As the January transfer window enters it’s final week a pattern of low spending at the summit has become evident. This is a pattern that has now been developing for some years now and it is starting to catch on.
Four of the league’s top five sides have opted not to dabble extensively in the transfer market this season. Sir Alex Ferguson has sealed only one transfer this month and that was the signing of Anders Lindegaard, a young Danish goalkeeping prospect. Therefore Manchester United have only spent approximately three million pounds. Other title contenders Chelsea, Tottenham and Arsenal have between them only spent around the three million pound mark also. So why is it that the bigger and better sides choose not to invest come January?
Well, initially it seems unclear why these great sides, all striving for perfection in their own unique ways, would refrain from spending big at every opportunity given their financial superiorities. But it is undeniable that the last few seasons have seen an increased level of avoidance of the January market by the bigger sides.
Managers such as Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger seem to go as far as dismissing it as an inconvenience, a bother and an unnecessary inclusion into the routine of running their clubs on a day-to-day basis. The word branded about regarding their tendency to dismiss the opportunity is often that they do not want to ‘unsettle’ their respective squads. After all do you really believe that the likes of Ferguson would ever start a season without a side that he believes are capable of winning silverware? Of course he wouldn’t and we’re all well aware that bullish and stubborn characters like Ferguson don’t just change their mind on a wim and a prayer.
Such managers much prefer the option of pre-season preparation and are therefore far more inclined to make any transfers they deem necessary in the summer off-season. The length of and the preparatory nature of this period is a much more apt occasion to make additions to the squad and blend new members with far greater care and attention. These managers realise just how vital pre-season preparation can be and therefore utilise this period by bringing in new players and giving them the chance to ease their way into the set-up in lower-key and far less important games. Such preparation sets players up for far greater chances of long-term success at a big club.
Major clubs tend to regard January purchases as ‘panic-buys’ and therefore avoid them at all costs. However, the same can’t be said for the lower league sides. Premier league under-achievers Aston Villa who went into the weekends fixtures in 19th position have this week forked out a whopping twenty four million for Darren Bent, a player with just one international goal to his name. ‘Panic-buy’ or not, he begun his spell at his new club with a winning goal against a title contender. Can it be that the January transfer window can benefit lower-league sides but not top sides?
In conclusion, I believe the transfer window can benefit sides. It has happened before and it will happen again, the classic example of success was the upward charge of Harry Redknapp’s ‘Pompey’ side a few years back after wholesale January changes. The proof is there that some managers can indeed use it for the greater good of their respective clubs. However, the top clubs lack of need or desire to splash the cash in January is down to their superior pre-season preparations. If all teams prepared as shrewdly as the top clubs then the January transfer window would become little more than a mid-season lottery. As it stands though, it is a window of opportunity, especially for those clubs feeling the winter blues.