The summer transfer window. Possibly the most overhyped event every year, other than Christmas of course.
Most Palace supporters have viewed our recent transfer window activity as pretty underwhelming, but are we actually that unusual? Having looked at the outcomes of other club’s seemingly more successful transfer windows maybe we should not be so depressed about it.
Let us start with the dream transfer window.
We sign a number of quality players (ideally that we have heard of), for a decent amount of money (not too much mind, don’t want to risk the future finances of the club), getting our business done early so that the new players can bed in before the season starts. And of course, bearing in mind everyone is more or less fishing in the same pond we will find the gems no-one else has uncovered (apologies for the hopelessly mixed metaphor there!).
Sounds easy but then again paying for a lottery ticket and winning millions sounds pretty easy too.
The reality, for a club of our size, is that winning the lottery is about as likely as us having a transfer window like that. What the club can control is having a decent scouting system so that at least we can identify the right players. Over the past couple of years the signings of Luka Mlivojevic, Jairo Riedewald and Alexander Sorloth suggest we are going in the right direction. These are players who are (or have the potential to become) key players for us and were not recognised Premier League players already.
As for getting the deal done, the club is dependent on the selling club and the player having realistic demands. I can understand why Steve Parish and co. are not keen on paying over the odds. I don’t know anyone who wants to get ripped off, so why should we expect our club to?
The fact is, the big boys often get it wrong but they can afford mistakes. We cannot. There is no point even listing examples of flops signed in recent years by the likes of the two Manchester clubs, Chelsea and to a slightly lesser extent Liverpool and Arsenal. Only Tottenham seems to have got it more or less right in the past couple seasons but even they had a Gareth Bale fuelled spending disaster not that long ago. The simple difference is the top club finances mean the odd £30-£40million thrown away does not matter that much. It does to us.
Of course, there is also the problem that no football supporter is ever happy with the transfer dealings of their club, even if you support the likes of Manchester City or Manchester United. Even if hundreds of millions are being spent there is invariably at least one player that got away or there is regret over players sold to free up space in the squad and balance the books. At best, you will get a pronouncement that the transfer window was “OK”, whoever you support.
The clubs who seem to have been more active than us in the transfer market such as West Ham United, StokeCity, Swansea City and even Everton have all to some extent come to grief in the past season. So signing players quickly for the sake of it is really not the way to go. Huddersfield Town and (dare I say it) Brighton seem to have done better, in part, because they do not have the same expense restrictions being newly promoted clubs.
Ultimately, the test for me is whether we have signed players who have made a meaningful contribution to the team’s performances and overall, I would say we have had more hits than misses. Yohan Cabaye, Christian Benteke (okay, last season was not great but without his goals during the season before we would have not been in the Premier League last season), James Tomkins, Mamadou Sakho, James McArthur and Andros Townsend are all summer signings who have made a real difference.
Yes, there are some signings that have not worked out, Jordan Mutch springs to mind, and the failure to sign a striker last summer was a risk we just about got away with but looked at objectively for a club of our size, we have done okay.
So, I look forward to being distinctly disappointed with our summer transfer dealings again and will be crossing my fingers that, once again, we will have done enough to keep the wolf of relegation from our door, but without bankrupting the club in the process. In any event, we will always have January to clear up any mess left over from the summer. Right?