When John Moss blew the final whistle at the end of Saturday’s FA Cup final, it marked the passing of another English domestic season. Mercifully for fans, and worryingly for the players, it is scarcely more than eight weeks before the new one begins. The intervening time, and indeed the period until the end of August, will be filled by the very modern spectacle that is the transfer window. It has been noticeable in recent years that this ‘competition’ has taken on a rather larger than life quality, becoming in a sense a sport within a sport.
24 hour sports news channels and social media also allow fans to drive themselves to hysterics over who their club might buy or sell. A glance across your Twitter timeline over the next few months will show that some fans, particularly it seems younger fans, seem to show greater interest in their sides fate in the transfer market than their performances on the turf throughout the season. This seems a rather sad and pathetic development.
Player recruitment is an extremely important part of football management. If you listened, or do listen to, the first Boot Room podcast last week you will find that clubs’ performances in the transfer market was a dominant theme when discussing how they performed last season. From Chelsea’s shrewd, swift and efficient trading to QPR once again embarking on supermarket sweep of has beens and nearly but not quites. In 12 months’ time, we will no doubt look back upon the upcoming transfer window to look for explanations for the trajectory of the 2015/16 Premier League season. So the transfer window is indeed newsworthy, and its results will be important to how clubs perform.
However, it is the attempt to transform this circus into theatre, entertainment and even a sporting competition in itself that troubles me. Sky Sports News is particularly guilty of this. The spectacle of Sky’s ‘deadline day’ was once a rather cultish interest for the more committed football fan; providing a fruitful source of in jokes about Jim White barking at the camera or Harry Redknapp leaning out of the window in his 4×4. However, Sky have in the last few years cottoned on to the fact that this joke was being made at their expense and have sought to exploit it to their advantage by playing up to the stereotypes in their publicity.
The result is there for all to see; the screen is doused in gold, and reporters are sent to distant training grounds to report on any deals. The vast majority of these correspondents are rendered utterly redundant as there are usually only a handful of clubs involved in major deals on the final day of the window. Most are left standing around trying to avoid fame hungry fans wielding sex toys in their general direction or shouting expletives.
This could all be said to be a benign form of entertainment but for the pernicious idea that has emerged that the transfer window is a competition in itself; in some sense a sport. This notion has manifested itself for example, by the way Sky actually arrange transfers into a form of a league table. Two league tables in fact, one ranking clubs by money spent and another ranking clubs by number of players purchased. Therefore, narratives are established before a ball has even been kicked about ‘winners and losers’.
A cursory examination of your Twitter timeline will show that there are many credulous supporters ready to fall for this and work themselves into a frenzy about their club’s dealings. They gloat opposing fans about beating them to a signing and express indignation that their club has not followed their own recommendations on which players they ought to sign.
Football rivalries probably dictate that this type of response is inevitable; fans feel they are either stealing a march on opposing teams or losing ground. Moreover, in the defence of Twitter, it can be an excellent source of transfer news that often runs ahead of the major media institutions. There are however two main reasons why reacting to your clubs transfer dealings as if it were a victory or a defeat is a dangerous business.
Firstly, it doesn’t matter who you buy or who you sell, you will still start the season on zero points and will have all of your work still ahead of you to achieve your goals for the season. Secondly, it is extremely difficult to predict how successful your acquisitions will be. For instance, if 12 months ago you were to offer Arsenal fans to signings of Dejan Lovren and Radamel Falcao, there would have been a broad consensus that these would have been two positive additions. As we sit today, they are thankful Arsene Wenger was not tempted by either player. In the majority of cases, particularly when players are signed from abroad, supporters have only seen their new signing play on a handful of occasions if at all.
So by all means, feel a glow of optimism if your club signs that centre forward you have been craving. But one should not go counting any chickens nor fall into despair over the summer’s events. The real entertainment, spectacle and competition starts in August and it is that genuine theatre that supporters should reserve their energy and passion for.
Jack Wilshere’s injury shows why Arsenal shouldn’t renew his contract
The 26-year-old has been struck down by yet another injury.
Jack Wilshere will be pleased with the progress that he has made since returning to Arsenal from his loan spell at Bournemouth.
He was initially nothing more than a squad player that was out in the cold at international level too, but the midfielder worked hard to gain more game-time in North London.
Across all competitions, he has played more than 30 matches and his form earned him a call-up to the England squad.
It looked like he was getting a once-promising career back on track, but almost like clockwork, he has suffered an injury to set him back once again.
Gareth Southgate confirmed that he wouldn’t be travelling to the Netherlands for Friday’s match and the quotes were reported by Sky Sports.
“It is not a specific injury and over time they flare up and they need to settle down over a couple of days.
“We are hopeful it will settle down pretty quickly. It’s an ongoing problem and it’s not something new for him. He’s very disappointed not to be involved in the game.
“He’s trained well though but if you think about the journey he’s had in the last two years and his big injuries then he’s progressing really well.”
Although it is encouraging that it isn’t a serious injury, it is a reminder that Jack Wilshere remains a risk for both club and country.
It is difficult to build a team around a player that is susceptible to miss matches and the quote from Southgate is a worry as he refers to an ongoing problem.
Arsenal have had a difficult campaign and they will be planning a rebuild over the next 48 months as they transition away from the Arsene Wenger era.
They will have to make tough decisions on many players at the club and Wilshere’s future will be brought into focus over the next few weeks as his contract expires at the end of the season.
There have been numerous reports regarding contract talks between the two parties and there is hesitancy on both sides.
This latest injury suffered by Wilshere and the comments from Southgate referring to an ongoing problem show why it is Arsenal who need to end this association.
Wilshere can’t be relied on to stay fit and to feature prominently in a busy schedule. Arsenal will have ambitions of challenging at the very top of the game and will likely be involved in European competition every season. They need to have a squad of players that are reliable and the 26-year-old isn’t that.
Aside from that, Wilshere represents what Arsenal have become over the last decade. He is a player that had a lot of potential, but he has failed to fulfil it and been very inconsistent at the highest level. Of course, he isn’t to blame for the club’s problems, but he is also unlikely to offer the solutions.
This season has been a nice farewell campaign for him. It would have been sad if his Gunners’ career had ended after being shipped out on loan to Bournemouth.
He has returned to earn some of his credibility back, but the club need to move on and progress if they are to get back to the top of the English game.
A lot of contentious decisions will need to be made and the first should be the release of Jack Wilshere this summer.
Why Jose Mourinho’s treatment of Luke Shaw has crossed the line
The Portuguese manager has been highly critical of Luke Shaw this season.
The fractious relationship between Jose Mourinho and Luke Shaw plumbed new depths when the left-back was substituted at half-time in Manchester United’s FA Cup victory over Brighton & Hove Albion. The 22-year-old had been handed a rare opportunity to impress at Old Trafford but lasted only 45 minutes.
Speaking about Shaw in his post-match interview, Mourinho said: “Luke, in the first half, every time they came in his corridor, the cross came in and a dangerous situation was coming. I was not happy with his performance.”
The differences between the pair now appear to be irreconcilable. Shaw, who was signed by Louis van Gaal in the summer of 2014, has been used sparingly by Mourinho. The former Southampton starlet has made just 18 Premier League appearances under the Portuguese in a career that has been blighted by injuries.
Being substituted at half-time is almost as embarrassing as it gets for a player and Shaw’s mood will not have improved after being publicly criticised by his manager. It’s certainly not the first time Mourinho has chosen to talk candidly to the media about his concerns with the 22-year-old.
Some players require an arm around the shoulder to perform at their peak, while for others it takes a kick up the backside. Mourinho, opting for the latter, does nothing without reason and has clearly tried to spark a reaction from Shaw, without success.
From being one of English football’s brightest prospects after making his World Cup debut aged just 18, Shaw, who has seven England caps to his name, is in danger of not fulfilling the potential that convinced United to spend what was then a world-record fee for a teenager.
Mourinho’s tactic of singling out individuals who have not met his standards is in stark contrast to Sir Alex Ferguson, who never blamed his players in public. It has divided opinion among pundits, with Southampton legend Matt Le Tissier claiming the United manager is ‘destroying’ Shaw.
Mourinho is an expert at using smokescreens to distract from his side’s unconvincing performances. And this latest controversy has moved the narrative on from United’s shock Champions League exit at the hands of Sevilla.
Tough love is one thing, but the sustained, public attack on Shaw is unacceptable. If Mourinho genuinely believes he is not good enough to represent United, then fair enough. But to continually vilify the youngster’s performances is a step too far and one that could irreparably damage Shaw’s confidence.
This is not to say that Shaw is a completely innocent bystander. Mourinho’s predecessor, Louis van Gaal, also questioned his desire and general conditioning when he joined United four years ago. Indeed, the Dutchman signed Shaw up to a tailored exercise regime in an effort to improve his fitness.
But while van Gaal’s treatment had the desired effect, Mourinho’s has done the opposite. Being publicly humiliated on a routine basis does neither party any favours.
In all likelihood, Shaw’s disappointing United career will come to an end this summer. A fresh start away from the toxicity under Mourinho is exactly what he needs.
Keanan Bennetts has perfect opportunity to impress Mauricio Pochettino this week
The left-sided star has a chance to impress in first-team training during the international break.
With the international week in full flow, plenty of teams in the Premier League have seen their squads diminished by call-ups to national teams.
Tottenham Hotspur are one such side. Nonetheless, with most of the first-team squad away with their respective nations, work continues at Hotspur Way.
In order for Spurs to have a full complement in training, plenty of young talent needs to be pulled in to the ranks.
Mauricio Pochettino will, therefore,e get a chance to see some of his young players training with regular first-team players such as Fernando Llorente, Erik Lamela and Lucas Moura.
One player who will be training with the first-team this week is talented wide-man Keanan Bennetts, according to London Live.
The 19-year-old left-winger has been catching the eye for the club’s youth team in recent weeks, making the news after scoring a fantastic goal for the under-19s against Monaco in the UEFA Youth League last month.
Bennetts has also been attracting interest for his positional dexterity. The wide-man has played at left-back in recent times and it could be that is his future best position.
This week he will be up against some excellent players such as Lamela and Moura, who did not receive selection to the Argentina and Brazil national teams, respectively.
If he can prove himself with this calibre of player, Pochettino will have to take notice.
It is coming to a point in his Tottenham career when Bennetts has to make such an impact. The teenager is out of contract at Spurs in the summer and needs to ensure he is kept on for at least one more season.
Tottenham fans who follow the youth teams are certain he is deserving of such a chance. If he can show Pochettino what he is capable of this week, then a new deal will surely be in the pipeline for the talented wide-man.
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