a particularly spicy cocktail. The fans demand more signings, whipped into a frenzy by the media, which enables a stronger bargaining position for agents and players, that equates to higher fees for clubs to pay, which means the fans… You get the idea.

It is obvious that the transfer window needs an overhaul and us as the fans need to reassess our relationship with it.


Changes to the Window

First, shut the window before the season begins. Instead of having two months, make it one. This will give clubs the ability to have some sort of preseason together as a squad which is beneficial for everyone involved in the league. Red tape will definitely tie this one into knots but ensuring a set standard across Europe will make it more efficient and productive. 

Second, close the window when the window closes. Despite Arsenal fans benefitting from this rule with Welbeck’s transfer, shut the window at 11pm and clubs will adapt.

Arsene Wenger staring down a reporter
who said he was spending too much too little


Third, is a reassessment of fans perception of the transfer window. We need to move away from the mantra that in order to improve we must spend. When a manager does not invest in his club, it is viewed as a sign of weakness by critics.

As Rory Smith notes for ESPN, the difference with today is not in the desire to see their team bolster its resources, but in the fetishisation of spending money. Arsene Wenger had already spent the most he ever had in a transfer window before purchasing Danny Welbeck, and yet the hysteria on social media was absurd. 

There are consequences for spending for spending’s sake. The concept of building a team now seems rather alien to top clubs, as buying a squad is more effective, and even necessary. This is why former Manchester United assistant manager, Mike Phelan, comments are so interesting when he says “part of the club’s identity was broken” with the sale of Welbeck. A player who has been at the club since the age of 8 was moved on in favour of faster, more potent results in the form of Falcao. 

I should make clear that I am not criticising clubs such as Manchester City and Chelsea for doing this business as their trophy cabinets in recent times speak for themselves. Merely putting forward that the ethos that surrounds British perception of the transfer window is dangerous and unsustainable. 


Bottom line; We pay for it

Fundamentally, the fans pay for these vast sums of cash. 

We watch them on TV, go to the games and buy the merchandise. The idea that the fan does not have a say in this is unfounded as the revenue for all of these stems from the consumer. Premier League revenue costs are spiralling, ticket prices are creeping up constantly and with a club shirt around £50, merchandise is not getting any cheaper.

This means, that when clubs fail to meet their targets, the consequences are vast. Manchester United are banking on getting back into the Champions League this season to satisfy the business and branding side of the club. 

In a similar fashion that Steve Bruce spending £10 million on Abel Hernandez is attempting to confirm his side’s existence in the Premier League. Hull fans, hands up if you were watching Serie B last season and know what to expect from your new man. The reality is that the £10 million is the headline rather than the player. 


£1 Billion next year….?

So next year, instead of looking forward to spending an amount closer to ten figures, we should ask whether they have spent our money as they should have done. Instead of looking for who is the most expensive option to solve our woes, we should consider what impact this; Sky Sports news encouraged, dollar signs in our eyes, short sightedness that we lambast everyone around us for in other industries except football.

Why?

Because the action of spending our transfer budget may now be more of a thrill than winning our next game.


@ro_northcott

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