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All Things Footie | Tuesday, July 13 | Jordan

In and out

Over the last few years a number of supposedly restrictive new transfer rules (the window, compensation payments rather than fees, etc.) combined with the increasingly fragile finances of many clubs was supposed to have slowed down the transfer market, but I can�t remember it ever being quite so active. Ironically, it�s the richest clubs that have remained some of the quietest: in Chelsea�s case it�s surely the slimming regime introduced by their new manager Jos� Mourinho, in United�s case it�s perhaps that they don�t really know what they need, and in Arsenal�s case it�s most likely the reluctance to change a winning formula and a tight budget. Or maybe the business of the big three is simply seeming quiet compared to last summers �100m spending spree that Roman Abramovich�s monet men went on�maybe the Russian has learnt his lesson?

At the same time, clubs like Middlesbrough and Birmingham are snapping up players left, right and centre: with the former obtaining the services of as many�I hesitate to say washed up�let�s say players whose best years are likely behind them as possible. People are talking (particularly Steve McLaren) of Champions League qualification, which is quite frankly laughable. I�ve never rated Michael Reiziger, and I�m not going to start now; Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink is a very good finisher, but his all round game is seriously lacking. He�s a prime example of the striker that disappears completely when he�s not swinging his boot through a ball on the edge of the box, and while he may bring some much needed goals to Middlesbrough�s forward line he�s not the kind of player who can carry a team up the table. Likewise Viduka: aside from his sulky, moody, stroppy side, he�s not the fittest of players, and while he�s got a few tricks in the bag he�s not a striker who can change the fortunes of a team�I think he proved that adequately at Leeds United.

If Middlesbrough have bought a lot of ageing never-quite-were�s, Birmingham have made some very shrewd signings. Julian Gray is an excellent player, and could happily grace many a Premiership side, to say he was a bargain (coming on a free transfer from Crystal Palace) would be a gross understatement. Securing the loan of Mikael Forssell from Chelsea for a further season was not just good business, but essential given the Fin�s admirable goal-tally last season. The signing of two more Chelsea players, midfielder Jesper Gr�nkjaer and defender Mario Melchiot, will have a positive effect too. Gr�nkjaer is a very talented player and excellent running with the ball�if he can refine his delivery he�ll be one of the best �traditional� style wingers in the Premiership. Melchiot is experienced, versatile, and no where near as average as he�s often perceived to be.

Muzzy Izzet is another smart buy, allying a bit of flair and ingeuity to Robbie Savage�s midfield engine. Everyone�s allowed one mistake though, and there�s no doubt in my mind that the Birmigham board will come to rue the day the authorised the spending of �6.25m on Emile Heskey. Apart from the fact it reunited three old Leicester teammates (whether that�s a good thing or a bad thing I�m not sure), Birmingham are becoming too refined a team for Heskey to play a part.

So what of the players that Arsenal, Chelsea and United have bought?

Arsenal have been the quietest of the three, unsurprisingly given their major expenditures on a new stadium, attempting to secure a number of players lucrative new contracts and the purchase of Jos�-Antonio Reyes in January. At the time of writing, young Dutchman Robin van Persie is the only major aquisition, though many will see the return of Jermaine Pennant from his years exile at Leeds as a new signing. Pennant returns a far less cocky young man than he left Arsenal, and has realised that behaving like an idiot is not the way to get a game at a big football club�no matter how good you are. With Ray Parlour sure to play a less prominent role in 2004/05, and Freddie Ljungberg�s fitness in question, it�s quite possible that Pennant will see a lot of action this year, the question is can he prove himself worthy of a place in the �invincibles�. Arsenal�s other arrival, van Persie, is a bright young left-footed foward who enjoys playing just off a striker�very much like his countryman Dennis Bergkamp. Early signs are that he�s happy to spend some time learning at his new club, and talk of an attitude problem (following his falling out with bosses at Feyenoord) is perhaps a little premature. I�ve never seen him play, so I couldn�t say how good he is, but I guess that at some point this season we�ll see.

Arsenal�s pre-season story is more about who�s gone than who�s arrived, and the much-anticipated clear-out began inearnest a few weeks after the season finished. A lot of very talented players have been let go for various reasons, and it�d be a shame if the likes of Wiltord, Kanu and Keown didn�t find new clubs. It�s a surprise not to see Francis Jeffers released too, a year ago, after his shameful scally behaviour I said he�d never play for Arsenal again, and I stand by that statement. He may or may not be good enough, but his attitude stinks and he doesn�t deserve any more chances.

Chelsea completed the signing of Mateja Kezman this morning, and (though I�m not sure how much he had to do with it) Mourinho is already giving us a taste of his refined player preferences. He could have tried to sign �big� names or famous forwards, but instead he�s bought a very bright and skilful centre forward. While it may take Kezman some time to settle in to the pace and strength required for the Premiership, I think he could have�in the words of his manager�a �very big effect� on Chelsea�s push for the title. I saw an interview with Mourinho this morning where as well as discussing Kezman, he confirmed that Alexi Smertin is part of the 23/24 players that he considers his first team squad; a cynic would say that Smertin�s fellow Russian, Mr Abramovich, may have had something to do with that, but perhaps Mourinho sees something in Smertin that eluded the Portsmouth support last season?

Chelsea have also snapped up another PSV player in a deal done some months ago. Arjen Robben proved in the European Championships that he�s a talent, with the ability to do everything Gr�nkjaer could and cross the ball, he should be a valuable asset to the team. Finally, spending �12m on Petr Cech seems like an odd thing to do when you already have five goalkeepers (with at least two good ones) but I guess there�s some sense to it, somewhere.

The most controversial signing of the Summer (so far) has to be Manchester United�s aquisition of Alan Smith. I�ve always rated Smith, he�s a real bulldog of a striker�puts himself on the line, gives everything, and has got the talent to back it up�the only thing I wonder is how much of this he can take away from his Leeds career. Despite his departure for their most hated local rivals, Alan Smith has Leeds written through him like a stick of Rock (though presumably not one from the Lancastrian haunt of Blackpool), and sometimes a player is so tied to his club that something is lost when he pulls on the shirt of another. I know he�s a professional, and I know he has his career to think about, but I wonder if he can ever look convincing in a United shirt�I can imagine it�ll wrench a few Yorkshire hearts seeing their hero turning out for Manchester.

I�ve not seen much of ex-PSG defender Gabriel Heinze, United�s other major signing this Summer, but I�ve heard he�s been solid for the French outfit. Mind you, defender Pascal Cygan was the French league player of the year a couple of seasons ago, so looking good in le Championnat is most certainly no guarantee of success. Other signings for United are Celtic midfielder Liam Miller and young Barcelona defender Gerard Pique. It�s difficult to know how either will do really, as they�re both so young and inexperienced.

So that�s the silly season so far. No doubt there�ll be more buys to come from the big boys (Liverpool still haven�t splashed out, though I suspect that�s because they�re waiting for some Thai businessman to hand them a bag of ill-gotten cash) and I�m sure that a few released players will find themselves new clubs�don�t be surprised if a few Greeks turn up in the Premiership next month.

(6) Comment(s) | Permanent link to this article

# Posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 3:33 PM
luogo interessante, soddisfare interessante, buon!
# Posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 11:17 PM
Luogo molto buon:) Buona fortuna!
# Posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 2:29 PM
E evidente che il luogo e stato fatto dalla persona che realmente conosce il mestiere!
# Posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 11:23 PM
luogo interessante, soddisfare interessante, buon!
# Posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 5:37 PM
Lo trovo piuttosto impressionante. Lavoro grande fatto..)
# Posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 7:47 AM
Stupore! ho una sensibilit� molto buona circa il vostro luogo!!!!

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