Alan Pardew thinks Arsenal were disrespectful by bidding for Yohan Cabaye a few hours before Newcastle United lost badly at Manchester City. With the greatest of respect to Pardew, that’s not really the point.
The point here is that Cabaye was left out of the game, basically because his head wasn’t right. Knowing footballers as I do, my guess is that Cabaye went to Pardew and told him he didn’t want to play; didn’t want to get injured, didn’t want to be there. He’s clearly itching for this transfer and his reaction would have been the same no matter when Arsenal came calling.
That in a nutshell is my biggest argument against the transfer window. The structure and timing of it is all wrong, particularly in the summer. Cabaye’s absence shows you the level to which the market distracts players, managers and clubs while the season is in full flow. This is a time when squads should be settled.
The transfer window’s been in place for so long that you forget what the purpose of it was. A more level playing field or a way of stopping clubs spending stupid amounts of money? I’m not sure it’s had either of those effects. All you see at this late stage is panic buying. Fees get bigger and medicals get shorter. It’s a case of pay now or forever hold your peace (or, where the Premier League’s concerned, hold your peace until January).
If the decision was mine I’d create a two-month summer transfer window running from the start of June to July 31. That’s ample time for everyone to do business, whatever the complaints about holidays and mobile phones going straight to voicemail. What it would mean is that clubs start the season with a fixed and established squad. You’d cut out the sort of situation where one of Pardew’s best players is backing out of a big game. I remember transfer windows well and I know what it’s like to have clubs chasing you. If I fancied the move, my attitude was always to keep my game at the highest possible level and make sure the team concerned had no reason to back out. But other people are different. Some will take the promise of a move as their cue to down tools. Everyone gets twitchy because the deadline’s on the horizon and players and clubs start counting the hours. Whether Cabaye ends up at Arsenal I’ve no idea but I’m pretty sure he’ll be kicking his heels, waiting for that positive phone call.
The situation at St James’ Park really underlines why signing players with the right character is so important. I saw Leeds take Scott Wootton from Manchester United on Tuesday and I think that’s a good deal. It’s a good deal not only because Wootton has talent but also because he’s grown up in Manchester United’s academy and should have a great ethos and attitude.
He’ll have learned from your Vidicses and players like that and he’ll know what sort of lifestyle a top-class professional needs to lead. He won’t be overawed at Leeds and he won’t let the surroundings of Thorp Arch or Elland Road go to his head. In short, he shouldn’t cause Leeds any problems.
To draw a comparison, I saw the Italian striker Pablo Daniel Osvaldo turn up at Southampton in a £15m deal this week. He was walking about with a huge earing, sunglasses, a ponytail. I’m not being stereotypical here but I’ll be very interested to see how he gets on down there. How’s he going to react if he’s dropped from the team? What’s he going to be like when the goals aren’t going in? I suppose the bottom line is will he be trouble? Hopefully Southampton have done their homework but character is such an important trait in the players you buy.
Unfortunately, at this point the pressure to buy is immense. It’s most intense at Arsenal at the moment. Deals done in a rush are often done without proper care or attention and, as I said earlier, it’s amazing how medicals can be completed in the blink of an eye when the clock’s ticking. If you need a player, you need a player.
I can’t help thinking that if you drew the line on July 31, with the January window still to come, you’d bring some calm to proceedings. I think fans would be happier too. They’d know exactly how the squad stands and, on a different note, they’d avoid the scenario where they spend 50 quid on a replica shirt and see the player whose name they’ve had printed on the back bailing out on the last day of August.
For everyone concerned, there has to be a better way.