It’s transfer season.
During this window from July 1 to September 1, players may be bought and sold by clubs. The activity is accompanied by significant rumormongering, innuendo, and outright baloney construction as everyone seeks to uncover the juiciest possible player movements and players’ agents try to drum up moves and interest–real or imagined–for their clients. This year, transfer talk started early, well before the league was finished. This occurred mostly because the league positions that produce the Premier League winner, the teams that compete in next year’s Champions League, the teams that compete in the Europa League booby prize, and the bottom three teams that are relegated to a lower division were largely settled so early, everybody just moved on to the transfer gossip season.
Clubs seek to renew contracts with players they wish to retain. This may occur at any point at which the club feels it is to their benefit to do so, but it usually happens at least a year before the current contract expires so that the owning club can extract a reasonable fee by selling the player if the parties can’t come to agreement on the renewal. Once the contract expires, the player is able to leave the club for free. Then if they still have some value, they may find employment and only have to work out personal compensation terms with the new club. It’s a somewhat less risky prospect for the new club to pick up the player (who may or may not fit well in their team) when a transfer fee need not be paid.
Players who don’t have sufficient relative value outside their current club (older players and/or underperforming players whose compensation or other factors limits outside interest) are often kept on until their contract expires. This is what happened to Abou Diaby, the subject of one of my earlier blogs. A more interesting case occurred with regard to Nicklas Bendtner a few years ago. He was an Arsenal player who was compensated at a rate that ultimately was much higher than his performances could justify. Arsenal wanted to sell him and allegedly agreed to selling terms with new clubs on several occasions, but the deal would always get scuttled when the potential buying club tried to offer Bendtner personal terms closer to his actual worth. Bendtner ended up not being sold, apparently preferring not to play than to be paid less than he was being paid by Arsenal. As was his prerogative. When his contract finally expired a year ago, Arsenal were finally free of him.
Players that have a high potential of being sold include those that are within a year of their current contract expiration, have less relative value to the club that owns them than other clubs who may be potential buyers, are unhappy at their current club, have unrealistic expectations for contract renewal terms at their current clubs, and/or are the subject of an offer from another club that the owning club just can’t refuse.
The traditional transfer rumor goes something like this: 1) Journalist/news source quotes unnamed sources that a buying club has contacted Player X’s club to inquire about purchase, 2) the owning club denies that contact has been made and/or denies that the player is for sale, 2) the buying club denies contact has been made, 3) Player X denies contact has been made, says that he is perfectly happy at his current club, that is it an honor to be associated with the buying club no matter how false the rumors, says that only his agent knows what’s happening. He then states “I am calm.”
This process is then followed by one of the following: 1) a new rumor crops up about Player X, 2) no further rumors crop up about Player X, or 3) Player X is sold, either to the originally rumored club or to some other club for which no rumor had ever been established.
Except for the purchase of Petr Cech and past transfers (such is in 2011) I haven’t talked much about transfers here. In truth, I haven’t thought much about it this year. This is strange behavior for me, to say the least. In previous transfer windows, I would read the gossip religiously, be thrilled over rumors of Arsenal purchase (even if I’d never heard of the player under consideration or non-consideration depending on who was being quoted), be desolate over rumors of Arsenal player departures, wring my hands over the lack of activity, wonder if Arsene Wenger had any idea what he was doing, etc. etc.
Once Football365’s live transfer blog would open up, usually in the last month or so of the transfer window, I would read it copiously in the morning on the train, at lunch, and even sometimes when I was experiencing insomnia in the night. One morning I was bragging to my husband that one of my posts–made in the dead of night–had made it onto the transfer blog, which is famously stingy in curating posts. He said, “I saw a post from a guy in Chicago and was thinking that maybe there was a way we could meet up with him.”
The husband is always the last to know: That guy from Chicago is your wife.
More recently some of the usual whipping up of Arsenal fan transfer angst began. Football365’s Sarah Winterburn had this to say last week in the F365 Says column.
While Louis van Gaal has acted swiftly and ruthlessly in a manner which befits the urgent ambition of his club, and Jose Mourinho has twice moved efficiently to maintain a squad that eased to the Premier League, Wenger has predictably and infuriatingly done nothing other than bring in a goalkeeper. Ignore the bluster of John Terry, that really isn’t worth 15 points.
Under seven weeks remain of the transfer window and yet we would not be remotely surprised if Petr Cech is Arsenal’s only first-team addition, a theory boosted by the most Wenger-esque of all Wenger quotes when he stressed the importance of ‘cohesion’ over transfers. Because of course fans renew season tickets at exorbitant prices in order to catch a glimpse of ‘cohesion’.
“I believe we have the quality and it’s now how much we can be stronger together,” he continues. But you always believe you have the quality, Arsene – your loyalty is commendable and exasperating in equal measure. Looking around the training ground and thinking ‘they’re all sodding brilliant and nice boys to boot, how could I possibly replace them?’ might make you a very lovely man, but not necessarily a perennial title challenger.
To which, uncharacteristically, I shrugged. Based on the letters in the Football 365 mailbox, it seemed that more than the usual number of fans did the same.
You can read the whole article here.
I can’t be 100% sure of the reason for my complacency. Maybe I’m too distracted by the season tickets and the planning around the trips, too distracted by writing this blog.
But I don’t think so. This cohesion thing. There’s a power in it that can’t be denied. If you’ve ever had the experience of trying to complete a project with a group of the smartest people and alternatively with a not-so-smart but highly cohesive group, you know cohesion is nothing to sneeze at. I can feel it all over this year, and it doesn’t feel bad.
I am calm. This is the year.