Diary: Some Wonderful Transfer Window Balls Ups

The transfer window incompetence of Arsenal, Liverpool and Newcastle is so textbook and punctual that it's actually impressive. Moyes just doesn't deserve nice things...

Last Updated: 03/02/14 at 10:36 Post Comment

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The winter transfer window is a time of renewal. A time for a wearied team to take stock of themselves and their situation, then apply sticking plasters, stretch tired limbs, make encouraging grunting noises and charge into the second half of the season. Like that bit of a marathon where the skinny dude throws water all over his face, but with signing-on fees.

Ian Ayre is riding his Harley Davidson through the waving grainfields of Ukraine. He hums confidently to himself. He has the backing of the committee. He has 16 million euros in non-sequential notes in the lining of his jacket.

In theory. In practice, a fair few football clubs seem to be worse at complicated shopping than they are at masking their contempt for the poor, helpless sods whose addictions keep the books from instantaneous collapse. It's not so much that clubs fail to buy the players they need; that, at least, is comprehensible failure. It's more that there seems to be a calculated, almost aggressive intention to do business in a way that first defies common sense, then laughs at it, then sets it on fire.

Ian Ayre is attempting to ask for directions at an improvised roadblock, staffed by what he takes to be police officers. His Soviet-era phrasebook, unfortunately riddled with misprints, gives entirely the wrong impression to the neo-fascist biker gang attempting to rob him.

Take Arsenal. To most external observers, the obvious answer to the question 'where do Arsenal need to strengthen?' wasn't 'they could probably do with another technically-adept central midfielder'. It certainly wasn't 'they could probably do with another technically-adept central midfielder that can't even play for at least a month because he's actually already injured what even is the point of this medical then why are we even here for God's sake I could have been a proper doctor you know'. Wenger, it is often said, knows. And should Arsenal suffer the mother of all midfield injury crises in mid-March, yet be rescued by a fully-fit Kim Källström, then the Diary will have to agree.

Ian Ayre is surrounded by whooping bikers, and is delighted at their generosity in offering him a full escort to the gates of Kiev. He is slightly concerned that at the number of guns these seems to require. And at some of their tattoos.

Until then, it seems legitimate to wonder if the powers that be at the Emirates have less an obsession with winning trophies and more with punctuation. Perhaps providing opportunities for kids to enjoy (and professional journalists to embarrass) themselves on Twitter is the real quiz. So, should trying to win a title with a front line of Olivier Giroud, Nicklas Bendtner and Lukas Podolski not work out this time around, look forward to the summertime arrival of Mötley Crüe.

Ian Ayre is attempting to check the spelling of Konoplyanka, but the persistent sound of gunshots in nearby rooms are making this difficult. He is startled to find himself, while attempting to locate the toilet, standing on a balcony in the harsh Kiev sunlight, being acclaimed by a crowd of delirious protesters.

Elsewhere, Newcastle have managed to handle an inevitable and unavoidable departure with all the grace of a man attempting to exorcise a demon from his own foot with a claw hammer. This is modern football, all rigid financial hierarchy, and so most sensible fans understand when one of the gas-powered oligarchopolies nicks off with their best players. The only way to mess that up, it seems, is to first explicitly and incorrectly promise that nobody will be leaving; then to make absolutely no gesture towards signing an even halfway suitable replacement; and then to roll over in the local derby like ... well, like a group of men with hammered feet. Kudos to Newcastle, though, for having ended their season already. Presumably they'll be dropping the prices for the rest of the term.

Ian Ayre, newly-installed president of Ukraine, is asked how he intends to restore order to the seething country. He announces that he is is forming, with immediate effect, a committee. He asks where his euros have gone.

Still, we should probably end by acknowledging those teams that did manage to get through the window without tripping and falling into the plantpots. Chelsea managed to replace two players they didn't want with two they did, while simultaneously irritating both Arsenal and Manchester City, which is the kind of thing Jose Mourinho dreams about. If he ever sleeps. Cardiff City and Fulham both bought extensively and promisingly. And Southampton managed to hang on to all their good players and rid themselves of the own brand Zlatan, Dani "Didn't He Used To Be Call Pablo" Osvaldo. Not fearing a clocking at the hands of one's own teammates must do marvellous things for morale.

Ian Ayre, head on a stick outside the gates of Kiev, still wearing his motorcycle helmet, realises with one final disappointing shiver that Konoplyanka can't even play centre-half.

*************************************

A small note on the weekend. David Moyes took charge of Manchester United and began the post-transfer window era by setting out his stall with the triplet talents of Juan Mata, Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie.

Now, those three players, on form and with confidence could play with real invention and effectiveness. Rooney can offer strength and goals, Van Persie has a decisiveness about his play that is rarely seen outside of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. Juan Mata has the incisive passing and real joy to his play that United desperately need and which could lift the whole team and the United fans behind David Moyes.

Adnan Januzaj committed himself to the club only recently, and he is there, ready to learn from these players, blessed with natural talent seen in players that young so rarely. That is a combination of players that would excite any viewer, and intimidate any defence.

So hello Ashley Young, who contributed nothing but a successful shot against Cardiff City, and who inexplicably started again on the left wing against Stoke City. Hello right winger Juan Mata, shunted out away from effectiveness and isolated from Van Persie and Rooney, up front and away from the midfield. Now, that midfield doesn't technically exist for Manchester United so David Moyes had, at a stroke, f*cked everything up. Mata, Rooney and Van Persie were all there, but in the wrong place. It's like putting a slice of bread in between a slice of ham on one side and lettuce on the other.

Yes, Moyes was unlucky to have so many injuries in one match, and the wind was absurd, and maybe Jonathan Walters should have been sent off, but if you set up a team of such attacking quality, play long ball, and leave Januzaj to be good-looking on the bench for 90 minutes, you get what you deserve, transfer window balls up or no transfer window balls up. Tick tock, David!

Andi Thomas and Alexander Netherton

You can follow Andi on Twitter here, Alexander on Twitter here, and buy last season's Diary here.

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