Saturday, February 21, 2009
Europe's January transfer deadline passed a long time ago, and I'm mad late with this post. But, as always, I don't care.
If there's anything to be learned it's that the continent's top clubs care about the recession like Nate Robinson cares about tall peoples' feelings. But if the rest of Europe seemed simply to ignore the recession, English clubs spit in its eye, threw its laptop in the shower, and told everyone it was bad in bed. Spending no less than 160 million pounds, the '09 Premier League nearly doubled the previous transfer record. But, strangely, as far as big names go, the action was pretty practical and overall a little humdrum considering the grand total spent. But there were some interesting moves...
The biggest and most expected deal was the arrival of Russian midfield dynamo Andrei Arshavin at Arsenal. The deal took FOREVER and was disputably finalized past the deadline, but it finally went through for about 17 million lbs. People have been talking about this deal since November, and Arshavin's move from Zenit St. Petersburg to a top-flight club in Western Europe has been inevitable since he turned heads in Euro '08. Arsenal could use his speed, skill on the ball, and passing ability, but mostly his aggression. Arsenal remind me alot of the Dallas Mavericks of the early '00s-- beautiful to watch on offense, soft and often calamitous on defense. The fact that they're missing Fabregas and Walcott makes this deal all the more essential, but if they wanna stop being the pretty-faced (I swear Arsene Wenger picks his players based on their facebook photos) waifs of the big four, they need to invest in some hard-nosed steel in the midfield and defense.
What I thought was one of the more left-field transfers of the mid-season was the pick-up of Ricardo Quaresma by Chelsea. Most didn't expect Chelsea to make any marquee moves at all (except perhaps for a new manager), even thought they're in the beginning stages of a late-season crisis. But that they picked up a player as notably flashy and dynamic as Quaresma, was especially intriguing. Essentially frozen out of the rotation by Jose Mourinho at Inter Milan, Quaresma was having a tough go in Italy, and Chelsea managed to swoop in relatively under-the-radar and procure him on loan. (Inter still owns the rights to him.) (By the way, the loan system is an amazingly practical aspect of the football transfer system; American sports should really try it.) Anyway, Ricardo's dope. He's got a style and swagger that you might describe as a bit, for lack of a less ethnographical term, 'hip-hop.' He's a bit inconsistent when it comes to results (i.e. goals assists), kind of like fellow Portuguesa Ronaldo back in the day, but he should add a spark of speed and ingenuity to a squad that often plays like a robot army. It'll be interesting to see how Quaresma gets utilized, particularly with the arrival of new coach Gus Hiddink, since the deal was made with former manager Scolari still in charge.
Most Immediately Effective
I like two transfers for this category. Both were fairly subtle; both involved forwards; and both have paid instant dividends in the form of goals. Aston Villa's procurement of veteran England striker Emile Heskey (from Wigan) and Everton's loan deal for Brazilian frontman Jo from Manchester City were as smart as they were slightly unexpected. Heskey has quietly proven himself over the course of his somewhat wandering career, to be as consistent a striker as any in England. A Strong target and clinical finisher, the forward was singled out by both Michael Owen and Wayne Rooney as far and away their favorite forward to play with on the national team squad, mainly because of his unselfishness approach to the game. His experience and willingness to share the ball should be a huge asset both in the development of his sparkling young strike partner Gabbie Agbonlahor and in helping Villa hold on to 3rd in the league table and a much coveted (much deserved) Champions League spot. Heskey proved the point in classic style when he scored in his debut match for Villa a few weeks ago.
Jo also scored twice in his debut for Everton last weekend, as they beat Bolton 3-0. The lanky Brazilian was having trouble getting into the flow of things at Manchester City and a loan to Everton will probably prove beneficial to both clubs, provided his good form and continued growth in confidence continue and Manchester City is able to bring him back after awhile. But, if he keeps this up, Everton will definitely seek to buy him permanently from the disgustingly rich Man Citizens when the summer rolls around. Jo looked exceedingly comfortable and fluid this past weekend and scored two silky goals in the second half that underscored the player's smooth style and real potential to become one of the EPL's biggest threats. Everton need him badly as three of their top-choice strikers-- Louis Saha, Yakubu, and James Vaughan-- are all currently out with injuries.
The truth of the matter the end of the season ss been shaping up to be a crazy one and would be even if no moves were made last month. But, the midseason re-shuffling always makes things more interesting. The biggest story of the season is Aston Villa crashing the big four party at the top of the table. Manchester City still has more money than the economic stimulus package, and Arsenal and Chelsea are most likely in serious trouble. My boys Man Utd. just keeps rollin.' I'm psyched.