The Transfer Window Cometh
The transfer window opens three weeks on Sunday - the mid-season opportunity for clubs to refresh their squads ready for the second half of the campaign.
As ever - or so it seems at Sunderland - the window will be a desperately crucial bid to add what is needed to launch a sustained survival bid.
Last season's effort has gone down in Wearside folklore. Sam Allardyce worked wonders in signing sufficient quality to get the job done. Big Sam's acquisitions of Khazri, Kone and Kirchhoff transformed his struggling Sunderland side into what would become one of the form teams in the Premier League in the final few months of the season.
The January clinging-cycle remains a feature Sunderland are unable to break though. After another desperately poor start to the season, the aim all along has been to cling onto the coat tails of those above us and regroup in the post-Christmas haze.
Three wins in four games gives David Moyes that opportunity and his side are back in touch with the relegation-threatened pack. That chance should not be under-estimated and it gives Sunderland hope going into the new year.
But, more than that - the nine points gained in four weeks has given Moyes some bargaining power that he didn't possess a month ago.
Firstly, Sunderland looked dead and gone at the end of October and if that had continued, which player in their right mind would have agreed to join in January? Only the desperate or the mercenary no doubt.
Second, we've all heard the warnings about the club being brassic and not to expect much in the way of investment in the upcoming window. But, if his club looked utterly doomed to the financial armageddon of relegation a few weeks ago, Ellis Short must have some renewed optimism that Moyes might just keep us afloat long enough to keep the TV money rolling in until he can find a buyer.
How Much & What’s The Policy?
As to David Moyes’ available budget – who knows? The Sunderland boss was asked about how much he would have to spend in January at last week’s press conference – his response, “no idea”.
No one expected him to announce the exact value contained within his ‘war-chest’, but Moyes continues to display the occasional bout of public-relations naivety like this.
First we had the ‘expect a relegation battle’ declaration in August which went down like a magpie in the Fulwell, and dogged the opening exchanges of the season by being used repeatedly against him. The media have yet to move on from 'Moyes' Manchester United Failure', so to hand them a stick to beat him with was foolish.
Then to claim he has been kept utterly in the dark over a January budget only served to add to the suspicion amongst supporters that there isn’t a penny to be found. Downplaying expectations is what Moyes has built a career on, but a suitably savvy response along the usual football management lines of “I’ll be sitting down with the Chairman shortly but I know he shares my desire to strengthen the squad” would have sufficed.
But then we can possibly predict a few things based on Sunderland business in the last few years. Recent transfer windows have followed two golden rules in the land of Ellis Short.
First, business tends to be done late – with a fondness for a few deadline day deals. It’s either rank disorganisation or a deliberate ploy to bring a little brinkmanship to the proceedings. It may also be a tactic to distract supporters, a quiet window - and then when all looks lost whip out a few new faces. There’s always the risk of disappointment – but most fans will just be pleased we signed someone/anyone by that point.
Whatever – it rarely works. It took till November for Sunderland’s ‘big money’ August signings - Didier Ndong and Papy Djilobodji - to get up to speed in the English Premier League. And if Khazri, Kone and Kirchhoff hit the ground running last year and were signings of aplomb, they could just as easily have been Dame Ndoye-ish.
Sam Allardyce didn’t help matters this summer by waltzing off to England, but the late arrivals lounge at Sunderland dates back to when Lee Congerton was the brains behind the operation and was warning supporters that his feverish attempts at landing some bargains sourced from scouring the globe would take him a little time. If Fabio Borini was a deadline day deliverance last summer, imagine making supporters wait all window-long only to unveil Ricky Alvarez and Sebastian Coates at the eleventh hour the previous year.
The second golden rule of Ellis Short’s transfer window – you can have £20m - £25m, but make it stretch. That’s pretty much the figure that the Sunderland owner seems to have settled on as ‘about right’ in each splurge. It’s what Dick Advocaat received last summer, Sam Allardyce in January and David Moyes when he arrived in July.
Yet of course Sunderland remain one of the bigger spenders in the league. It’s the manner of purchasing that’s the issue. The ‘quality’ that the squad requires to compete outside of the bottom three in the Premier League never lands. Money is spread across squad players who seem to arrive with a 50/50 chance of making the first team for any sustained period.
We’ve heard the whispers Ellis Short wouldn’t sanction certain deals in the summer – Troy Deeney and Leonardo Ulloa to name two. Instead players available on favourable finance terms were sought. Buy-now-pay-later is common place in football, but to build your entire transfer policy on it seems ludicrous.
Regardless, even that looks likely to change for the worse this time around. A general acceptance has been reached that there will barely be a penny and Moyes will have to sell to buy. Wages will be another problem with the club hovering around its Financial Fair Play limit.
Sunderland will likely aim low and spend late. If David Moyes has sufficient sway with the owner and Chief Executive perhaps he will be able to persuade them to land two ‘decent’ signings in key areas this time around, and pad the squad out with the acquisition of a few younger players with experience of playing in the British Isles – as is the Moyes publicly stated policy.
Saying all that - transfer windows - dontcha just love them! So, Roker Report's NewsWipe will welcome its snotty brother, TransferWipe, for the next few weeks as we keep an eye on the potential comings and goings at the Stadium of Light. Stay tuned!