Sum­mer Trans­fers — How’s It Been For You So Far?

By in Niall Quinn's Route One

I don’t know how many times Jools Hol­land has ushered in the New Year with his Hootenanny but I know a little of how he feels. Trans­fer dead­line day in the Sky Sports Stu­dio has the same ele­ments. A month’s hype, the count­down, the drama, then the fire­works. Except we can’t pre-record the entire thing.

Like New Year’s Eve there is plenty of time for dis­ap­point­ment and regret once the clock sig­nals the window’s end.

I ima­gine man­agers tex­ting each other in the cold light of the next morn­ing.

I really love him.”

But Arsene, you loved Andrey Arshavin too”

In the stu­dio we get to sit and judge, like drill ser­geants watch­ing a new batch of pimply recruits arrive into the bar­racks.

Unless you get a strange story like Peter Odemwingie’s day trip to Lon­don or Anthony Mar­tial sign­ing on to be part of United’s ‘Great Futures Behind Them’ col­lec­tion, there is a lot of time for spec­u­lat­ing about who will sleep with the fishes and who will swim with the dol­phins?

As we get to the last inter­na­tional break of the year I see the papers and the inter­net are boil­ing again with rumours of the frenzy to come in the approach­ing win­dow so it seems like a good time to look at a few of the hits and misses from the latest sum­mer ses­sion.

One of the best stor­ies of the back end of sum­mer was Moussa Sis­soko. Ever­ton thought he was ready to sign a pre-nup and tie the knot. Then he was wor­ry­ingly un-con­tact­able. Ever­ton were about to call in Liam Neeson to track him down when Sis­soko turned up in Lon­don wear­ing a Spurs jer­sey. The fee of £30m was about double what Spurs gen­er­ally like to pay for incom­ing play­ers. His form so far has prob­ably been about half what they expect from those play­ers. Sissoko’s hand­ful of appear­ances so far haven’t pro­duced any goals or assists.

Gen­er­ally though Sissoko’s dis­ap­point­ing start goes under the radar because the best story of the sum­mer was Paul Pogba’s return to Old Traf­ford. The sort of deal which would have Sir Alex Fer­guson spin­ning in his VIP box and scream­ing to be let out.

The idea to write about the form of the big sum­mer trans­fers came before Pogba and Zlatan spent yes­ter­day after­noon paw­ing the dead mouse that is Swansea but even tak­ing into account that yesterday’s win was United’s best per­form­ance out­side of Eng­land this year the jury must still be out on Pogba and Zlatan.

United look like a troubled club and at the moment the guys pick­ing up the heav­iest wage pack­ets every month haven’t been per­form­ing on match days.

There are vari­ous reas­ons. Maybe at 35 Zlatan should have looked for a gentler pas­ture in which he could trans­ition into retire­ment. He has been play­ing pro­fes­sional foot­ball in top divi­sions since 1999. That’s a lot of mileage. He still works hard. Fewer things come off for him how­ever. He scored 113 goals in 122 games in France. His patchy form at United com­pared to Balotelli’s excit­ing form at Nice these days tell us a lot about the dif­fer­ence between play­ing in
France and play­ing in Eng­land.

Pogba mean­while thrived in a dif­fer­ent mid­field set up in a dif­fer­ent league that is played at a dif­fer­ent pace. Great goal yes­ter­day, his sea­son can go one of two ways from here. Jose may get his mid­field right (Michael Car­rick yes­ter­day was a good sign) and Pogba might start to look like a Rolls Royce? Or he may struggle at this tur­bu­lent club and with that price tag he may become a human shield for his man­ager.

As for Hen­rikh Mkhitaryn? You just never know what’s around the corner do you Hen­rikh?

The best trans­fers have been the ones which didn’t attract scream­ing head­lines. On trans­fer dead­line night I did some weep­ing and gnash­ing of teeth when Sun­der­land failed to sign a new striker. They picked up Vic­tor Anichebe on a free soon after and I thought that even with my aches and pains I’d back myself to beat him in forty yard sprint and that
neither of us should attempt any dis­tance longer than that without emer­gency med­ical ser­vices present.

But wait. I saw Anichebe play for Sun­der­land at Bournemouth on Sat­urday and I ate some humble pie at half time. David Moyes sur­prised Eddie Howe (and maybe sur­prised him­self) by put­ting out an attack­ing team with Anichebe, in his first start, play­ing up front to take some pres­sure off Jer­maine Defoe. It worked. And Anichebe worked. He scored one and
got fouled for the pen­alty which gave Defoe his man­dat­ory place on the score sheet.

Nobody is say­ing that Sun­der­land will be fend­ing off Pogba-style offers to keep Anichebe next sum­mer but he gave Sun­der­land some pres­ence on Sat­urday, he gave them a goal, a win and a boost to mor­ale with
the prom­ise that play­ing some attack­ing foot­ball might be a worth­while exer­cise after all.
Chelsea pick­ing off N’Golo Kante from the Leicester herd when they were down at the water­ing hole in the sum­mer was just the law of the jungle. The deal was a quiet, effi­cient piece of busi­ness which has hurt Leicester badly and helped Chelsea no end. Kante and Matic in cent­ral mid­field are the motor which makes Chelsea rival Liv­er­pool as the most improved team of the year so far.

Since Ant­o­nio Conte found a for­mula he likes and is famil­iar with Chelsea have won five games on the trot. The play­ers around Kante are all sud­denly look­ing as if they have been recon­di­tioned. That’s the sign of a good mid­fielder, a good sign­ing. Spe­cial men­tions too for Alonso and Luiz who have settled in really well.

None of the play­ers Leicester bought as they broke their old trans­fer record a few times over in the sum­mer have come close to mak­ing up for the loss of Kante.

There have been other good sign­ings about the league. With the amount of foot­ball he has in him John Stones could be the next Bobby Moore for Eng­land. It’s sur­pris­ing that Manchester City didn’t exper­i­ence more com­pet­i­tion from his sig­na­ture. I would have thought that his style would suit most of the top con­tin­ental sides. Their loss is Pep’s gain.

In a week when City beat Bar­celona it is easy to for­get that Guardiola’s pro­ject is still a work in pro­gress. I think we’ve have seen con­trast­ing returns on invest­ment so far from City’s two big Ger­man sign­ings in the Sum­mer, Leroy Sane and Ilkay Gun­dogan.

Sane came back from the Euro’s a little late and has struggled with fit­ness, which is nat­ural enough for a twenty year old hit­ting the Premier League. In flashes he has shown that over the course of what is going to be a long sea­son for City that he could emerge to look like decent busi­ness but we haven’t seen nearly enough yet.

Gundogan’s per­form­ance and two goals against Bar­celona marked the occa­sion of him drop­ping his call­ing card at the Eti­had. Apart from a knack of get­ting goals, amongst other vir­tues he looks like the cure to the brit­tle­ness which has troubled City for a while.

When trans­fer dead­line day passed without Jur­gen Klopp buy­ing a shiny new striker I wondered if he had feet of clay after all. With 30 goals from eleven Premier League games and a top of the table seat this morn­ing Klopp has won that argu­ment.

His high energy game is high attri­tion too in terms of injur­ies and fatigue so I still think he might splurge for a top for­ward in Janu­ary. In the mean­while if Sadio Mane can escape the incon­sist­ency he suffered from at Southamp­ton he could prove to be the No.1 inspired buy of the sea­son.

Else­where what we’ve seen of Hojb­jerg at Southamp­ton con­firms their shrewd eye. Hats off to Arsene who has bought very well other than mort­ga­ging the house for a twenty goal a sea­son striker as we all instruc­ted him to. Pity Lucas Perez hasn’t got in on the act yet.

Joe Allen was a neat bit of busi­ness for Stoke, he deserves a snap­pier nick­name than “the Mid­lands Andrea Pirlo”. Wan­yama has been a typ­ical bit of effi­cient Spurs busi­ness. Bolasie has looked decent at Ever­ton though he’ll hope to have bet­ter days than he did on Sat­urday. If not he will need coun­selling.

Mid term report for the recruits of sum­mer 2016? Some suc­cesses, some shrewd buys, a long list of flops, mis­fits and “ones for the future”. You look down the list of who bought who and how their teams are doing and even if you take away the hype sur­round­ing Premier League man­agers now, gen­er­ally the best ones have spent clev­erly.

The Manchester United’s manager’s per­form­ance in his first win­dow is the excep­tion to that rule and fol­low­ing his Janu­ary deal­ings alone should be great fun. Will Jools be singing “Cool For Cats” or ‘Up The Junc­tion” to Jose?