Yesterday I was asked a question by a pal of mine who travels home and away to every game with me. It was a simple question:
“What would be a successful January transfer window?”
My answer was not so simple:
“I’m not sure. Thing is rarely are your top targets available in January. So do we spank £30million on a defensive midfielder and a striker who are perhaps not good enough for us long term, but will provide us with extra squad depth for 6 months, or do we stick with what we have.”
A lot of people will always have a go when it is said, but the January transfer window is always a tough time to get top targets.
The top targets are either not available as they are involved in league title or European challenges at their current clubs (Aubameyang, Reus, Griezmann) or if they are available, you will have to pay an inflated figure for them. Such as when Fernando Torres joined Chelsea for £40million in January 2011. You might deny it, but it is a tough market.
What it essentially leaves you is 3 options. Pay massively for one of your top targets – everyone is available if you offer the right money, buy someone who will do for 6 months, or buy someone who has the ability to become a top target in the future, but is still young so will move.
I do agree that this window could define our season. We do need to look at going big. The right 2 signings should see us win the title.
The problem is we need to ensure that they are the 2 right signings.
Last year Manchester City went big on Wilfried Bony. He scored 2 league goals. Recently we have seen Chelsea go down the “buy a player to tide us over” route.
January 2015 they signed Juan Cuadrado (currently on loan) for £23.3million. The winter before was Mohamed Salah (has since been loaned out and sold) for £11m. If the top targets are not available, or we are out priced, should we follow the Chelsea route by buying someone for 6 months than dumping them in the summer? Can we afford too?
The same year Chelsea signed Salah, we saw Manchester United go down the ‘overpriced’ route by buying Juan Mata for nearly £40m. A good player, yes, but they clearly moved for a target early when they possibly could have got him for £10m cheaper in the summer.
The safer route to go down is the 3rd option. Rather than over paying, or buying someone for short term, look further in the future.
The signing of Jose Antonio Reyes in 2004 was inspired. He had the talent to become a big part of Arsenal’s future, but was also good enough to contribute straight away. Goals against Chelsea come to mind shortly after he joined. He certainly was not signed with the primary focus of 2003/04 but was able to help us go unbeaten.
It was the same 2 years later in 2006 when Arsenal captured Emmanuel Adebayor, Abou Diaby & Theo Walcott. All under the age of 23, able (in 2 of the cases) to contribute straight away, but with the ability to become a big part of the future.
As with Reyes, when discussing these moves, we have to ignore what they became. At the time they were all excellent signings.
The best January transfer into the Premier League is certainly Luis Suarez. Just 23, he could certainly fall into the young talent, but not yet made it category. Of course, he very quickly made it.
Chelsea signing Nemanja Matic 2 January’s ago for £21m looks to be an inspired signing (if you ignore the fact they let him leave a few years before for peanuts).
Patrice Evra and Nemanja Vidic joining Manchester United were brilliant signings, despite both their rocky starts. Another two examples of players who the next 5 years were in mind during the signing, not the next 6 months.
The key with all of these players is that they were playing for lesser clubs in lesser leagues. So when Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester United or Arsenal came knocking, the players were more than happy to move. And with a very slightly inflated fee, the clubs willing to sell.
It is unlikely you are going to be able to capture a first team regular who currently plays for a top 4 side in England, Spain or Germany, who is still involved in European football.
That rules out the likes of Benzema, Aubameyang, Reus, Griezmann, etc.
What when then have to look at is what is below that. The 2nd and third tier clubs.
William Carvalho (an old favourite) at Sporting fits this bill. He would possibly be willing to sacrifice at Portuguese league title (Sporting are currently 2nd, 1 point behind Porto) for a chance to win the Premier League title.
The often mentioned Adrien Rabiot does not play week in week out for PSG. Then again, would he leave PSG – in the Champions League and top of the French league, to not play week in week out for Arsenal? Possibly not.
Victor Wanyama would be an interesting one. He could be a long term back up / competition for Coquelin. But he could also fall into that short term expensive signing that we are trying to avoid here.
Up top there has been talk for some time that a deal for Aleksandr Kokorin is done. He would maybe not be a to target for Arsenal, but at just 24 has room for improvement. And currently playing for Dynamo Moscow who are 11th in the Russian League, a move to Arsenal would more than satisfy him.
We have to be realistic during the transfer window.
The chances of someone like Icardi or Saul Niguez looking to leave in January are slim. Unless you go very, very big. These are perhaps a deal for the summer.
Of course, sometimes the stars align. And that could be happening with Isco. Reports of a falling out between him and Benitez could lead to him being available. Although Benitez could be sacked sooner rather than later as well. Despite everything I’ve said about players not moving, a deal for Isco is certainly one that could be done.
So to answer my friend’s question about What would be a successful January transfer window?
Signing a couple of players who would have a long term future at the club, without having to pay through the nose for them.
Over to you Mr Wenger.