Does Arsene actually make a vaild point over January signings?

I can think of many reasons why Arsene Wenger will not sign any new players in January. Not reasons why he shouldn’t, but reasons why he won’t. The most recent indication he gave of this state of affairs was his statement about the type of players that move in January:

“You find players [in January] who have not been playing at their clubs, so decide they will leave in January. They are already less committed to the cause. We have gone from a period when even if you didn’t play, you had to be committed to your club and had no other option than to fight. Now you have a quick and easy way out.”

I think it is a fair point; I’d stop short of accusing all January transfers of jumping ship but there is definitely an element of escapism for players from smaller clubs who wish to use the January window to abandon hellish seasons.

I remember last season when Arsenal tried to sign Per Mertesacker in January; he refused claiming he had a duty to Werder Bremen as they flirted with relegation. This is definitely the attitude that should be exhibited by players towards their employers, that doesn’t mean it always is though.

There is also the other side of the argument however. Clearly with international competitions coming up in the summer all players want to be at a club where they will be noticed. If there is ever a position to abandon your club and be selfish with your career then it is in the months preceding international competitions. However this is not always an excusable action, especially not for players who are in the national squad despite their relatively ‘small’ club. Take for example Gary Cahill, it is hard to know whether he forced the move or whether Bolton wished to cash in on him but if it was the former then it shows a level of commitment and loyalty that is less than admirable.

Clearly, overall, it is unfair to label footballers in this way. However, it is undeniable that, in many players, forcing a move in the January transfer window is testament to certain elements of their character. You only need to look at last January’s transfer window to see example of that. The way Darren Bent forced a move to Aston Villa, even though Steve Bruce had helped him turn his career around, was nothing less than shameful. Similarly the way Fernando Torres forced a move to Chelsea even though Liverpool were struggling for form and were in desperate need of their star striker indicates a sense of ingratitude that was painful for Liverpool fans everywhere.

It is the same rule with players that refuse to leave in January too. You get the feeling that players like Mario Gotze and Eden Hazard could easily instigate a transfer away to one of Europe’s top clubs in the transfer window, the fact they don’t suggests they are more committed, admirably so.

So is there any evidence that this lack of commitment shows itself in the performances of players who move in January? It is hard to define a specific ‘lack of commitment’ on the pitch, especially over long periods of time. You could accuse January signings like Andrei Arshavin of being in that category; however technically he signed at the end of the Russian season, not half way through it.

Perhaps Wenger was talking about more of a long-term commitment to the club when he made that statement, after all he, as a manager, has arguably been on the wrong end of disloyal players more than most. This particularly reminds me of two players who signed for Arsenal under dubious circumstances. The first is Nicolas Anelka who PSG claim was stolen from them; Anelka repaid the favour by forcing a move to Real Madrid at the first opportunity. The second is Mathieu Flamini who signed for Arsenal under equally suspect circumstances and ended up forcing a move away for free to AC Milan. The moral of the story seems less to be about a players’ worth on the pitch and more about the grief they might provide off it.

Follow me on Twitter @H_Mackay

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