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And so the last week of the transfer window arrives and Jim White starts to prepare for the final day by licking batteries and putting his fingers in electrical sockets. To some, this last week is an unwelcome prankster set to disrupt a lot of pre-season planning but to others it is a last chance to look like you have any ambition, clue or money.
It's a feverish time as managers collectively stain their shorts worrying over the loss of players or the lack of players. Whatever happens, they're going to have to pretend it's all fine and is exactly what they wanted to happen and certainly doesn't mean you're a loser who no-one wants to play for.
In this week all sorts of silliness happens. A player might go strike to protest about the fact that he might be made to adhere to the contract he has signed even though he no longer wants to. Players will be pleading, will 'wantaway' or will want to go nowhere - even though you can't actually go nowhere because it's impossible. You can stay where you are but you can't proceed to somewhere else which is nowhere.
The received wisdom about the transfer window is that it's best to do your buying early, get the side bedded in (are actual beds are involved?) for the start of the season. Last minute spenders are largely derided as panicking fools who have royally messed up their transfer policy and are now desperate to get someone, anyone in. When you look in the dictionary for a definition of 'last minute panic buy', there's a huge picture of Arsene Wenger alongside.
Wenger's dilettantism has become the very nature of Arsenal on and off the pitch in recent years. His habit of not realising he actually needs players, combined with not really knowing which players or for how much, harnessed with an over-bearing self-belief that this confusion has led to a couple of hilarious last minute spending sprees on players they clearly didn't really want and who were not good enough anyway.
This is great fun but Wenger is giving last-minute transfers a bad name, and has come to justify those who say late buyers are buying their wine from a newsagent on the way to the party rather than at a quality vintner.
The received wisdom about doing your shopping at the end of August is that the buying club will pay over the odds for players and will have an ever diminishing pool to choose from as one by one, all the pretty girls get off with someone at the Premier League disco.
But is this really true? Is getting all your transfers done early really the big advantage that it's claimed to be? I don't think so.
For a start, the first few games of a new season can show you where your weaknesses are going to be and buying late gives you a chance to fill some gaps. You can also compensate for early injuries. So Manchester City, who were praised last week for 'doing their business early' now might want to buy a really good goalkeeper to give the ever sloppy Joe Hart some competition. They might also want to get a defender who can mark at set plays.
Just buying a player early is pointless if he's not the right player. Early isn't better. Right is better.
You might pay a bit more but money if you buy in these last days but money isn't exactly tight for most clubs, and anyway it's better to pay a bit more for someone who you now know you really need, rather than waste money on an early season purchase who never settles or who proves to be not quite right.
Buying late also allows you to undermine your opponents in the manner that Chelsea has deployed over Willian. There's nothing better than stealing a player from under a rival's nose. You get a good player and they don't and you make them look less desirable, less stellar.
The price of an end of August player needn't actually be over-inflated. The selling club often panics as much as the buyer. If you know they want rid, because little time is left, you get to call the shots. The politics of late buying are not all one-sided.
It's also a great time to unleash your mega bid which your opponents have no time to recover from. Chelsea may lose their mind and offer £60million for Rooney on 1st September. Manchester United may feel they have to sell him for such silly money but have no time to get cover. In one stroke Chelsea get a double advantage. Only the last minute buy gives you this sort of power and it's a really important consideration. Undermining a rival can be a significant game-changer in the first half of the season.
As long as you do good business you're automatically on the front foot as the transfer window inevitably slams shut - a transfer window must always slam, it can never close slowly, gently with a soft expulsion of air.
The game of dare between seller and buyer is tiresome and tedious for the rest of us but if you emerge the winner, then it's well worth doing. Daniel Levy at Spurs clearly has used this strategy year after year. Sometimes it's worked well for him, sometimes he's been left badly short of players and unable to recover.
A late purchase can give a new injection of excitement into the club. I'm sure if anyone can be talked into playing for David Moyes at this late date, the fans and the club will be so pleased, so amazed, that it will propel them into the season with renewed gusto. It was assumed all manner of marquee signings would be turning up at Old Trafford in the summer, but now any old moth-eaten has-been starts to look like a welcome new addition.
The late purchase also means you save your club two months of expensive wages which can be significant for some smaller clubs. It's also worth bearing in mind that late purchases are often inevitable because of the domino effect of one player moving. The Gareth Bale deal has so many knock-on implications and until that's done, they can't all swing into motion; one deal is crucial to many, many more. Late buys don't automatically mean your manager is an oaf with no clue - although it might well do.
And anyway, how long does it take to settle into a club? Good players turn up and go to work and do the business regardless of when they're signing. It didn't take Robin Van Persie any time to settle into United nor Sergio Aguero at Manchester City. Indeed, he may be even more motivated by his last minute move into playing well to prove the transfer was in everyone's best interests.
Getting your business done early being a good thing is just another of those pundit auto-guffs, said without thinking or without attention to detail.
The late buys that don't work are often not because they were late (even though their failure is sometimes assigned to this fact) but because they were the wrong player in the first place. Whenever Wenger had signed Gervinho would have been the wrong time.
So as the clock ticks down and Jim White's head catches fire at the news St Mirren have signed a new defender, remember: late isn't bad - bad is bad.
This article also looks great post - transfer window, what with Ozil signing with 30 minutes to go. At the moment, it looks better business than any quick signings, ie Man City's 30m on Fernandinho looking particularly blow-your-wad-early. Time will tell.- gun108