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Transfers

SUNDERLAND
INS: Carlos Cuellar (free, Aston Villa), Louis Saha (free, Tottenham), Steven Fletcher (£14million, Wolves), Adam Johnson (undiscl., Man City), Danny Rose (loan, Tottenham).

OUTS: Craig Gordon (released), Trevor Carson (free, Bury), Jordan Cook (free, Charlton), George McCartney (undisc., West Ham), Asamoah Gyan (£6m, Al-Ain), Michael Liddle (undisc, Accrington Stanley), Ahmed Elmohamady (loan, Hull), Kieran Richardson (£2m, Fulham).

Martin O’Neill may not strike you as a glamour puss but he can spend another man’s money with impressive gusto. Big Fletch is bussed in from Birmingham to prevent riots on the streets of Sunderland when they realise that The Greatest Striker To Ever Live has been relocated to Turin. Fletcher’s fee has raised a few eyebrows, but goals are his business and business is already booming. Adam Johnson also joins, recently described as “the favourite City player of people who don’t watch City”. He’s definitely dangerous in attack and has oodles of end product, the only question will be if the sight of a tiny Irishman frantically gesticulating can inspire some defensive contribution from the young man (Copyright Ray Wilkins). Louis Saha is shipped in, presumably in bubble wrap, to give the Physio’s a challenge. Martin’s best friend Carlos joins him in the north and Craig Gordon’s Sunderland shambles comes to a close.

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MANCHESTER UNITED

INS: Shinji Kagawa (£12m, Borussia Dortmund), Nick Powell (£4m, Crewe), Robin van Persie (£24m, Arsenal), Alex Buttner (£3.9million, Vitesse Arnhem).

OUTS: Michael Owen (released), Oliver Norwood (undisclosed, Huddersfield), Matty James, Ritchie De Laet (both undisclosed to Leicester), Tomasz Kuszczak (free, Brighton), Fabio (loan, QPR). Ji-Sung Park (£2m, QPR), John Cofie (loan, Sheffield United), Ben Amos (loan, Hull), Reece Brown (loan, Coventry), Dimitar Berbatov (£4m, Fulham).

Van Persie grabs all the headlines for United. A coup few expected at the start of the summer, snaffled from under City’s noses. Van Persie may come with a hefty price tag for a man of his age with his injury record, but if he delivers at the rate he did for Arsenal in the past two seasons, then Ferguson will be fully vindicated.

Kagawa is the footballing hipster’s choice of Premier League transfer of the season. A player with intricate link play and phenomenal numbers for Borussia Dortmund in assists and goals. @miketweetgood expounds here on why it is moronic to view Kagawa as primarily a marketing ploy https://feetballs.wordpress.com/2012/06/05/is-it-racist/ .

Büttner and Powell will provide added potential and numbers. Evra clearly needs a rival (especially with Fabio out on loan), Büttner seems to divide Dutch opinion on whether he will be a feasible rival to that slot.

It’s evident that Ferguson has also wanted to strip out some of the high-earning squad players, so Berbatov, Owen, Park, and Kuszczak all depart. Park was over-the-hill after great service, and Berbatov sadly never quite fitted (though was glorious on those days when he did).

Central midfield continues to be a resolute transfer blindspot for Ferguson. He seems determined to make Andesron work, and allow Cleverley the space to flourish.

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The glorious Pablo kicks off our 3 day, 3 part transfer extravaganza where we list every deal in the bloody league and give our two cents on what the business will mean for the season ahead.

ARSENAL
INS: Lukas Podolski (£11m, FC Köln), Olivier Giroud (£13m, Montpellier), Santi Cazorla (£16m, Malaga).

OUTS: Rhys Joe Campbell (loan, Real Betis), Denilson (loan, Sao Paulo), Manuel Almunia (free, Watford), Benik Afobe (loan, Bolton), Carlos Vela (undiscl, Real Sociedad), Ryo Miyaichi (loan, Wigan), Wellington Silva (loan, Ponferrada), Robin van Persie (£24m, Manchester United), Alex Song, (£15m, Barcelona), Henri Lansbury (£1m, Nottingham Forest), Ju Young Park, (loan, Celta Vigo), Nicklas Bendtner (loan, Juventus)

Had Arsenal kept Robin “the little boy inside me” Van Persie you’d have to say they had improved their squad significantly with more midfield guile in the form of Santi Cazorla, and more attacking threat up top in the form of Giroud and Podolski. The only problem was RVP let “the little boy inside me” do all his talking and as we all know, it’s hard to convince “little boys” to do anything productive when they start to whinge like bitches. Noticeable “outs” apart from the Dutchman with a child inside him is Alex Song, primed for a midfield ‘enforcer’ role the Cameroonian actually played quite well in dribs and drabs last season and may be missed in the middle until Wilshere (who is an actual “little boy”) gets back anyway. In other good news Bendtner left. In other bad news the ‘Moroccan Bendtner’ Marouane Chamakh stayed.

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Good morning internet inhabitants.

Today while lurking around the Twittersphere, like a man standing on the brink of his restraining order perimeter, I saw some of the usual Gooner grumblings.

“this transfer window has been fucking awful”

“if we don’t make 2 more signings then this is worse than last year”

etc etc

Now clearly this level of discontent is not unusual amongst the ranks of the Arsenal, but what was slightly unusual is that I was slightly taken aback. I don’t think that this window has been that bad really. I mean obviously if you look at one incident in isolation, say (hypothetically) a man I used to love leaving for a club I have little love for, then it’s been fucking awful. But as a whole, I’m a little more positive.

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Today Manchester United sealed the signature of Shinji Kagawa, a player who has been instrumental in Borrusia Dortmund’s recent Bundesliga domination and a signing as close to perfect as any.

In Kagawa Manchester United have a world class player with little hype heaped upon his shoulders in comparison to the similarly talented Gotze and Hazard. A key player in Dortmund’s effort to keep the Bundesliga title out the grasp of the traditional teutonic powerhouses Bayern Munich for two seasons in a row. A player in the last year of his contract and “only” on around £20k a week (38% of a Djourou), so even if his wages were quadrupled he would still arguably be a steal when compared to the aforementioned Hazard’s oligarchic £170k a week. A player who has performed on the biggest stages, putting Bayern to the sword in the German cup final. And finally Kagawa at only 23, is a player with vast potential who has already achieved the consistency of a veteran in one of the worlds toughest leagues.

All things considered you would assume that Fergie would be busy deflecting praise for such a managerial master stroke with the steady, nonchalant ease he masticates his way through a family pack of Wrigleys. However the predominant reaction, as with any Asian player, has been a knowing tap of the proverbial nose. “you sly manc bastards, you’re going to be bollocks deep in a big ol’ bento box of that sweet commercial Yen”.

It is rare that players of any other nationality have the same moronic assumption cast upon their signings, and when it is mentioned there is no suggestion that it is the sole reason for their recruitment. For example when Cristiano Ronaldo sealed his £80 million transfer to Real it was mentioned that £80 million wasn’t that much really, because they would sell quite a lot of shirts, likewise with Beckham’s transfer to Real. However at no point was it suggested that the undeniable marketability of these two players was the overriding reason for their signings, an ugly assumption which seems to follow any Asian signing today.

It seems bizarre to remember that it was only the success of Park Ji “three lung” Sung at Manchester United in 2005 that dispelled the blatant racism spouted by pundits that “Asian players can’t adapt to the premier league”. Racism justified with “Asian’s aren’t strong enough, there are too many cultural differences…”. Over 2 billion people cast aside with one cack handed statement, a statement eerily reminiscent of the following quote from Crystal Palace manager Ron Noades in 1991:

“The problem with black players is they’ve great pace, great athletes, love to play with the ball in front of them…when it’s behind them it’s chaos. I don’t think too many of them can read the game. When you’re getting into the midwinter you need a few of the hard white men to carry the athletic black players through”

The sad fact is that this statement was far from an isolated incident, with black players derided throughout the 1980’s with statements such as “they’ve no bottle” “they don’t like the cold” “you don’t want too many of them in your defence”. These statements should seem ridiculous to any educated adult, yet we retain our inherent prejudice when it comes to Asian players. Any article on Kagawa’s imminent arrival will look to quell the nerves of fans with reassurances about his strength, and might even mention how he’s settled in to Germany so well.

There’s no doubt that Asian player’s can be commercially lucrative, but only when they are also excellent players. A requirement no different than that of white or black players. Players like Rooney, Wilshere, Drogba and Henry are the faces of Gillette and Pepsi because they are supremely skilled athletes who people aspire to be. It may well be that Kagawa will bring a bountiful Yen harvest for United’s Asian market, but that will be because he’s fucking great, not just because he’s Asian.

by Mike Robertson, @Miketweetgood

The quote from Ron Noades was taken from the excellent “Soccernomics” by Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski and the following article (and side links) on Asians in football details the ongoing efforts to erase the prejudices faced http://www.kickitout.org/228.php

Few men manage to achieve the duality of being both a football player and a living, breathing metaphor for their football club. Theo Walcott is one of these men.

Theo Walcott so perfectly represents the Arsenal of the last eight years. A man bursting with potential never quite realised. An occasionally devastating attacking force who unfortunately has the same attitude towards defensive duty as Ryan Giggs has to not having sex with his brothers wife. And in Theo’s own words, a man who has “only been able to find consistency in patches”.

If there was to be an award for ‘most infuriating player’ then Walcott would almost certainly win. If by some cruel twist of fate he failed to win, I’d like to think the eventual winner would imitate the Arctic Monkeys Mercury tribute to Richard Hawley and dedicate the award to Theo, the peoples champion. “call the cops, Theo’s been robbed”.

There have been games I’ve watched him play and whenever he had the ball I just knew he would do something amazing. When he scored the two goals to finish off Spurs in that glorious 5-2 I was sitting in a bar in Prague, completely incapable of expressing my utter joy. Instead resorting to the kind of gargled squeals I would expect to hear while orally pleasuring an Ewok.

However there is a flip side to Walcott., one all too often assigned via a “literally” infuriating sound bite to a “lack of a footballing brain”. The reality is that when his pace is nullified by a deep, organised defence he has little else to offer. Lacking the close control to beat players with skill and with insufficient crossing ability to float in an early cross, he resorts to an infuriating plan B. Said plan B consists of: Step 1) running the ball out for a goal kick/throw in. Step 2) berating the nearest team member, usually poor Aaron Ramsay.

If you were to summarise Walcott’s play, it would be neither of these extremes. The Walcott of this season has been occasionally sublime, occasionally abysmal, but usually just ok. I’ve sometimes forgotten he’s even playing, then lo and behold, he’ll pop up with a goal or assist. Which is great, now and then. But this typifies the majority of his games and he seems to think that’s pretty alright. Perhaps this is a symptom of the lack of competition for his place in the Arsenal 11, something the arrival of Podolski and the continued onslaught of the Ox should sort. Or perhaps this is a symptom of a more general malaise, a lack of a real driving ambition to push on and become one of the very best wingers in the world. Instead content on being a pretty good winger, assured of his place in the Arsenal squad and more or less assured of his place in the England squad.

It’s for these reasons I feel Walcott should not be seen as a first choice winger for years to come. I think he’s a very valuable squad player. But a squad player who wants 100k a week to contribute around 10 goals a season, despite harbouring ambitions of being an out and out centre forward, is perhaps not worth it.

Walcott’s saving grace may be that Van Persie seems to be pretty fond of him. And to say Arsenal are pretty fond of Van Persie would be an understatement on par with saying that I’m pretty fond of boobs. I love boobs, and Arsenal love Van Persie. A man not unlike boobs in the sense that if you give him the right support he will look absolutely amazing, and even if you don’t, he’ll look pretty amazing anyway. If keeping Van Persie meant signing Walcott on then it would be absolutely the right decision to sign him up for another few years. Walcott is by no means a bad player, he’s just not a great one. He could be great, but I’m not sure he can be arsed.

At time of writing it appears as if Chelsea have emerged as champions in the transfer market tug of war over Belgium’s precocious young star Eden Hazard. It has long been the accepted truth that the transfer market tug of war was a by invitation only three-way between Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United (rather depressingly my beloved Arsenal didn’t so much fall at the first hurdle as fall off the starting block, smashing their dignified face on the rapidly disappearing heels of the leagues elite.)

Eden Hazard has been one of the very few genuine superstars available on the open market in recent years and the (presumed) failure of Manchester United to secure his signature should come as a crushing blow to the clubs fans.

There can be no doubt that Manchester United are the most successful team of the premier league era, continuously reinventing themselves after losing their star players. To lose the title on goal difference to the ridiculously resourced City with a poor United squad is a feat only achievable via Glaswegian witchcraft. However with the league going to City, and Chelsea back to winning ways with their Champions league victory, both teams now have the champions kudos to go with their infinite resources and United may not be such an attractive option for top young talent any more.

The popular assumption that United would be an ideal destination due to guaranteed playing time also has to be questioned. If you look at the breakthrough stars of recent United seasons in Nani, Berbatov and Hernandez, all three have found their opportunities limited recently. With Nani facing fierce competition on the right wing from the excellent Valencia, Chicharito sharing the lone striker role with Welbeck and finally Berbatov, a £30 million pound signing, falling from league top scorer to a largely unused substitute.

The fact that Paul Scholes, at 37, was able to effortlessly emerge from his pasty ginger cocoon of retirement and become the “beautiful” butterfly of United’s midfield shows just how desperately United need to invest in quality talent. Whether they can still attract the best in Europe remains to be seen.

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