August, that fantastic yet strange month of the football calendar when the domestic leagues get going once again, yet the transfer window stays open and all of the rumour, misinformation and general associated nonsense continues right the way up to deadline day, which this year comes a full 3 weeks and 3 matches into the Premier League season.
As a result, it feels difficult to judge how things are shaping up in the Premier League at the moment, as it feels like we are in something of a phoney war phase. With the feeling that there is inevitably significant business still to be finalised, no definitive conclusions can yet be drawn, and for the most part it is difficult to know whether to be optimistic about our team’s prospects, or to bolster ourselves ahead of another disappointing and frustrating campaign (remembering of course I am an Arsenal fan, I already know which I think is the most likely for us!).
The stand-off between Liverpool and Barcelona over the future of Phillippe Coutinho, the Anfield club having rejected ever-increasing bids, is just one of the uncertainties that continue to swill around the non-stop, 24-hour sports ‘news’ media channels. Owners Fenway Sports Group have gone on the public record in stating that the Brazilian playmaker would not be sold this summer; yet Barca, whose coffers are buoyed by the world record sale of Neymar lest we forget, seem prepared to test their resolve further with the rumoured potential for another increased bid.
With the player himself reportedly desperate to join the Catalan club, despite having only penned a lucrative 5-year extension to his contract in January, and reports that Barcelona still want their man even after reaching agreement to sign Ousmane Dembele from Borussia Dortmund; it seems almost inevitable that one side or the other will lose face however this ends up playing out.
As de facto spokesman for Arsenal, Arsène Wenger has consistently affirmed a similar message with regard to Alexis Sanchez, albeit without the benefit of a contract stretching beyond this season, stating on several occasions that he thoroughly anticipates the Chilean to be with the club for the duration of the current campaign.
While those of us with a sceptical view of these matters, given the reassurances uttered in previous seasons with regard to Messrs Fabregas, Nasri and Van Persie; might find it incredibly hard to believe the club is prepared to turn down at least £70m; surely the club/ manager cannot now renege on their promises this time around? To do so at this late stage, without sufficient time to bring in a suitable replacement, especially given the rather underwhelming summer transfer business up to now and the far from convincing performances in the first two league matches, would leave the manager in an untenable position in the eyes of all but the most stubbornly Wenger-loyal Arsenal fans.
In addition to those two cases, the futures of Ross Barkley and Virgil van Dijk, to name but two, are still very much up in the air and would seem ripe for the type of Deadline Day to-ing and fro-ing that will keep Sky Sports News and its reporters across the country in a state of unbridled yet unfounded frenzy until the ‘window slams shut!’, and we can all concentrate on events on the pitch again, well at least until January!
Because of this essentially farcical situation and the resultant inability to finalise squads until three games into the season, more and more Premier League managers have been vocal in suggesting that the window should be closed before the start of the season. This would seem to be a completely logical conclusion to draw and demand to make, but to be truly constructive and not akin to voting to handicap themselves, it would require agreement beyond merely the Premier League and at least across the major European Leagues, if not the whole of the football world.
Premier League clubs have additionally faced a considerable financial issue when trying to compete for players in the transfer market; the astronomical TV and commercial revenues they continue to generate can in fact also be seen as a disadvantage as selling clubs know exactly how much Premier League clubs have to spend, and as such a sellers’ market is created where transfer fees are grossly inflated simply because the buyers are willing and able to meet these prices, and in effect a ‘Premier League Premium’ is charged, whether the seller is based at home or abroad. It could be argued that there has been little value in the purchases made by Premier League clubs so far this summer, no matter the talent of the players involved.
The transfer window, especially during the summer months has increasingly become a self-fuelling sideshow, one that seems to spiral further and further into madness as the sums of money involved continue to reach and then surpass ever more ludicrous levels.