Vs: Time To Smash The Window?

James Restall argues that the transfer window should be closed:

I’d love to break the transfer window. Don’t get me wrong – it is exciting watching and waiting to see what last-minute deals the big spenders have managed to seal every six months. There’s been some sensational business since dealings were restricted to just two spells in the 2002-3 season.

Spurs fans will never forget Harry Redknapp’s 2010 capture of Rafael Van Der Vaart from Real Madrid while Manchester City splashing out on the likes of Mario Balotelli and Yaya Toure will help erase the memory of their £32.5m purchase of Robinho in 2008. The goalscoring exploits of Fernando Torres and Andy Carroll put them both in the shop window last January but there were to be no bargains for Chelsea and Liverpool who parted with a staggering £85m between them for the pair.

But with more and more footballers transforming into window dressing, it’s safe to say that deadline day hasn’t been entirely successful.

Mid-season transfers can make or break a title challenge but rather than planning long-term targets the current system encourages panic buying. With Arsenal in a spin after their worst ever start to a Premier League season, Arsene Wenger uncharacteristically brought in three players as the window closed. The Gunners have undoubtedly recovered but Mertesacker, Arteta and Benayoun haven’t been indispensable.

The ridiculous hype surrounding the window has led to Bryan Swanson’s infamous transfer tracker on Sky Sports News. Brilliantly satirised on Soccer AM with a spoof shopping-channel selling commemorative deadline day plates, Swanson’s touch-screen gadgetry epitomises the frenzy surrounding these biannual events. Frankly, it’s gone too far.

What started as a means to prevent off-the-field negotiations dominating the season has led to endless unsettling speculation. Manchester United have supposed to be signing Wesley Schneider for the last year and it was only in August that Cesc Fabregas returned to Barcelona after years of gossip.

And it’s not just the Premier League this disrupts. Since 04-5 the Football League has been subject to the same transfer rules as the top flight. One may well argue that removing the window would give free reign to the fiscal might of Man City but it would also allow sides with smaller squads in Leagues One and Two more flexibility during injury crises.

In any case, FIFA financial fair play rules approved in 2009 would deter the wealthier clubs from spending big all year round. It is worth noting that in an unrestricted 2000-01 season Manchester United did not bring in a single player.

Forgive my nostalgia, but the old system of allowing transfers up until the 31 March is a vast improvement on the current arrangement. The eyes of the world were on Torres and Carroll – both under pressure to get goals quickly with little time to gel with their new teammates. If the January deadline hadn’t existed the attention would almost certainly have been diminished.

The previous rules would also have allowed Carlos Tevez to have completed his desired move back to Argentina before and after the infamous Bayern Munich incident.

If we’re going persist with windows then why not introduce one for managers? The League Managers’ Association (LMA) have suggested that gaffers should only be sacked in the summer or the winter. Furthermore, with an open transfer market, the man in charge would have much more control over his team.

Let’s get rid of the soap-opera that is deadline day and smash the transfer window once and for all.

Sownak Bose disagrees. Here he argues for the window:

I love everything about the transfer window. The excitement, the disappointment, the shock and the anger. Don’t get me wrong – it does a great job in frustrating me as well, especially when I see the media link clubs with the most unlikely transfers imaginable. But in the midst of the post Christmas/ New Year doom and depression, it serves as a great outlet for entertainment.

More importantly, however, the January window has the potential to both make and break a club’s season, as has been illustrated on more than one occasion in the past. Let’s start off big — two of the best signings made by Sir Alex Ferguson in his time at Manchester United were the January 2006 signings of Patrice Evra and Nemanja Vidic. Both have gone on to become club regulars, the latter indeed, the current club captain. This was at a time when many thought United were a team in decline, surrendering the title to Arsenal and Chelsea in previous years, and the defensive solidarity of the side was brought into question after a long time. Not only have the two gone on to win four league titles since their arrival, but they have become a big reason for the team’s recent success in Europe… barring this season, of course.

Mid-season arrivals have had great impact at the other end of the table too, and one cannot think of many better examples than the case of Steve Bruce’s seemingly strange decision to bring in World Cup winning Frenchman Christophe Duggary to a struggling Birmingham side. The Brum were certain relegation candidates when he arrived, and made an immediate impact in helping the Midlands side pull-out unlikely wins. One might argue that it couldn’t have been too difficult to add a bit of magic to the Birmingham side of 2003 — but Dugarry’s five goals in five games was just the impetus that was required to cement the Blues Premiership status.

The window, in my opinion, allows under-fire managers a chance to rectify their mistakes from the previous half of the season. Provided of course that the finances are available to him, a pressurised manager lingering in the abyss of relegation can find his solace in his winter dealings. It is, I reckon, one of the few times in the season that the manager can actually get on the right side of his detractors in the stands, by bringing in the right personnel.

On a slightly sinister note, the dealings from the transfer window from January of last year illustrate all the reasons why it should definitely stay. Liverpool sold their best (albeit in decline) player in Fernando Torres to Chelsea for a ridiculous £50m (a price tag that they apparently won’t be able to pay back in the next 50 years). The Kop thought they were making a great £15m profit in buying another (hapless/hopeless) striker in Andy Carroll, who currently makes Nicklas Bendtner look like Marco van Basten.

For an onlooking Manchester United fan like myself — this is nothing short of the best entertainment available.