Every summer, there are a couple of teams that fly out of the traps, act incredibly decisively and get all their business done and dusted well in advance of the coming season. This year it’s Manchester United, sitting smugly at the front, camped out in front of the forthcoming season 2 weeks early. They identified their targets, wrapped up the deals and went off on a fantastic bonding trip across America. Everbody is happy, Ferguson’s spent and aren’t United just great.
Every summer there are also a couple of teams that insist on leaving everything to the last possible minute, resulting in two people who’ve never met each other before taking centre together 3 weeks into the season. This year a number of clubs are heading steadily and knowingly towards this goal of gradual unpreparedness.
It’s immensely frustrating watching other football clubs doing business while your club waits, twiddling its thumbs, scratching its bum. As time ticks on, it feels like they’re already edging away from you up the table.
There are several advantages to getting your buying done and your players in as soon as possible. First of all, it gives a manager far more time to work with his new signings and help them adjust to the new style of play, new training, new colleagues and so on. A month of intensive training is a huge advantage. Pre-season is the time to work out a player’s role in the team, to experiment with him, this should not be done during the season. Similarly it allows the players to get fit and the coaches to assess their fitness, you don’t want a player turning up at the start of season way off the pace, carrying timber. It can also have an added psychological benefit. Ferguson has stated that United don’t need anyone else. The new players are settling in. He is sending out a message, United are setting the pace and everybody else is playing catch up.
So why don’t all clubs attempt to work a little quicker? Why are Tottenham still playing all their pre-season friendlies with a number of players they intend to sell for example? Money is the simplest reason, the necessity to sell players before you can buy means clubs are forced to hold on until the dying moments of the transfer window. This undoubtedly has a negative impact on the start of a campaign. The last minute signings of Dimitar Berbatov from Spurs and Joleon Lescott from Everton highlight the de-stabilising effect this can have on a team.
The clubs that have conducted their business swiftly this season are the cash rich ones. Sunderland, Newcastle, Liverpool and Manchester United have been particularly busy. They have done well to make the most of this position, waiting until the last minute puts your team at a huge disadvantage before the season even begins.
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