Each year the January transfer window seems to sneak up from behind and out of nowhere launch itself back onto the radars of Premier League clubs.
Just as Arsenal’s failed summer pursuit of an international centre-half begins to be spoken about in the past tense, the window is thrust open again and so begins Sky Sports News’ and modern-football fanboys’ favourite time of the year.
The patience of the modern football fan has declined in recent times. Many supporters, particularly those who see what happens on social media and ‘banter sites’ as important as what happens on the pitch, now believe spending big in January is a duty rather than an opportunity.
They are the people who’ve bought into what Sky have sold them – that the Premier League is about the drama, the money, the iconic moments and winning. They don’t see footballers as human beings and have a sense of entitlement that shows little or no empathy towards both manager and player.
Players are cast off as “shit” or “bottlers” after one big mistake and the never-ending rat race of the transfer market is seen as the solution to every team’s problems, despite its failings only a few months previous.
It is sad that there’s no longer a thought given to the possibility of a struggling player being allowed a few months to further develop. Nowadays he must be replaced immediately with a sexy continental name, who will almost certainly solve the side’s issues due to his 103 caps for Las Palmas.
To some extent it is the simple belief that the grass is greener on the other side. Tricking yourself into thinking ‘we don’t have anyone like that’ while watching Leicester City’s right-back endlessly get up and down the touchline against your club, ignoring the fact that most of the papers gave him a 4/10 for his performance the week before.
Everton have been prime culprits of this. Yesterday they looked bereft of ideas at home to Leicester and have now lost six of their last seven games. But their eleven was filled with players once seen as the solution.
Keane, Digne, Zouma, Gomes, Bernard, Tosun and Walcott were all signings that Evertonians were thrilled to see move to Merseyside. They were part of some huge investment in recent years that has seen them indulge in a higher net spend since 2015 than that of table-toppers Liverpool.
Spend hundreds of millions and Dominic Championship Lewin is your centre forward- Everton that
— Chris Pritchard (@loper1878) January 1, 2019
But now they are contributing to the growing pressure for the club to spend big again this month in order to save Everton’s season.
Fingers are already being pointed at Silva by some sections of the Everton support, despite only being six months into the job. It wouldn’t truly surprise anyone if this time next year Everton had ripped it up and started again, throwing £200 Million at the problem over the course of the summer window.
At Fulham, spending over £100 Million on the likes of Seri, Mitrovic, Mawson and Anguissa, as well as getting in Calum Chambers, Andre Schurrle, Tim Fosu-Mensah, Luciano Vietto and Sergio Rico in on loan from some of Europe’s biggest clubs wasn’t relegation fodder behaviour in the slightest. It was a statement of intent.
Yet now Fulham sit second from bottom in the table, despite possessing a squad with the same strength and depth as seventh-placed Wolves (albeit perhaps less balanced).
Most clubs don’t seem to have caught on to the fact that summer transfer war-chests and January quick fixes are usually more miss than hit in today’s top-flight.
Many of the sides who can be happy with their seasons so far heading into 2019 are clubs who have built for the long-term rather than consistently use every transfer window as a ‘break glass in case of emergency’ type of moment.
Tottenham are second despite going the entirety of last summer without spending a single pound on a player. They have reaped the rewards of giving Mauricio Pochettino time to craft rather than buy a squad.
He has built a side around many players he inherited rather than bought. The likes of Kane, Vertonghen, Lloris and Eriksen were all present the day the Argentine walked through the door at White Hart Lane and remain key parts of the squad today.
I love watching Tottenham play. Pochettino has done such a great job for them and it will be interesting to see if he goes to United this summer. It will be a difficult decision to leave such a good team that he has built and start over again, but United is United.
— hash (@hashim0307) December 23, 2018
The perennial overachievers of the Premier League – Bournemouth – sit in twelfth. Eddie Howe still regularly uses several players who roughed it out with the Cherries when they were in League One.
While Jurgen Klopp has spent big at times during his time with Liverpool, he has persisted with and developed many names who other managers would’ve quickly sold on. Players such as Lovren and Henderson who were once much-maligned by supporters continue to play key parts for Klopp in an incredibly difficult and specialist system.
Rather than turn to the market constantly to find the immediate solution, he has kept patience with Trent Alexander-Arnold and Joe Gomez and has helped turn them into two of England’s most promising young talents.
No doubt this month will see clubs lash out their on-the-pitch frustrations on the transfer market. Perhaps for some of the clubs seriously threatened by relegation it’s more acceptable due to the financial consequence of dropping down to the Championship.
However, for all the money being spent on new and shiny continental footballers in England, Premier League clubs aren’t making strides on their more modest German, Spanish and Italian counterparts.
The scatter-gun-like splash of cash won’t sustain success, but neither fans nor the majority of clubs up and down the country seem any closer to realising it.