Liverpool 2 Man Utd 0. The Red Devils' lack of quality is jarring
The thing about the January transfer window is that clubs will generally have to shop for players in the equivalent of Singapore’s neighbourhood wet markets, rather than the likes of Cold Storage or FairPrice Finest.
Not that there’s anything bad about wet markets, mind you. You can find lots of fresh and affordable produce there that can be turned into a tasty meal in the hands of the right cook. But, if you’re looking for caviar, pâté, and wine, then you’d be better off shopping at the more atas (higher SES) supermarkets.
This is all a very convoluted way of saying that, unless your club has lots to spend, chances are, they won’t be able to sign the best players in January.
After all, no club worth their salt will ever willingly sell their star players midway through the season when there’s still lots to play for – at least, not without forcing the buying club to pay a premium.
Which is why I’m not expecting Arsenal to do much business in January, because firstly, we’ve already spent quite a huge chunk of money in the previous transfer window, and secondly, we NEVER pay over the odds for a player.
Goddamn Shkodran Mustafi aside, that is.
Anyhow, I won’t be too bothered even if Arsenal don’t make a signing this January as we’ve already completed the most important transfer for the club, by bringing in Mikel Arteta in from Manchester City to be our head coach.
Because I believe the biggest problem with the Gunners these past few years has not been with the the quality of the playing squad (once again, goddamn Shkodran Mustafi aside).
Rather, the issue has always been with the coaching at Arsenal – and yes, much as I love and respect Arsene Wenger, his refusal to adapt to the modern game meant he was as much at fault for this as the hapless Unai Emery.
But, Arteta is different. As I’ve outlined before, he has what it takes to make Arsenal great again. And, with him at the helm now, we’re already beginning to see the difference in how Arsenal are playing.
That’s why I’m confident that Arsenal can see through the rest of the season (I’ve long given up on us finishing in the top-four of the EPL) with the squad that we currently possess. In fact, I’m even hopeful of Arteta leading this bunch of players to victory in the FA Cup and the Europa League.
So, no signings are really necessary for Arsenal, I think. Although I wouldn’t say no to us buying a new defender either.
Because, you know, goddamn Shkodran Mustafi.
Unlike Arsenal, Manchester City have the financial clout to spend as frivolously as I do whenever there’s a Taobao sale (diet water? Add to cart, please).
Given that they’re a whopping 18 points behind league leaders Liverpool, it’s clear that Pep Guardiola’s Man City need reinforcements. Well, reinforcement. Because there’s only one gaping hole in their star-studded team at the moment, and that’s in the centre of defence.
Despite being only 22 years of age, the deliciously-named Villarreal centre-back has already attracted the attention of some of the top teams in the world.
Brave in the tackle, intelligent on the ball, and possessing excellent technical ability, he has all the right ingredients (char siew, sadly, not included) to be one of the best defenders in the world in future.
And while it may take some time for Torres to get to that level, signing him, at least, will allow Guardiola to start playing current makeshift centre-back Fernandinho back in his natural position in midfield, where he is much more effective.
Signing Torres now will also give him a chance to familiarise himself with the rigours of the EPL without the pressure of a title race – because we all know Liverpool will be crowned champions this season – which will be hugely beneficial for his development in the long-term.
“The shackles are off! We’re free! FRRREEEEEEEE!!!” goes the cry at Stamford Bridge. Frank Lampard rests his head on the shoulder of his assistant Jody Morris, weeping tears of joy, as Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich fires wads of Rubles/Pounds/Dollar bills into the air with his diamond-encrusted money gun.
That is the dramatised version of what I imagine occurred at Chelsea when Fifa reduced their transfer ban, allowing them to sign players this January.
Well, that time has finally come. And, while Lampard has done well so far this season with his youthful team, he could still do with strengthening his team in certain key positions, which makes the following players attractive propositions.
No, not that ex-Spurs midfielder who’s now learning about the joys of mala xiang guo in China. I’m talking about the French striker who’s now plying his trade at Lyon, and has scored a respectable 10 goals in 18 Ligue 1 games so far this season.
The 23-year-old is quick, packs a powerful shot, and has great movement off-the-ball. He’ll fit in perfectly in this current Chelsea set-up, which plays a direct, attacking style of football.
At the very least, Dembélé will provide current Chelsea frontman Tammy Abraham with genuine competition – something that Olivier Giroud has failed to do this season.
At 27 years of age, he’s not quite the spring chicken that Chelsea fans have become accustomed to seeing in their team. However, it doesn’t take away from the fact that Crystal Palace’s Zaha is tricky, experienced, and a handful for most defences in the EPL.
With both Pedro and Willian on the wrong side of 30, the Blues could do with freshening up their personnel on the wings, and Zaha – who’s entering the prime of his career – could add a whole new dimension to Chelsea’s attack.
The only issue with signing Zaha is Palace’s reported £80 million (S$141m) valuation of the player. But, then again, that sum is probably just small change to Abramovich and his money gun.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Man Utd fans have been clamouring for the Glazers to leave the club for so long now, that their wait for 27-year-old Jesse Lingard to fulfil his potential seems like nothing in comparison.
Sure, the Glazers may not be as miserly as some fans claim, but the fact that they think Ed Woodward – Man Utd’s executive vice-chairman who pretends to be the club’s director of football – is doing a good job is precisely why the Glazers need to go.
Any owner in charge of a top football club would have removed Woodward and hired someone more competent by now. Or they would have at least established a proper hierarchy to ensure that Man Utd remained competitive.
The Glazers have failed to do either, and have instead turned Man Utd into a bigger circus than Cirque du Soleil.
A competent midfielder, for crying out loud. Or maybe three
Man Utd need to strengthen in every department. But a club that has Fred, Andreas Pereira and Lingard playing together regularly in midfield (a recipe for disaster, I should add) needs to smack themselves – hard – in the head. Because that’s what us fans are doing at every match.
Marouane Fellaini might have been widely criticised, but there is no doubt that if he were still a Red Devil, he would be head and shoulders above what we now have - literally and figuratively.
With Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood leading the attack, scoring goals is not a problem for Man Utd. The issue is that there’s no-one to create chances for them. It hasn’t helped that Paul Pogba has spent most of the season in sickbay rather than on the pitch.
There are plenty of names who are available out there, like Benfica’s Gedson Fernandes, Juventus’ Emre Can or Tottenham Hotspur’s Christian Eriksen.
Of course, Leicester City’s James Maddison (feature image) would be the ideal signing. But you have to be more deluded than Liverpool fans during Roy Hodgson’s era to actually believe there’s any chance of the Foxes letting him go.