We are now virtually half way through the transfer window, but as we have come to realise, nothing much often happens until the mad panic on deadline day. Why is that I often wonder? Selling clubs, especially if they don’t really want to sell, wait until as late as possible, hoping that buying clubs get desperate and up their offers, or alternatively just go away. Buying clubs, on the other hand, often feel that they are in a better position, and try to leave it until the last minute with the hope of reducing the price if they feel that the player really wants the move, especially if they could move for free in the next window when their contract runs out. But problems can occur if clubs sell at the last minute but do not have sufficient time to line up replacements.
It seems that the transfer window has been with us forever, especially with the heightened expectations often created by the media, who love all the speculation, especially the frenzy of the last day which fills inordinate amounts of airtime and column inches. But in fact the present system has only been with us since 2002. Before then, players could be traded throughout the season up until 31 March. Beyond that it was felt that transfers could undermine the integrity of competitions at the late stages, and clubs could buy titles, or avert relegation with late money.
The window was introduced as part of an agreement with the European commission to preserve contractual stability for clubs and players, whilst still allowing movement at prescribed times. The economics of football works in a different way to most other industries.
At the time of writing we have been linked with numerous players, Batshuayi, Niang, Hogan, Dembele, Defoe, Hernandez, Hart, Begovich, Snodgrass, Cuco Martina, Johnson, Jenkinson, Evra, and a host of others, too many to mention. Fans on social media are getting restless and wonder why we haven’t tied up players to improve the team. I can think of one who I would like who never seems to be mentioned, and that is Sigurdsson of Swansea. Now there is a player who would improve the team. We definitely need a natural goalscorer and a right back as priorities, but wonder if any will arrive by the time the window slams shut. Sigurdsson always looks a real talent every time I see him, and just the type of creative midfielder who scores goals that would be invaluable.
Conversely, speculation surrounds us losing players, too, and I wonder if any of Antonio, Feghouli, Fletcher, Adrian, or any of the fringe players who we would definitely like to see the back of, will no longer be with us in a couple of weeks. Perhaps, between writing this piece and the Palace game, there will have been some definite action, but I won’t hold my breath.
And then just as I write these words, news comes through on the radio of the Bilic press conference where he states that Payet doesn’t want to play for us anymore. No doubt there will be thousands airing their views on social media, and I bet the majority will be telling him to f— off, I’ll drive him to the airport etc.
Much as I admired him as one of the best players I’ve seen at Upton Park when he starred for us last season, I’m afraid this season just hasn’t been the same. Apart from the wonder goal against Middlesbrough, and a smattering of assists, I don’t think that it took a body language expert to realise that his heart wasn’t really in it. Failing to celebrate goals was just one indicator, and his general demeanour was one of someone who didn’t really look like they wanted to be here.
I guess that the thing that surprises me is that so many people appear to be shocked by the initial news breaking through. He has previous I think, and despite his wonderful talents, I for one will not be disappointed to see him leave based upon this season’s performances. I’m afraid that too many talked him up all the time as being our best player, and we became too reliant on him turning it on. Of course last season he did on frequent occasions, but perhaps we need to try to play without our luxury player, and perhaps the team as a whole will be the better for it.
I’ve heard over the past month or so various pundits suggesting that we mustn’t let him go; we’ll be relegated without him etc. That to me is definitely too much reliance on one player. And whilst I am happy to see talented players who want to be here do the business for us, I’m very much in the “let anyone go who doesn’t want to be here” camp.
Perhaps the thing that surprised me was the fact that Bilic said we will not sell him. I don’t go along with that I’m afraid; take the money and invest it wisely – not an easy thing based on our summer experience of transfer dealings! I’m sure Bilic, by making the statement as he did, will have the majority of support of the fans. I’d just like to see him prove that he has a strategy for a way of playing that all our players are comfortable with. You never know, without Payet that may be easier to achieve. I fully expect Lanzini to step up in his absence and impose himself more on games, and I hope he can take them by the scruff of the neck and inject greater pace and movement into our attacking play. I also expect to see more of the promising Fernandes.
No doubt this will be a major West Ham talking point in the days to come, and many more column inches, tweets, and a lot of airtime will be given to discussing the future of Payet. For me, now that he has said he wants to leave I don’t think that there is any way back. Some people will say just let him rot out of the team, but that just wouldn’t make financial sense.