Window closes on winners and losers
Relief for Arsenal fans that Wenger has got his chequebook out, more big spending by Stoke but gathering gloom for Evertonians
The madness of the transfer window: Neil Warnock was at Loftus Road on Wednesday night, desperately trying to complete deals as the clock ticked down, when he saw on Sky Sports News that Jason Puncheon had entered the ground. "What's he doing here?" thought the QPR manager.
Warnock had given up on getting the Southampton striker, a long-time target, and was concentrating on landing Anton Ferdinand, who was stuck in traffic following an accident (involving someone else) as he tried to make his way from his medical to west London.
Elsewhere at the club, however, staff and executives had kept the Puncheon deal alive. In the end, to Warnock's relief, he landed both to complete a frantic six days in which QPR signed seven players.
"It is the worst transfer window week I've ever had," he said yesterday. "I normally try and get things done early, but needs must. I'm absolutely delighted. The only player we missed out on was Craig Bellamy, we couldn't compete with Liverpool, but I'm exhausted."
Warnock is not alone. The months, days and nights of negotiating, with players, their agents, their wives, the chairmen, and the bank manager, have finally come to a halt and for a brief weekend the Premier League's managers can draw breath and grab some sleep as the internationals return. But then the reckoning will begin.
In eight months' time, those managers will know whether that deadline-day signing of a fifth-choice centre-forward was a moment of lucky inspiration, or another step along the road to unemployment.
The 20 Premier League clubs spent £485m this summer, a third up on last summer, with nearly £100m being paid in the last 24 hours of the window.
For managers such as Arsene Wenger at Arsenal, Stoke's Tony Pulis and Warnock, what happened this week has probably altered for the better the direction their season will take.
For David Moyes at Everton and Newcastle's Alan Pardew, however, deadline day brought mainly frustration while Harry Redknapp, Andre Villas-Boas, Steve Bruce and Steve Kean had mixed feelings with Spurs, Chelsea, Sunderland and Blackburn respectively when the window finally closed.
And the other top-flight managers? The smart shoppers, notably Alex Ferguson but also Mick McCarthy at Wolves and Norwich's Paul Lambert among others, acted early and avoided the late frenzy.
The effect of all this activity was to take the 2011 spend to a record £710m, according to Deloitte. Dan Jones, partner in the Sports Business Group at Deloitte, said: "Football is not immune to what is going on in the wider economy, but it is pretty resistant to it."
Some changes in spending are apparent as Uefa's Financial Fair Play rules loom. There has been greater investment in English talent, with Premier League clubs laying out £165m on local players (up from £50m last summer) and an increase in loan deals.
"With FFP, if you are trying to balance your books you don't want higher wages for players who are not playing," Jones pointed out. "Therefore you will move them on."
Another accounting company, Grant Thornton, noted Premier League clubs' spending in the home market rose from 28pc to 58pc of their total outlay. While this may have been related to sterling's weakness against the euro, Premier League rules requiring at least eight 'home-grown' players in the 25-man squads was said to be the main factor.
This contributed to greater investment in young talent, with £130m spent on players under the age of 21, double last year's total. As a result, money filtering down into the Championship trebled to £72m.
As far as most managers and fans were concerned, however, when their club's deadline-day activity was assessed, the team sheet mattered much more than the balance sheet.
BUSY BUT HAPPY:
ARSENAL, QPR & STOKE CITY
Arsenal's early season crisis forced Wenger to break most of his self-imposed transfer rules as he brought in five players in the last few days of the transfer window.
All, admittedly, were foreign, but Mikel Arteta (29) and Yossi Benayoun (31) are geriatrics by Wenger's standards while Per Mertesacker is taller and slower than most recent acquisitions. Nevertheless, Arsenal now look much better equipped to handle the season. It does beg the question: why did Wenger not act earlier?
Warnock had no choice. Until Tony Fernandes bought QPR a fortnight ago, he had no money to spend. He has subsequently strengthened both team and squad, bringing in genuine quality in Joey Barton and Shaun Wright-Phillips.
Pulis had been working on targets such as the Spurs pair of Peter Crouch and Wilson Palacios for days, but only secured them in the final hours.
Stoke's £22m splash on Wednesday (Pulis was also able to grab Cameron Jerome from Birmingham) may surprise some, but thanks to the backing of chairman Peter Coates, they have spent a net £85m in the last four years.
SPURS, CHELSEA, SUNDERLAND & BLACKBURN
Redknapp signed Scott Parker and held on to Luka Modric but missed out on Bolton's Gary Cahill and Bellamy, and has had to trim his squad.
Villas-Boas discovered that Chelsea's owner, Roman Abramovich, is no longer prepared to bankroll any fee with both Modric and the Porto full-back Alvaro Pereira proving out of reach.
Steve Bruce was forced to settle for Nicklas Bendtner after missing out on Crouch, Parker and Barton.
Kean had to pay 50pc more for Scott Dann than Wolves paid for Dann's erstwhile defensive partner at Birmingham, Roger Johnson. He has kept Chris Samba, Junior Hoilett and Steven Nzonzi, but Everton were finally able to unload Yakubu on him.
EVERTON & NEWCASTLE
Newcastle, as Barton noted on Twitter, have sold himself, Andy Carroll, Jose Enrique and Kevin Nolan. They have signed several low-profile foreign players new to the Premier League.
If they are all as inspired a signing as Cheick Tiote -- and Davide Santon comes with a promising reputation -- that will not be a problem.
As for Everton, Moyes was apparently "very disappointed" at losing Arteta, and no wonder because the timing left him with no chance to find a replacement.
However, the club's bank may not have allowed him to buy one anyway, such is the state of the club's finances, and the Spaniard's departure will provide opportunities for Jack Rodwell and Ross Barkley to develop.
Independent News Service