With number of hairs on Homer Simpson‚..s head outnumbering the amount of points separating key parts of the league this year the January transfer window could be more influential than ever. Of course, other factors, such as fixture congestion and injuries, will have their say on where the trophies and places in Europe go but it would be nice to think that the fresh impact of new signings could be crucial too. Having a look at the business done by the teams at the top indicates that the second half of the season will do anything but mirror the first few months.
Manchester United could well become victims of their own success this year. I hope I am wrong but the Herculean number of fixtures they are required to play would finish off a team of Russian coal miners. Despite saying there would be no new signings in the window Fergie has, in fact, smuggled in several young players who are currently jogging around the same snow-covered training pitch as the first team. Some people would call these guys signings Alex. I think Fergie saw the level expectation placed on the shoulders of Nani and Anderson from the get-go and decided he just doesn‚..t want the undue attention this time. None are likely to win a regular starting berth this term anyway. United‚..s squad and set-up do look the strongest but, the phrase ‚..injuries permitting‚.. is all important when assessing their chances. Many of us will also remember 1992 when we had to play four games in eight days, collected two points and missed out on the league.
Villa have moved adroitly. Could there have been a smarter buy than Heskey this January, anywhere? He comes at a reasonable price, he does exactly the job the team needs him to do and he is on old-back-slapping terms with his new manager. Villa do, I am afraid, have the weakest squad of the teams at the top - but ¬£10 on them to pip the others to the title does not look a bad bet right now. I expect them to finish the season strongly.
Liverpool of course, have kicked out Robbie Keane. It is difficult to find a word more flattering than ‚..debacle‚.. to describe how the Irishman has been handled. Hocking him back to Spurs put visions in my head of a sweaty Benitez in the refunds queue at Marks & Spencers with an unwanted Christmas jumper, ‚..it‚..s the wrong style,‚.Ě he shrieks, the rest of the customers stare blankly at their shoes. Benitez leaves the store and shivers in the cold, he is in need of a jumper. That said, Liverpool have started winning again now that he has departed. I still fail to see how this improves their squad though.
Chelsea are in a bit of trouble at the moment. The crucial area in which they needed to improve was in the position of first team coach. Steve Clarke‚..s influence seems to have been slightly forgotten by their hierarchy, and their players, stupendously gifted as they are, look a little lazy of late. Quaresma, whilst very decent, has looked like a man with his confidence shot to bits in recent months. I highly doubt he will make an immediate and positive impact. They could drop extremely low if Everton continue to march onwards and upwards.
Arsenal are a team capable of beating anybody, and with some panache too, but they are a little short on consistency and a ruthless influence at times in the final third. Enter the amusingly named Mr. Arshavin. He is, I feel, a player touched by genius and could have a major effect on how the London club play for their remaining games. Coming from Russia he should be a fairly hardy fellow and not be bogged down in the ‚..adapting to the Premier League‚.. tribulations many have to go through. I also believe that Wenger is a good enough manager to handle his suspected prima donna tendencies. Arsenal are a team to watch out for at the moment.
On the basis of the transfers done, we can expect to see the biggest improvement from the teams at the Emirates and Villa Park. Arsene Wenger and Martin O‚..Neill will also feel they still have a lot of damage to do this season. The problem for both of them is that the title is now, very much, in Manchester United‚..s hands.