It's time to sum up the transfer window action so let's start with who left and who joined.
Permanent Outs: Etherington, Mullins, Bellamy
Loan Outs: Bowyer, Davenport, Faubert, Quashie, (Spence, Widdowson, Reid)
Permanent Ins: Savio, Ilunga
Loan Ins: Kovac, (Kurucz)
If you consider established players it’s a net move of minus one if you count the finalized deals, but a net loss of 5 players in the squad if you include the loanees.
Zola has said that he prefer a smaller squad with players that are actually in contention for a first team spot. In addition to that he likes a reserve team, mainly built with youngsters trying to take that last step. So this net loss of players may be in line with his and the Clubs aims.
One way of doing an evaluation of the transfer window activities is to compare them to what Duxbury told us was the intentions.
Duxbury put some serious effort into making us see the posibilities rather than the problems with the transfer window. In the famous Q and A post on the official site he lays down the lines for the january transfer window - “we are committed to improving the squad and it may be that Gianfranco will use any funds generated to do just that. Our fans should be concerned only with who we bring in rather than worried about who leves the club” and in a comment to Bellamy leaving the Club for ManC and Zola’s conclusion that it was for the best to let Bellars go he says ”…I agreed with this so that we could focus our energies on bringing in exciting players who want to play for the club and who will improve the squad”.
Let’s see if that is what the Club did.
With the exception of Bellamy, no player that has been considered essential to the team has left. If you think of the doomsday scenario that most papers presented in November and most of December, that is not bad, especially when it turned out that we got £14 million for him. Dux seem to have done a good deal there and as I said in a previous post HERE Bellamy was also kind enough to take any burden off Duxbury by trying to force a move to T-Ham. Talk about subtle intuition how to get every fan as your enemy. In comparison, even Duxbury seemed like a trustworthy bloke.
But how about improving and using funds?
The £14 million was used to buy Savio (undisclosed but said to be no more than £7.5 million up front, additional costs later) and to sign Ilunga on a permanent deal said to be worth around £1.4 million. So no more than £9 million of the Bellamy money was probably used in this transfer window. A pretty big publicity stunt was made of the fact that against common understanding (what was said in the tabloids), Zola was given any funds at all.
I do NOT mean that a spending of a lot of cash is always a good thing, all I’m trying to do is to compare the actual moves to Duxbury statements.
Anyway, we can conclude that the Bellars money was not re-invested in the squad (at this time).
But what happened to the quality of the squad then?
I have repeatedly said that the squad would be no worse after the transfer window, let’s see if I was right. First let’s consider the Bellamy out Savio in story.
A player that was a constant nuisance to our opponents for the last 10 games is suddenly gone, a newborn mature striker with a personality problem was replaced by a 19 year prodigy (can you see were this is going?).
Evaluated seperately both of these moves have a lot of things going for them. Bellamy has been injured a lot, has not really found a way to play with Cole until recently (or possibly the other way around), he has a personality that is hard to love, is in the late stage of his career, and was one of the high earners. Savio is about to make his mark in the game, has a potential that a lot of people describe as huge, and has proven that he is a decent player in senior settings. Definitely one for the not too far future.
However, I’d be extremely surprised if DiMichele or Savio can even closely resemble the impact that Bellamy has on the pitch.
Let’s face it, if you take a look at the team that will face ManUre on Sunday, it will not be as good as if Bellamy was still in the side. So in a way I was wrong, the squad is a bit worse now.
But then, was this a bad move by Zola/Nani/Duxbury? No I don’t think so. Our squad is good enough to avoid the drop with some margin, and our chance to get a European spot with this team was always slim so I think that they did the right thing.
That was all about Bellamy/Savio, how about the other moves then?
Loosing fringe players like Ethers, Mullins, Bowyer, Davenport, Faubert, and Quashie is a good idea if they take away resources from the rest of the team. To focus available funds to a smaller squad obviously makes sense, if the squad is still big enough to handle the PL reality (that’s one fat truism right there, but I hope you get my drift).
Now, 5 of those are midfield players and that leaves us with precious little cover if we get some injuries in that area so let’s take a closer look at that. Ethers and Faubert, 2 examples of outside midfielders that builds their game by rushing down their channels are gone, but Zola does not seem to fancy that kind of a game, so I doubt that he was ever interested in direct cover for that kind of footballer. LBM have come in for Collison late in games lately, so we do have some kind of cover there I guess. Beharami, however, is not easily replaced with anybody in the current squad. In an ideal world Dyer would be fit to fight for a place in that position (would Dyer even figure in an ideal world I wonder…) but that we can hardly rely on so we would need to field Kover-Kovacs, reshuffle the midfield and make do of what we’ve got. I think injuries on Noble and (God forbid) Parker would be handled in much the same way. No other midfielders in our books are ready to take on PL opposition.
Davenports departure does not worry me with Kovacs, Neill and Tomkins able to substitute in his position.
Taken together, it seems a bit risky, but given our current league position and ambition it may be a calculated risk that I can support.
This may be what Zola wants and a way to build a strong future. It does however include some moves that seem more financially driven than anything else. My overall impression is that Duxbury, Zola and Nani have done a decent job considering the situation, but I will still keep that “watchful eye” on Dux, he is in many ways a polititian.
So rated as Prince H does the players I give the transfer window a 7.5.