Wednesday, 6 January 2010

A slow start to the January sales

We’re almost a week into the transfer window and the January sales are predictably slow. Many managers site the ‘lack of value’ offered in January as the reason for such caution. Inflated prices and cup tied players disinterest managers who have a mere four weeks to negotiate. Given the intensity of the Christmas and New Year fixtures, it’s difficult to believe they even have sufficient time to study the market. Many expected Chelsea to spend big during their solitary transfer window before a hearing regarding their illegal approach for French star Gael Kakuta. However, Carlo Ancelotti has ruled out any activity and, like us all, presumably expects Chelsea’s transfer embargo to be swept under the carpet. Manchester United won’t see the value in entering the market either, despite an eye opening defeat to rivals Leeds at the weekend. Having sold the world’s best player in July this season was always going to be one of transition and Fergie will not be too worried. So, where will the activity come from?

Of course all eyes will be on millionaires Manchester City and their new manager, with the tabloids having a field day. Reports today suggest former Manchester United and Chelsea midfielder Juan Sebastian Veron has rejected the opportunity to link up with former Lazio teammate Mancini, with his decision to reject the advances “instantaneous”. Unsurprising given his age and popularity at the club his father represented, Estudiantes. Personally I think Mancini’s had a lucky escape. As I look out of my window with snow showing no sign of relent, I question Veron’s worth with a Monday night game against physical Blackburn.

However, central midfield is clearly a position of priority for Mancini, with Patrick Vieria poised to complete a loan move to Eastlands. Vieria has seen his career stall under Jose Mourinho at Inter Milan and has constantly been linked with a return to North London with both Arsenal and rivals Spurs in recent transfer windows. The move represents a risk for Mancini in my opinion. Whilst Vieria offers invaluable Premiership experience at the highest level, since leaving Arsenal the pace of the Premiership has soared while his own has dwindled. Arsene Wenger mulled over a move for former skipper and refrained; it’s often difficult to question the judgement of such a shrewd dealer as Wenger. Time will tell on that one.

Regarding Wenger’s potential activity, I personally don’t expect Arsenal to dip into the January sales. The Frenchman has mixed experiences signing after Christmas: he had his fingers burnt with the signing of Spanish flop Jose Antonio Reyes in 2004, but last year he completed what was arguably the coup of the window by bringing in Andrei Arshavin. However, Wenger points to Arsenal’s 51 goals this season as a reason to abstain. His stubbornness over the much sort-after Marouane Chamakh’s price tag will leave him resisting a move, while the imminent fitness of Danish striker Nicholas Bendtner fills him with more assurance than many Arsenal fans.

Liverpool FC are clearly a club that need emergency surgery both on and off the pitch, especially if Rafael Benitez is to uphold his “guarantee” of a top four finish. Given their dire financial constraints it is presumed that players must leave before they can come in, giving substance to the rumours circulating regarding Ryan Babel’s proposed move Birmingham City. Benitez will want to recoup most of the £11.5 million he paid for the Dutch winger, while Andrea Dossena is on the verge of a move to Napoli. With Argentine winger Maxi Rodriguez widely expected to be Babel’s replacement I fear a dose of déjà vu for Liverpool fans. Maxi has unquestionable talent; however, too many wingers have come and gone at Liverpool, failing to make the necessary impact (Kewell, Nunez, and Pennant to name but three). I don’t envisage Maxi being any different and believe a loan move would be a more a prudent approach. Another man linked with a return to the Premiership is Ruud van Nistelrooy and in light of Liverpool’s over-reliance on Fernando Torres I view this as a superb option. Nistelrooy would provide a genuine goal threat and a perfect foil for Torres. A goal every other game is what his record offers and although a former Manchester United player, the nature of his abrupt exit from Old Trafford leaves the door open for Liverpool.

For the other clubs business should be relatively quiet. Birmingham City are a likely big-spender, and expect fire sales at both West Ham and Portsmouth. Clubs will fight tooth and nail to seek bargain buys in order to improve their squads as prices drop and loan moves appear more accessible and no doubt the likes of Harry and Big Sam will be seen wheeling and dealing when the time comes.

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