There are three certainties in life. One is death, the second is taxes and the third is that Tottenham will be the most active team on transfer deadline day. The bigwigs at White Hart Lane seem incapable of doing their business any earlier than the 31st of either August or January, and once again, it seems that this year will be no different to the rest.
They can’t be blamed though; indeed they certainly won’t be alone in enjoying a ridiculously busy day before the window slams shut as other sides look to tie up their business before the season swings fully into action. It’s certainly a question worth asking; why can’t the clubs lower down the league do their business earlier on in the summer like the big boys?
You can be certain that two of the sides who can sit back and put their feet up tomorrow will be Manchester United and Chelsea. Summer business for these respective outfits was completed weeks ago, with United bringing in Robin Van Persie, Shinji Kagawa, Alexander Buttner and Nick Powell, while Chelsea have splashed the cash on Eden Hazard and Oscar to name but a couple. There’s no doubting the fact that making your signings early on in the summer sets you up far better than if you leave it until the very last minute.
For starters, new individuals can settle into the club during pre-season and enjoy a few pressure-less games before they’re thrown into the heat of the battle in the Premier League. They can learn tactics, moves and their teammates’ habits in the peace and quiet of a tour to Norway for example, rather than the heated atmosphere of the North London derby. The top managers know this and therefore work to secure their targets before the start of the season.
For those lower down the league, life is a little more difficult. You never fully know how strong your squad is before you enter the battleground of the Premier League. Take Mark Hughes and QPR. The majority of pundits had predicted that the Welshman and his boys would go well this season having strengthened significantly this summer, bringing the likes of Park Ji-Sung and Robert Green to Loftus Road.
One 5-0 defeat to Swansea later and those best laid plans have been firmly put to the sword. Hughes and the owner Tony Fernandes have suddenly decided the squad isn’t good enough after all and have gone chasing bigger names with just hours remaining in the window. This tactic may well pay off though as players like Julio Cesar and Estaban Granero look set to move to England, undoubtedly improving the squad no end, making QPR the perfect example of when clubs lower down the league suddenly identify weaknesses that weren’t so obvious in pre-season.
Another significant factor in the failure of clubs further down the division struggling to complete their business earlier in the summer is the age-old problem for those teams struggling to keep up – money. It may take a manager months to persuade his Chairman that it’s worth splashing out x amount on a certain player, while limited funds means that bargains have to be struck with other clubs.
Take Steven Fletcher’s transfer to Sunderland. Martin O’Neill has been chasing the Scot all summer, but only completed the deal in the last couple of days because Wolves refused to drop their asking price. For a bigger team, the fee wouldn’t have been an issue and they would have just paid over the odds to secure the player’s signature immediately, but O’Neill is fully aware his budget is not unlimited unlike some of his Premier League colleagues. As the summer dragged on, Sunderland’s situation up front became desperate, forcing O’Neill to meet Wolves’s valuation of Fletcher. Compare this to say, Sir Alex Ferguson, who once he’d decided Robin Van Persie was the right man for Old Trafford, didn’t spent too long in persuading those in charge of the budget to part with £24 million.
There’s also an issue with panic buying. As the mid-table sides fight over the same players, they inevitably miss out on numerous targets over the summer and therefore they end up needing to make ends meet quickly before the transfer window shuts to ensure they have enough for the season ahead. This rule actually applies to the big boys as well, Arsene Wenger was forced to dip into the market last August after feeling the full force of negativity from the fans over his summer transfer activity, not to mention that 8-2 defeat to Manchester United.
Manchester City also look set to buy on the final day this year, but merely because Roberto Mancini feels his squad is not adequate enough to deal with the ‘Group of Death’ they now face in the Champions League. Other Premier League managers might raise their eyebrows somewhat at that thought given what they work with in comparison, but they will also feel their squads simply aren’t strong enough to fend off their rivals.
As for Tottenham? Well, perhaps it’s just the unorganised nature of the club over the years. Or perhaps they can’t decide on their actual transfer targets. Either way, it wouldn’t be a final day without Spurs putting in a mad dash to sign players right on the stroke of midnight. The big boys will probably stay well away from the transfer market during the final day, although there can be exceptions to the rule (Mr Berbatov anyone?), while those competing below them will have a hectic 24 hours ahead. Maybe one day they’ll learn…just do your shopping earlier!