Més Que Un Column

Deadline Day, overrated Transfers and the new Season

Here we go again so. Time to ring out all those lines that you ironically hear in May, during Sky’s and BT’s end of season montages which cast memories back to the previous August. “Nine months of thrills and spills begin again in the greatest league in the world…” and all that rhetoric. A lot of it is just that, rhetoric. However, there is something special about this week. Whether it be the lack of negativity throughout the league, as every side (bar Newcastle) from Cardiff to Manchester City enters the season with optimism and hope, or even the yearly peak of interest in fantasy football sides, season predictions and transfer drama.

In my opinion (which counts for very little), the closing of the transfer window prior to the first game has made it even more special. Not least because it’s robbed Arsenal fans of their favourite summer past time. You all know it. They turn up to the Emirates for the opening game, see their side lose against someone they should be beating, enter a brief crisis, get the pitchforks out while demanding a striker be signed in the three weeks remaining in the window, and then come to the gradual realisation that it’s not going to happen as another deadline day passes them by while they sit in 11th heading into the September international break. They tell you that it infuriates them, but really it’s what they live for.

It’s important to remind people every deadline day that despite what Sky Sports tell you twice a year, the window is incapable of ‘slamming shut’. In the words of a great man from Merseyside, “the transfer window is a metaphorical window, and therefore can’t slam shut”. Yesterday evening was filled with chat regarding who won the transfer window following the rather early 5 pm deadline. West Ham, Everton, and Wolves were all mentioned consistently, and it’s hard to look past them, especially considering that Everton signed half of Europe on Thursday’s deadline day. Having said that, some of the eulogising around Wolves is getting a bit ridiculous. You’d swear they had signed van Basten and Ruud Gullit the way sections of the media were going on about them and their business in this window.

While Jimenez and Patricio are both sexy and glamorous names for Wolves, and will likely be the difference in quality that they need coming up against some of the dross in this league, they don’t seem enough to warrant the frequent predictions of 8th place coming from many of the neutrals. Joao Moutinho is a whole lot of fun, but it also feels very summer 2014, when Everton brought in Samuel Eto’o and Leicester managed to get Esteban Cambiasso on a free. As mad and as brilliantly unrealistic as it sounded, it just didn’t work. It’s might be a bit Davy Klaasen-esque, where everybody forgets about him by mid-February, and he gets moved on back to France next summer. Prove me wrong lad, Lord knows the rest of the league wants you to. Oh, and I’m not having Dendoncker either, sounds far too like the third evolution of a new rock-type pokemon.

But as another season begins, here’s hoping that everyone’s pre-season predictions from one to 20 will be rendered useless by something wild happening in between now and May. Preferably Everton getting relegated, or United going into administration, but I’m open to other possibilities as well. While 14th to 8th will be a lottery, one of the pack will surely make a Burnley-like break for 7th. And for the good of the league, it would be best if a few teams tried to keep pace with them as well. While the gap from 6th to 7th is unlikely to be bridged, the gap from 6th to 10th might well be. The fact that both Southampton and Leicester were in that top six 27 months ago at the end of the 2015/16 season still seems a bit crazy.

There’s little doubt that the order of the elite will change week by week, disruption to the occupants of those six spots seems almost unthinkable though, and that’s not just for this season, but for the foreseeable future.

From a neutral’s perspective, Chelsea are the league’s only hope of changing that. If you think that the Blues are just going to tick along nicely, play some decent football while struggling to keep up with the boys from the north-west before pipping Spurs to fourth with two games remaining, then you don’t get Chelsea. They are the most win-or-bust team to ever play the game. They might well win the league with 94 points, they might well end up 9th, but don’t kid yourself into thinking they’ll finish anywhere in between the two. It’s just not in their DNA.

On deadline day, Chelsea continued to show just how mental they can be, signing a lad I’d never heard of for £71.6 million, presumably off the basis that if his surname also describes his occupation, then he must have something about him. This all happened while they must have forgotten to sign a striker, and got another central defensive midfielder in, just in case the six they already have aren’t enough. I’m really looking forward to seeing Chelsea play a 2-8-0 formation at home to Man City on the 8th of December.

My favourite Chelsea fact has to be that their 4th choice goalkeeper genuinely has 36 caps for Portugal. His name is Eduardo, and he started every game for the Portuguese in the 2010 World Cup. And now he’s kicking about for Chelsea as 4th choice behind Kepa, Caballero and big Rob Green. He’s not the Portuguese Brad Friedel either, hanging about at a top club deep into his forties while collecting a hefty salary, nor is he a ‘Victor Valdes style’ shadow of his former self after a career-threatening injury. He’s just somehow found himself as back-up to Robert Green at Chelsea, and he’s currently out on loan at Vitesse Arnhem in the Netherlands. A bit like Xherdan Shaqiri, his career would be a wonderful success story if you started it from the end and hit rewind.

Off we go again I suppose. While most will have their hearts broken, the lucky few will see their sides march on to glory, whether that be 17th place with 36 points and a horrendous goal difference, or whether it be Manchester City’s likely precession to their sixth title.

The only thing that may trip them up is a slow start out of the blocks. It could be the one scenario that makes them lose their heads, even if only slightly. Their run of games after this weekend sees them take on Huddersfield, Wolves, Newcastle, Fulham, Cardiff and Brighton before the end of September.

Arsenal Football Club, the faith of the universe is in your hands. Please, please, please give us all some hope. For once in August, we’re not all as deluded as we should be.

All the best.