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Silly Season

By Marko Poutiainen :  05/06/2007 :  Comments (19) :

It's the silly season again in football as the transfer window opened 1st June. This time I was bored to death about it even before it opened. It's completely ridiculous that newspaper and other places basically just invent transfer rumours to fill up pages. Even more ridiculous is the way some people believe them.

Take Everton. Some hack hears that David Moyes might be interested in a player (or, more likely, just invents the whole thing). He then comes up with a figure, say "4 million pounds" which is a nice number as far as transfers go because it's a hefty sum, but not quite massive yet. Evertonians read this and jump and rush to fill the forums about messages on how Moyes is crazy to pay 4 million for a shitty player like that. You can get literally hundreds of messages of this kind about one invented transfer link. It also works the other way, if some journalist decides to add "Everton" to a list of teams that might be interested in a certain decent player there will again be hundreds of messages speculating what position that player might play, if he worth the price mentioned, and should we sign X instead. In any other situation people would laugh stuff like that off but not when it comes to transfer rumours. The most ridiculous part of this all, however, is the way fans invent prices for players. "I would only pay X million for him" is a very common comment. I'd like to see the catalog that lists prices for players.

This summer is particularily problematic because of two factors. Firstly the Premier League has signed a new TV deal with Sky which increases TV revenue and prize money considerably, teams can expect to increase this money by 10 million or more. Secondly several teams are desperate to strenghten their teams and have the money to do so. So values and wages will be hugely inflated this summer. It has already started with reports that West Ham United will pay Scott Parker 72,000 pounds per week. Parker is a good player, but that money is completely ridiculous. Even the 60k he was getting from Newcastle was a lot. Tottenham Hotspur paid ten million for an 18-year old fullback with no experience at the top level (although I guess quite a lot of that sum is made up of incentives only paid if the player plays enough matches for Spurs etc). West Ham, Spurs, Portsmouth, Newcastle, Aston Villa, Sunderland, Wigan all have money to spend and WHU in particular is desperate to spend heavy after a season that very nearly ended in disaster. Sunderland are recently promoted so they want Premier League quality players to stay up and Wigan also had a poor season but money to spend thanks to the owner of JJB Sports backing them up. On top of that all the top clubs seem to have nice warchests to work with with Arsenal reportedly "only" having 20 million. So money will be splashed this summer and wage demands will be high. I wouldn't be surprised if some players hold their decisions on where to move until quite late. I bet their agents are telling them that teams will get more and more anxious as the transfer window draws to a close. I wouldn't be surprised to see a few ridiculous signings (as per fee and wages) come August.

It has been reported David Moyes has some 15 million to spend on players. Problem is the squad is thin on numbers so he needs to buy several players just to cope with next seasons fixture list. Even without the UEFA cup and with poor domestic cup runs the team was strained to it's limits this season. Next season should see quite a few matches more. I counted only 1 senior goalkeeper, six defenders, five midfielders and five forwards that played any significant part. And two of the forwards (James Beattie and James McFadden) hardly had an impact, except for James McFadden's last minute winner against Charlton Athletic. And two of the strikers are 19. The team should have 2 keepers, 8 defenders, 8 midfielders and 4 decent forwards. Possible 15 million in the pocket, inflated prices and need to get at least 5 or 6 players is not an easy formula.

So how will Moyes cope with this? I think I can see a pattern emerging. Moyes is first of all after players who can play in several positions such as Sheffield United's Phil Jagielka. He is young (25), athletic, strong and extremely quick and can play across the defence or midfield. And he wants to move to Everton. Not the most exciting player and a lot of fans are against this but that's mostly because he's not the flavour of the month. But it's easy to see the appeal. With a thin squad you'd like to have a few players who can fill in at several positions in case of injuries.

He will obviously also be in the look for good value players but so is everyone else. That's probably the biggest reason behind his interest on Joey Barton. Thankfully that didn't go through. Barton is obviously bad for team spirit, something that has been one of Everton's biggest strenghts in the last few seasons. Barton is a useful player but hardly good enough to offset possible bad blood in the team.

Fans demand top-class signings as if getting into the UEFA cup suddenly gives the club a big pot to spend. That is not true, any serious money requires the team to get at least into the semis. Rather than chasing pipe-dreams I would rather see Moyes make solid signings. The core of the team is already good. Howard, Yobo, Lescott, Arteta, Cahill, Johnson are already good players are Stubbs, Hibbert, Neville, Carsley, Vaughan and Anichebe are all useful players with the last two, Vaughan in particular, offering promise of better things to come. So the core is good. Hopefully Moyes can find one quality player to remove some of the burden from Arteta's shoulders as his role as the creative spark is too big. If he struggles so does the team. Moyes is trying to sign Manuel Fernandes on a further year's loan. I wouldn't mind that. He is not the Messiah some fans are making him but he definitely has class. He showed flashess of brilliance but also does have the habit of drifting in and out of matches.

One of the interesting things is that even though Moyes has deployed the 4-5-1 system quite succesfully in the past years he will need to deploy 4-4-2 more. Some teams will simply try to stiffle our game and playing the same game will make it hard to win matches. This season the number of losses was good, ten, only three teams (Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal) lost less games. It's the draws that stopped us from pushing to fourth. The problem with 4-4-2 is it opens up the midfield if the central players don't have the required pace and positioning. If they don't the opposition will simply run through. That's why the defensive midfielder is so important in todays game. Every top team has a very good player in this position. Alex Ferguson just spent a massive amount in Owen Hargreaves and a lot in Michael Carrick last year. Chelsea has spent heavily to find the right guy in recent years and so on. Arsenal has struggled ever since Patrik Vieira left them for Juventus. The magic is that this player allows the creative players more freedom to their stuff and can also support in attack if needed. Vieira wasn't a great scorer but he did score many important goals.

Everton can't unfortunately afford a player of this calibre. And as it's a very tough position to play many players who look promising fail to live up to the expectations after moving to England. The pace is still much more relentless in England than in the continent, Spain and France in particular and this makes the position even harder. Concentration has to be 100% all through the match. Jagielka, however, has many of the qualities that make a good defensive mid. He is very quick and strong and apparently has a good range of passes. He has also been selected player of the season for Sheffield United for the past three seasons. Whether he can grow in stature to be a backbone of a team like the top players are remains to be seen.

Pace will also be important in Europe. That's what cost us the last time, in autumn 2005. Our players struggled to keep up with their continental opposition. This time the team is better prepared, however with the acquisitions of Joleon Lescott and Andrew Johnson. Couple more players with pace would be valuable, however. The three most important abilities any player can have are footballing brain, pace and technique. The first one is the most important because without it most of his other abilities are not realised to their fullest. A player with a good footballing brain can offset lack in other areas. I personally try to look at this when evaluating players. The method is simple: how often does the player do or at least try to do the correct action versus how often he takes the wrong option? Whether a certain pass is succesful is not so important than whether it was the right one to make. Some players can offset a lack in footballing brain by being brilliant in other respects and by relying on these abilities. A very quick player who is a good dribbler can just use those skills rather than try to be a play-maker, but an average player trying the same would just keep loosing the ball. But if the otherwise average player has a good footballing brain he knows when to try to dribble and when not to. The average player might not be so flashy but he can be just as valuable to the team. The trouble is that in order to evaluate this you need to watch the player quite a few times. The flashy player you can just check in the weekly highlights programme.

So what do I think Moyes is planning? I reckon he will want most of the signings to be ones with good brain rather than flashy simply because the latter tend to be more expensive. He will also want to maintain the team spirit. Pace would be nice. And because of the limited funds he will need to try to find a few loans or cheap signings. Hopefully he can pull a rabbit out of the hat like he did with Cahill and Arteta who both cost just over 2 million. In todays prices that's not much. Unfortunately I believe the 2 million players of a few years back are now 3 million. It's hard to find decent Championship players for 2 million, let alone anything better. Hopefully he is as succesful in the transfer front as he was a year ago. If he can find three players of that caliber plus two or three decent ones we should cope ok no matter what the others do. Some of the other teams have a lot more team building to do, Moyes will be able to build on a solid foundation. The teams that generally do well in the Premier are settled sides and it takes a team a season or even two to settle. That's one of the reasons why clubs who keep changing the manager often rarely do well. Each new manager starts the building process over again. Everton doesn't need to do this which is a big bonus. Of course Moyes has had his misses on the market as well, so fingers crossed. At least he doesn't act on a whim and sign anyone who is available.

Reader Comments

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David Barks
1   Posted 06/06/2007 at 23:29:02

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Here here, some perspective and calm brought back to Toffeeweb. We already have a very good side, but a small side. One signing is not going to put us into the Champions League. As long as we keep this team together, add a few players of descent quality and heart for a reasonable price, and hopefully include Fernandes as one of those on a loan, we will be fine. Scott Parker didn’t dominate in Newcastle, so why do people think he will bring trophys to West Ham.

Everton is running a financially sound entity finally, which differs greatly from a lot of the teams currently in the league. These big take overs and big spending only pay off if trophys are won, but only one team can win the league, and only a handful can seriously challenge for the domestic Cups. So in the end these owners of West Ham, Portsmouth, Newcastle, etc. who change managers every year or two and splash the cash on high profile players without thinking about building a solid team, will just lose money and eventually cut their losses and sell the team in debt. Newcastle has taken on huge debts and won nothing. Do we really want to look like them, or should we continue to build a team that is close, works as hard as any other, and has the talent to compete and beat the best in England.
David S.
2   Posted 07/06/2007 at 00:52:52

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Who you think we will buy and their strengths, the tactics buying, the surrounding environment this year, the phsycology of Moyes and the chairmen that pull the strings. Seems if this what you call boring Marko, you seem to have alot to say on the subject! That is, it must be silly season if you say it is, and not the fact that transfer season drives the hopes of our club to unearth that gem, get linked to that superstar who in the back of your mind wont join, but your so exited they may even be thinking about it!!

So don’t diss the transfer window, unless your active and buying players, or you are one of those players, you have no real idea how they work... and that mystery is its beauty, and why people talk to each other, as read columns like yours, to feel apart of it.
3   Posted 07/06/2007 at 02:00:14

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The transfer system is quite unique in football in the sense that you pay for a players contract and every valuation has to be on what the market value of the unit of labour is in the market. Thats the economics of it anyway. The more sides that want any given player, such as AJ a season a go, the higher the value of the player tends to go. Moyes ususally gets the best value out of signings when there is less attention focused on the player, such as Lescott, Cahill and even Arteta. There were no bidding wars for these players, and so their prices stayed quite low.

However, take for example, Nugent. Many fans want him to arrive at Everton. But is his market value £8m? I would suggest that is completely overvalued due to the increase in money supply into football from the premier league’s chairmen. Nugent has had no top flight experience, and a short but nevertheless good career with Preston, so how does this make him worth the same as Andy Johnson a year ago?

Deloitte believe that the first £10m a year player is going to arrive by 2011. I think it will be next June when teams actually receive the new tv money from the premier league.

Everton need to wrap up any signings very quickly before any clubs such as West Ham come in and bid ridiculous sums of money which will inflate the price and stall the deal. Everton are clearly a more attractive proposition than West Ham at the moment with UEFA football secure and a good young core of players as the article suggests.

I disagree with the comment about Fernandes. He is such a young player but will become an international superstar, whether its at Everton or not. Moyes needs to invest in high quality talent every year and there is no doubting his future talent. Of course he is not the finished article, but nor was Arteta when he first arrived. I also believe Fernandes has what it takes to become a very good defensive midfielder in a Vieira type role, as he has a good engine, a good tackle, and an incisive passing ability.

However, time will tell what will happen in this window of opportunity. Let the silly season commence!
Steve L
4   Posted 07/06/2007 at 08:04:44

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One thing everyone is forgetting is Everton’s youth. Moyes has shown he’s not afraid to play young players so he may have some who can come into the squad more next season. There are probably half-a-dozen who are good enough.
kieran fitzgerald
5   Posted 07/06/2007 at 08:07:57

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The problem with a club like ours is that our limited funds amount to us having a salary cap. Compared to the likes of Newcastle and WHU, who seem to have any amount of money to pump into player contracts right now, we don’t. That will obviously be a deciding factor for alot of players looking for a move this summer.

There is little difference in terms of prospects for success between teams outside of the top four. There is the outside possibility of a cup win and maybe UEFA cup qualification. Thats it. The deciding issue will often come down to wages.True, the character of the manager, or the professionalism of a club will sometimes make a difference, but then you look at Newcastle’s reputation, and the players they can still attract and you think twice on this.
Nick Whitham
6   Posted 07/06/2007 at 08:56:51

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In the mirror today we are being linked with Jason Roberts - silly season is defo upon us.
Rob Muldoon
7   Posted 07/06/2007 at 09:27:31

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Remember Fernandes’ goal against Man Utd? Remember Fernandes skinning Cesc Fabregras plus the rest of the Arsenal midfield? Sign this lad up now by any means! He will prove invaluable in European matches Im tellin ya!

Sign Fernandes
Sign Fernandes
Sign Fernandes
Marko Poutiainen
8   Posted 07/06/2007 at 09:46:38

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David S., I came to the same conclusion as you did, so I did add this to the end of the article (it didn’t make it on time to be here):

"So I’m bored about the silly season, yet I can’t help myself looking for all these useless gossip and rumours. There’s just something that tickles the football fan in all this. So it’s not just the hacks to blame, they just write what we want to read. C’est la vie.
Ryan Crest
9   Posted 07/06/2007 at 10:12:09

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Truly a masterpiece of post-modern self-irony. First, you slam all the crazy closed season transfer speculation, then straight into your very own frenzy of pointless footy conjecture. Excellent Work! Very funny!
Marko Poutiainen
10   Posted 07/06/2007 at 11:07:26

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I readily admit I’m part of the problem, Ryan.

But as far as transfer speculation goes, I only mentioned Jagielka, a rumour that actually looks like having some credentials. For the rest of the speculation I only speculated on the types of players Moyes might be interested.

The main criticism I have are the tantrums some fans throw. Like the rumour Everton is interested in signing Jason Roberts for £3.5m. It’s probably complete bullshit, yet there are fans saying Moyes must be stupid to be interested in a shite player like Roberts. 99% of all speculation has no foundation at all, so why react so angrily?
David Leung from HONG KONG
11   Posted 07/06/2007 at 10:25:16

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Why not we try some decent Far East player??!!
I know that there are dozen of Japan and Korea player can compete in the Premiership level, there is not only one Nakamura or Nakata or Park or Lee in Asia. The level of Asia football is in progress, even China beat Holland 2-1 and draw with Portugal 1-1 in the recent Toulon Tournament (U-20 competition). Remember Li Tie had a very good first season with us?! Ono helped Feyenoord to win the UEFA Cup?!

The physical strength and language must be the problems but Asia player have footballing brain that you have mention. The price is low compared with local lads and remember that they can open the Asia market if you find the right guy (Nakamura in Reggina, Nakata in Perugia).
Ben Jones
12   Posted 07/06/2007 at 12:12:33

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I sort of see your point Marko.. and I do agree with you about Jagielka.. but the transfer speculation is good.. I reckon.. it does give an idea of the calibre of players we are hoping to get. I have just seen a rumour that we’re battling Arsenal, Inter, Barcelona and Lyon to get Yaya Toure, who is a class player, probably better than Fernandes. Now, even though, we are not likely to beat the clubs to get Toure, it’s nice for us to be mentioned with these top European clubs. And imagine if he did come to us, that would create a huge positive effect to the team
13   Posted 07/06/2007 at 14:26:56

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well i think that we should buy joe cole or bid for defender micah richards
14   Posted 07/06/2007 at 16:31:35

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I think that we only need a couple players for the first 11, and then a few more that can grow into the team. We desperately need extra cover for Yobo and Lescott. Someone on the right wing would also give us much more width and more space for our strikers. I would rather we bought another Defender and Midfield player, then a few young bargains, who are worth a punt and see how they develop.
James Connolly
15   Posted 11/06/2007 at 09:08:49

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During the previous summer transfer windows under Moyes, I have felt negative about who Moyes would bring in. It always appeared whilst other clubs were going gung-ho bringing in players left right and centre, Everton appeared to be doing nothing. But when you look at the bigger picture, Moyes has been patient, bringing in players that have moved the club forward. And now, I 100% trust the man to do the same again this summer.

Moyes does not become embroiled in the reality TV show that is the transfer window, he simply does what is best for the club.
16   Posted 11/06/2007 at 19:45:56

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Another factor is that, with all the big money clubs buying so-called star players, this should mean that some of their fringe players become available later in the transfer window. We could pick up a Flamini, a Fletcher or an Eagles. Some of the players Portsmouth pick up are these types of player. Campbell, Mendez, etc.
Connor Rohrer
17   Posted 11/06/2007 at 22:16:19

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What I have heard from Blades fans is that Jagielka is a shit centre-mid. And from seeing him play personally I would agree. He lacks certain ingredients in his game to ever become a consistent Premier League centre-mid. And don't read that shit that he is actually that quick. Lescott and Yobo would leave him for dust.

But what he lacks as a midfielder his a definitely a more than capable defender. He is a centre-half but I could see him playing right-back for us if he came. His versatility would be handy.
Aaron Smith
18   Posted 12/06/2007 at 13:19:06

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I totally agree with the points made here but i also know that no matter what your teams circumstances or bank balance you MUST buy new fresh blood players as long as you dont pay silly money for players then you will not waste your money new players lift spirit of the fans, the players, the club on a whole the blue half of city will be talking about them, look at portsmouth they did not break the bank and signed some fantastic class players the likes of campbell kanu even smaller players, obviously 99% of newspapers are either just rumours or have no truth in them at all but everton always seem like they have or will miss out on great talents such as nugent they said £10 millions so we thought that was too much but sunderland have bid £6 million seems liek this is enough for him not only is he practically begging to play for the blue shirt he is proving his class and that he can work his arse off for that shirt, this is obviosuly just a example but it really does seem we constantly miss out on what is good, but after all this i must say moyes has not once dissapointed us with his last minute deals so bring on the slow.....calm.... EFC transfer market.

Jack D
19   Posted 18/06/2007 at 11:23:57

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I think David Moyes should keep an eye on the Asian Cup i know that thers goin 2 b a very good pick during that cup competition and i also recomend the following players

Harry Kewell: A very good winger and a good friend of tim cahill i bit injury prone but he would be very handy (only if we can’t get Downing away from Boro)

Leighton Baines: A great full back that could be very handy when Valente’s gone.

Defoe: Berbatov has been on fire tis season Keane signed a knew deal, plesase moyes dont waste your time with jason roberts Jermain Defoe is the one 2 get

Phil Jagielka: If we sign him them it well alow Phil neville to play in the midlfield witch i think is great.

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