Clubs face dilemma of reluctant stars
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.