Clubs face dilemma of re­luc­tant stars

Bangkok Post - - OPINION -

ast week­end’s in­ter­na­tional break is prob­a­bly the most in­con­ve­nient of the year. The Premier League and most other Euro­pean leagues had barely got going and yet are forced to an un­timely halt. It is al­most like the Premier league has two starts to the sea­son — the false start which be­gan on Aug 11, and this week­end, when the clubs line up with their real teams, at least un­til the Jan­uary win­dow.

It is some­thing of a re­lief that all the trans­fer non­sense is over for a few months any­way. The ridicu­lous sit­u­a­tion of the trans­fer win­dow drift­ing into the third week of the sea­son is un­set­tling for man­agers, play­ers and fans alike. Surely it is time to end trans­fers as soon as the sea­son starts. As the Guardian put it: “The trans­fer win­dow is not just in­ter­fer­ing with the sea­son. It is in many ways over­shad­ow­ing it.”

The trans­fer fees have be­come so ob­scenely high, they are vir­tu­ally mean­ing­less to the av­er­age fan. It seems each sea­son the big­ger clubs get big­ger and the small clubs smaller, cre­at­ing an un­ac­cept­able gulf.

Af­ter just three games it is far too early to make any mean­ing­ful as­sess­ment of how things will pan out. How­ever we can safely say that the teams that are un­beaten af­ter three games are a lot hap­pier than those who have yet to get a point.

Per­haps the most in­ter­est­ing con­se­quences of the trans­fer win­dow are the trans­fers that didn’t hap­pen, fea­tur­ing the star play­ers who des­per­ately wanted to move but still find them­selves at the same club. All a bit awk­ward re­ally. The ques­tion is, how well will these re­luc­tant play­ers per­form for their re­spec­tive clubs?

The most pub­li­cised case was that of Alexis Sanchez who al­most joined Manch­ester City, but in the end is stuck at un­der­per­form­ing Ar­se­nal. The Gun­ners will be hop­ing the Chilean can mo­ti­vate him­self as his per­for­mances will be key to get­ting Ar­se­nal back on track.

In a sim­i­lar po­si­tion is Philippe Coutinho, who had been plan­ning on a dream move to Barcelona. How­ever, Liver­pool’s bright start to the sea­son with­out the Brazil­ian might in­spire him to get back into ac­tion quickly.

Le­ices­ter City’s Riyad Mahrez is in a rather em­bar­rass­ing sit­u­a­tion af­ter putting him­self on the mar­ket but no­body want­ing him. The Foxes also suc­ceeded in miss­ing the trans­fer dead­line by just 14 sec­onds for buy­ing Por­tuguese star Adrien Silva. It will take a lot longer than 14 sec­onds to re­solve this sit­u­a­tion.

Southamp­ton de­fender Vir­gil van Dijk had made it clear he wanted to move to Liver­pool, but sug­ges­tions of an il­le­gal ap­proach made Liver­pool back off. This leaves the tal­ented Dutch in­ter­na­tional at the club he doesn’t want to play for.

The most bizarre case in­volves Diego Costa who seems to have dis­ap­peared but has still been named in Chelsea’s 25-man Premier League squad. But it seems very un­likely we’ll be see­ing him in ac­tion.

Per­haps the most con­tented man­ager must be Jose Mour­inho, al­though look­ing at him you would never know it. Top of the league and with sign­ings com­pleted early, the Red Devils look like they will con­tinue to set the early pace.

United’s neigh­bours at City must also be rea­son­ably happy with their start de­spite not be­ing able to clinch the Sanchez deal. Pep Guardi­ola can even af­ford the luxury of hav­ing ace scorer Sergio Aguero sit­ting on the bench.

Chelsea ap­pear to have set­tled down af­ter their dis­as­trous open­ing home loss against Burnley. But their fans are not happy. The club’s trans­fer busi­ness has been a sham­bles, high­lighted by pay­ing a ridicu­lous sum for Le­ices­ter City mid­fielder Daniel Drinkwa­ter, while sell­ing the re­li­able Ne­manja Matic to a main ri­val was a real head-scratcher.

Liver­pool’s de­mo­li­tion of Ar­se­nal saw Juer­gen Klopp in a good mood and if they play like that the Reds will be up there at the busi­ness end of the sea­son. They man­aged to shrug off Coutinho’s ab­sence with ex­cel­lent per­for­mances from Sa­dio Mane, Mo­hamed Salah and Roberto Firmino. But Klopp will be aware his team ben­e­fit­ted from a sham­bolic per­for­mance from Ar­se­nal.

Arsene Wenger might well re­gret sign­ing on for an­other two years. He termed Ar­se­nal’s per­for­mance against Liver­pool as “ab­so­lutely dis­as­trous”. When asked what went wrong he replied: “Ev­ery­thing.” Af­ter that, things can only get bet­ter… maybe.

Af­ter just two “home” games it would be pre­ma­ture to call Tot­ten­ham’s in­abil­ity to win at Wem­b­ley a “jinx” but they will be might­ily relieved to get that mon­key off their back as soon as pos­si­ble. They still have an ex­cit­ing team and will be a force to be reck­oned with.

The out­stand­ing sur­prise per­for­mance so far has come from new­com­ers Huddersfie­ld with two wins and a draw un­der their belt. Whether they can keep it going, how­ever, is an­other mat­ter. They are well aware that Hull City won their first two matches last sea­son and ended up in the Cham­pi­onship.

Down at the other end of the ta­ble we have three clubs with zero points — West Ham, Crys­tal Palace and Bournemout­h, with Palace also be­ing goal­less. Frank de Boer could well be the first top flight man­ager to bite the dust.

Mean­while, the first man­age­rial ca­su­alty of the 2017-18 sea­son in the Foot­ball League is Justin Ed­in­burgh who was sacked by Northamp­ton Town on Aug 31. The Cob­blers had lost all four matches in League One which has left them firmly en­trenched at the foot of the ta­ble.

Ed­in­burgh’s dis­missal will sadly be the first of many. For the cu­ri­ous, last sea­son 56 man­agers lost their jobs in Eng­land’s top four di­vi­sions.

A Liver­pool fan holds up a plac­ard in sup­port of Philippe Coutinho dur­ing a re­cent match.

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