Sport

Should the January transfer window still be a thing?

The January transfer market can often be a time of intense activity as teams look to fine-tune their squads for the remainder of the season. It can also look on the outside like clubs are panicking and frantically trying to reinforce an underperforming squad to improve results. But, every now and then the question is asked; why is there a transfer window in January anyway? The concept has faced opposition before. I think Arsene Wenger once voiced his dislike of the January window. I’m not overly fond of the winter transfer window either, to be honest. I’m a firm believer that a squad needs some time to properly gel with each other before they will play their best football. If there is constant flux and change within the squad, how on earth is a manager supposed to work with the players to get a style of play bedded in and become natural to the players. Coaching players to respond to match situations in the manner you want to see takes time, patience and a lot of hard work from coaches and players. It’s why I am fully behind Graham Potter remaining in charge at Chelsea. The club’s new owners want to move away from the old hire and fire model of the Abramovich era. They want to put something in place that is altogether more sustainable, geared towards long term success.

Of course, once upon a time, there were no transfer windows. Clubs could simply sign players whenever a deal was agreed. Gianfranco Zola arrived at Chelsea in the November of 1996 rather than the summer like the late, great Gianluca Vialli. And there is something to be said about getting rid of transfer windows all together and letting clubs sign players at any point. If two clubs and the players can all come to an agreement on a transfer, why not let them get on with it and allow the player to move? It means that you would never again have a situation where players are agitating for months for a move, causing all sorts of problems within the dressing room. Instead, they and the club could agree to facilitate a move now and get everything over and done with. I’m sure that would appeal to clubs and players alike. Whatsmore, it would mean that players wouldn’t have to wait if they were moving to a league that was run on a calendar basis rather than by season. For instance, the MLS in America starts in late February or early March with the regular season running until mid to late October. They have the playoffs and the MLS Cup in November. Whereas the English Premier League (as well as nearly all European leagues) run from August to the following May, through the winter months. If there was no transfer window, a player could move from one league to the other without having to wait to play.

However, an argument could be made that in fact, the January transfer window should be done away with and the only time players can move clubs should be during the summer. And I can see the arguments in favour of this approach as well. It means that a squad is locked in for the season and the coach has time to get the players together, bond them as a team, put his ideas across and shape the team according to his ideas about how football should be played and so on. It would also mean more long-term planning, given that new signings could only be made during the off-season. You also have far more time to complete a transfer in the summer; that includes time to negotiate the fee. You see this so often with January transfers. The fee is inflated to the point of stupidity because teams do not want to lose their best players in the middle of a season. And off the top of my head (I’m sure I’ve forgotten someone), I can’t think of a player since Gary Cahill who was a success at Chelsea having signed in the January transfer window. Chelsea have now signed four players in this window and I obviously want them all to succeed. But I think it is time to give serious consideration to whether having a winter transfer window is in the best interests of the game.

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