How the new transfer deadline could do more damage to English football clubs than good

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How the new transfer deadline could do more damage to English football clubs than good

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Subhayan Dutta

09/15/2017

After prolonged discussions and debates, the Premier League has announced the next transfer deadline to be on August 9th and not 31st. While the move imparts more clarity concerning players' focus and commitment, it also hands advantages and privileges to other European leagues.

While the summer transfer window of 2017 will be remembered throughout the world for the astronomical deals of Neymar and Ousmane Dembele, it has also seen smaller clubs exhibiting tremendous courage and determination in holding on to their important players against the affluent few; even if that meant losing them for free next year or risking the atmosphere of the dressing room with players unwilling to commit.

Some prime examples would be Phillipe Coutinho of Liverpool and Virgil van Dijk of Southampton, who had handed over transfer requests to their respective clubs and weren’t allowed to leave. It is a huge risk keeping players against their wishes, but both the clubs had already decided that they would shed off their skin of a ‘selling club’.

But, there is a price for such chivalry and North London club Arsenal paid for it. Their English midfielder, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, was one of the shocking departures from the Emirates this summer, contrary to the raging speculations that their star players Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil were being targeted by other sides, something that the media gorged on throughout the window.

He had apparently informed the manager about his desire to leave the club but the club decided to hold on to him until the last minute. And the outcome has clearly exhibited what was wrong with the transfer window. Manager Arsene Wenger had started the player against Liverpool, the last game before the transfer deadline day, along with a few more players who were realistically linked with a move away in the next two days.

The Gunners lost to the Merseyside club 4-0 with the gaffer receiving a lot of flak for his side’s spineless performance.  Arsenal went into the international break as one of the bottom three clubs losing two of their opening three games, and the manager didn’t hold back his anger and frustration after the window was closed.

In an interview, he said, “The players who do not play or the players who are tapped up in October they already start again to think, ‘where do I go in January?’” added Wenger.

While Arsenal paid for their risk of fielding players against their wishes, clubs like Liverpool, Southampton, Everton, Swansea City and more, had altogether refrained from using such options, no matter what the outcome. Players like Coutinho and Van Dijk haven’t yet taken the field with the clubs uncertain with their commitment and attitude now.

The debate has been brewing in England for quite some time now and Wenger’s comments came days before the Premier League organized a vote to decide if they would really go with the proposed changes.  Senior executives from the 20 top-flight clubs of English football soon met in a central London hotel to vote for it.

A majority of 14 clubs voted in favour of the changes, while five clubs voted against it. Burnley were the odd one out who decided to abstain from voting altogether. The transfer window for Premier League clubs now closes 22 days before the last day of the month, thus advancing the deadline day circus to before the season begins.

Announcing the new rule, Premier League chairman Richard Scudamore, said, “When the 20 are playing each other you could have a person in your team one week and be playing against him the next, or worse the player not playing because of speculation about him going to another Premier League team so he’s not available for a week or two of the season while the window is open.”

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The Premier League’s decision has forced the other leagues to give it a serious consideration too with Bundesliga immediately hosting a general meeting of club managers, where the issue was thoroughly discussed, but the opinions varied widely leading to indecision. However, it was Liverpool’s adamant stance against selling Phillipe Coutinho to Barcelona and Arsenal’s refusal to sell Alexis Sanchez to Manchester City, which really convinced the authorities that the Premier League could go for a unilateral decision.

However, according to the new rule that sees summer transfer window ending at 5 pm on Thursday before the start of the season, this only applies to the acquisition of players. It means that clubs would still be allowed to sell players to other leagues where the transfer window is still open.

While clubs like Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool voted in favour of the motion, both the money-rich Manchester clubs decided against it. And it very much hints at the problems to come during the next window with the new set of rules. Not all clubs share the same philosophy or transfer budget when it comes to getting in players.

While the elite few prefer splurging enormous money to go for world class talents who would fit into the squad right from the start, most follow the natural process of putting hard work into scouting and bringing up players that suit their style of play. Many top, mid-table and lower clubs who voted in favour could face this conundrum next season.  

Clubs like Arsenal, Liverpool, AFC Bournemouth, Swansea City, Stoke City and more, rely hugely on perfecting their combinations during the pre-season and the opening three-four league games so that they still have a slim window of patching the cracks at the last minute. Some really intriguing opportunities open right at the last moment that helps clubs get players they weren’t really targeting at all.

Some perfect examples this summer would be that of the shocking loan moves of Renato Sanches from Bayern Munich to Swansea City, Jese Rodriguez and Grzegorz Krychowiak from Paris Saint-Germain to Stoke City and West Bromwich Albion respectively. The bliss of clarity here also brings with itself the risk of missing out on cream options, which will now be more enjoyed by the Bundesliga and La Liga.

While the clubs will surely have a more focused squad next season the players could still be easily distracted by other league clubs approaching them, those who are participating in the Champions League and Europa League. With no scope for a replacement, English clubs will be dead against letting the players go leading back to the distractions and commitment issues in the dressing room again.

Hence, the new move would only work if all the leagues across Europe accept the same date as their transfer deadline, which is impossible given their different starting dates. UEFA president, Aleksander Ceferin, has hinted that such a thing could be a possibility in the future, saying, “Yes, I think that it is open for too long. It is strange that you play for one club when the season starts and then that you can simply play for another one. I think that it is no bad idea to close the window at the end of July.” 

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