Sir Alex Ferguson’s eager pursuit of £24M Robin van Persie during the summer has, in all likelihood, secured a record twentieth EPL title for Man Utd. But fond memories of Liverpool’s shrewd £35M acquisition of Andy Carroll 18mths ago proves the true value that can be had in the frantic desperation of the January transfer window.
Of course Luis Suarez arrived at Anfield during that same winter window that saw Carroll swap the North-East for Liverpool – and Papiss Cisse’s blockbusting impact at St James Park last season would also buck the trend – but the harsh reality is that, while Andres Iniesta hopefully mulls over the appealing prospect of acting as back-up to Jordan Henderson in the Anfield pecking order, the much-hyped and highly-anticipated January transfer window usually turns into something of a damp squib. No credible team would willingly part with any of their prized assets halfway through a season unless the offer is ludicrous or the player is (a) about to become very injury-prone or, (b) nobody has scouted the player in 2yrs and his form has irreversibly dropped off a cliff!
The £35M spunked on Andy Carroll, not to mention the £50M Liverpool somehow managed to convince Chelsea to part with for Fernando Torres, highlights the levels of wanton excess that desperation can fuel as managers scramble to find the missing piece(s) of a jigsaw that was presumably fully intact just 4mths ago yet, when completed, didn’t quite resemble the pretty picture adorning the box?! Unless you’re prepared to meet a hideous over-valuation – Carroll – or risk an injury-ravaged out-of-form ex-superstar – Torres – or make an obscene offer to tempt a club into selling a player whose contract is expiring – Adam Johnson’s £8.5M January move to Man City just six months before they could’ve had him for free! – it is rare to find a January gem.
The settled EPL teams with any degree of planning tend to avoid such an undignified auction, so I’d be surprised if Man Utd made any moves whatsoever. A settled Everton under the superb stewardship of David Moyes will also be unlikely to move for anything other than a typically well-considered loan signing while I would also be surprised to see a resurgent Spurs make any major changes to their squad. I cannot see major moves at mid-table Swansea City, WBA and Stoke City either and West Ham, Fulham and Norwich City are unlikely to seek anything other than minor tinkering. Hard done-by Roberto Mancini on the other hand will be hoping the tight purse strings at the Etihad might just be prised open enough to strengthen a woefully weak squad decimated by a callous lack of investment from the owners over recent seasons while spend-thrift Arsene Wenger must surely add to his numbers as he attempts to somehow secure another season of Champions League football for the Gunners.
Fans of clubs currently flirting with the bottom of the table will be hoping some January business can re-energised their struggling heroes, but at the same time those clubs have to consider the spectre of EPL relegation and the potential financial impact of departing English football’s top table in assessing any signings. Both Reading and Southampton have over-performed by simply gaining promotion to the EPL; whilst it would be great for them to extend they stay beyond a single season can they honestly afford to gamble their long-term security by splashing out on a marquee player? Neither would like to spiral out of control like Portsmouth and Leeds Utd in the recent past! QPR are a different beast and wheeler-dealer Harry Redknapp will be desperate to prove his mettle again in the hustle and bustle of a transfer window. Expect several comings and goings at Loftus Road – at least eleven – to regenerate an appalling squad of mercenaries and over-paid has-beens assembled under the staggeringly misguided reign of uber-boss Mark Hughes.
Struggling Aston Villa will be hoping for some much-needed investment from their invisible owner Randy Lerner and Newcastle need to address their worrying dip in form since last season’s heroics. Martin O’Neil will also hope for some cash to salvage his own inflated reputation as an EPL manager at Sunderland but Roberto Martinez will again be expected to work miracles at Wigan Athletic on a minimal budget.
And so to my own club Liverpool who seem in no mood to alter their traditional January window policy of overpaying for average players. Yes we desperately need to address our shortcomings in front of goal but I remain hugely sceptical of Daniel Sturridge’s ability to merit a reported £12M fee, and our pursuit of Tom Ince for a rumoured £6M – having shrewdly allowed him to leave Anfield for just £250,000 less than two years ago – just highlights the utter lunacy of recent years at the club. Having shown sporadic snippets of potential so far in his short career Sturridge will hopefully prove me wrong, but £12M seems a large fee for someone who has become accustomed to the substitutes bench – at best – and who must surely be staring at the last chance saloon in his quest to establish himself as an EPL striker. But with Andres Iniesta and Radamel Falcao perhaps rather over-optimistic targets…..