It’s a little off centre, but Premier League clubs have begun a trend of trying to out-do each other with transfers well before the window opens.
Coupled with Arsenal’s out-of-character move for Lukas Podolski, news arrived that the club were looking to bolster their squad with Yann M’Vila. Emphatic stuff. If that wasn’t enough, Chelsea’s signing of Marko Marin raised eyebrows and plenty of questions, even if it did get drowned in the Saturday afternoon fixtures.
From Arsenal’s point of view, it could be one of two things: the club are looking to appease their fans ahead of season ticket renewals, or, and you’ve got to hope it’s this one, the club have learnt from their mistakes of last year and are taking a no nonsense attitude heading into the summer.
Normally this sort of activity would be a non-starter; there’s a story in there somewhere, but only for about as long as you can keep your attention away from what’s going on in the remaining games of the season. What is making people do a double-take is the regularity of transfer movement so early. A norm in other leagues—we’ve seen La Liga clubs and this year even Bundesliga giants move swiftly outside of the transfer windows—but it’s not what we expect in England. It’s so outlandish that it’s even met with people questioning how genuine the stories are because, you know, you can’t buy players outside of the two designated periods. Apparently.
But despite significant amounts of money being moved between clubs, it’s difficult to see this sort of activity as becoming the norm. Yes it would be great if clubs got their business done early, purely for the peace of mind of supporters, but then what would we do without Jim White? It’s not worth thinking about.
Instead, clubs are acting quickly ahead of the upcoming Euros. If international football has any positive place in the world then this is it: forcing the hierarchy at clubs to earn their pay well before they’re due to spring into action. Other than that, international football can go away for a while. A long while.
Arsenal’s pursuit of Podolski and even M’Vila hasn’t suddenly come about because of the club’s poor showing this season, they’ve both been on the radar since last summer. Naturally, both players wanted a settled environment to ensure they’d make their respective national squads for the tournament. The clubs, however, can’t risk those players having excellent seasons—because, you know, they’re both a bit good—and then watching their value skyrocket. Arsene Wenger is not going to pay £20 million for a player he could have gotten for half that. It’s just not his way.
But the club’s are also mindful that their own players could draw admirers in the tournament. The need for replacements is a must, and it must be done early, rather than producing a sequel to Arsenal’s deadline day rush ‘round the aisles.
With Chelsea, it’s another case of the owner getting involved where he shouldn’t. The signing of Marko Marin raises questions as to how clever the idea was to bring in a player without a manager in place for next season.
The other side of the coin is that the club have obviously gone and picked up a bargain in the German winger. A fee in the region of £7 million is not bad for a player of Marin’s talent, even if he is coming off the back of a particularly disappointing season. His place, after all, isn’t a sure bet in the National team as it is with other midfielders. Still, there’s nothing wrong with adding a player who could act as another creative outlet for a time like Chelsea. Just don’t look to it as a trend setter.
For now, all of the pre-transfer window activity is a one off. You struggle to see teams continue with this method when there are still games to be played and even managerial positions in doubt. Of course, there are exceptions. You don’t pass on the opportunity to sign a talent for a bargain price just because the sun isn’t out. But the regularity and the expectation from fans for another big name to materialise at the doorstep of a Premier League club is only due to the upcoming international tournament.
Outside of that, it’s hard to see this catching on again next year.