With the majority of Premier League clubs sorting their business in advance of transfer deadline day, it meant that there were only a few major breaking stories to be continually rehashed across the media coverage. The main talking points centred on the return of David Luiz to Chelsea, Tottenham’s purchase of Moussa Sissoko and Georges-Kevin Nkoudou, Leicester’s £30m capture of Islam Slimani and Arsenal allowing Jack Wilshere to go on loan to Bournemouth.
After early, seemingly sensible, moves to bring in N’Golo Kanté and Michy Batshuayi; Chelsea’s recapture of David Luiz, a player they let go for £50m two years ago, seems baffling. At the time it was generally perceived that Chelsea had got the better end of the deal for a player that had proven somewhat of a defensive liability; an opinion that was only strengthened by his performance (or lack thereof!) in Brazil’s humiliation by Germany in the World Cup Semi-Final, which had many cynical observers, myself included, wondering whether PSG had kept the receipt?
It is clear that new boss Conte wanted to reinforce defensively but the failure to lure away any of the central defenders he had worked with in Serie A or the Italian national team forced him to settle on bringing back the maverick Brazilian. Time will tell whether this will actually prove to be a wise move, but it seems like a big risk to take. The Blues did however also bring in further defensive cover in the form of left-back Marcos Alonso from Fiorentina.
Tottenham pipping Everton to the £30m capture of Moussa Sissoko is another seemingly puzzling one; despite the player’s good form at Euro 2016, most Newcastle fans will hardly mourn the loss of a player whose inconsistent form was undoubtedly a contributing factor to their club’s relegation. Perhaps their only regret will be that the deal wasn’t done early enough to equip Rafa Benitez with more funds to be invested into the squad. For Tottenham it adds pace in wide areas, a key identified need, which is further supplemented by the capture of France Under-21 winger Georges-Kévin Nkoudou after a pursuit that seems to have lasted all summer.
Leicester broke their club record transfer fee to bring in Algerian striker Islam Slimani from Sporting Lisbon in a move that is intended to further bolster the champions’ attacking options alongside fellow new signing Ahmed Musa and to provide support for Vardy and Mahrez.
Arsenal eventually brought in two new players for positions that had been identified as needing strengthening by pretty much everyone with an opinion on the Gunners; with the purchase of German international centre back Shkodran Mustafi from Valencia and a Vardy-style late bloomer of a striker Lucas Perez. It was absolutely typical of Wenger to identify a player that no one was expecting as his attempt to provide more variety in attack. It remains to be seen whether the Spaniard will be used in place of the much-maligned Giroud or as a complementary wide forward? My suspicion is that just as Podolski and Welbeck in the recent past; he may be afforded opportunities through the middle, but may end up replacing Walcott as a goal threat from the right.
The other main story was the Gunners decision to let Jack Wilshere depart on loan. With Bournemouth, Crystal Palace, Roma and AC Milan apparently all interested in him, it was slightly surprising that he opted for the South coast club. Overall it feels like a strange decision, there is a clear need for Wilshere to prove his fitness over an entire season, but from an Arsenal perspective wouldn’t he have been better served to go abroad and develop his game in a less frantic on-pitch environment? It feels very much as if this decision is pandering to the player’s desire to impress new England manager Sam Allardyce rather than with a key focus on his development to benefit his parent club. We have been waiting for six years for Jack to fulfil his potential, granted injury has deprived him of as many appearances as he has made, but other than the performance against Barcelona at home in 2011 which prompted none other than Xavi to refer to him as ‘the future of English football’, it is hard to think of too many occasions when we have had a glimpse of the player that we all thought he would develop into.
The loan system in itself is something that doesn’t really sit well with me as football purist. Perhaps the biggest impact of it over recent years has been the stockpiling of players by the wealthier clubs who essentially buy players that they don’t necessarily need or who may not have a realistic chance of future first team football, either to prevent them joining rival clubs and/or as a potential source of income when they eventually sell the player on. Ultimately this strategy has a double impact: it narrows the spread of young talent across the leagues and also denies lower level clubs the opportunity to reap the financial rewards of developing young players. Equally it cannot be good for the development of the young player himself to be shunted from one loan club to another season after season, denied a consistency in coaching that is so crucial in his formative years. Perhaps it could even be argued that this also impacts the England national team, as the lack of properly developed young English players forces the over-reliance on foreign players that is so often seen as the root cause of England’s failings?