Stuck in the middle with you

The transfer window isn't a disaster, assuming we bring in Thilo Kehrer, Hans Vanaken and Emerson Palmieri - but it also isn't next level. It’s somewhere in between for me.

We had a lot to do due to the squad already having a fair few 'non-value adding' players and the average age. We also have the challenge of a European competition with a qualifier (that pays little money but the fans will want to try to win).


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We're bedding down a new recruitment lead (in Rob Newman), an owner who can't keep his nose out, a notoriously high-standard manager and a market where clubs are gearing up for five subs, with the traditional 'Sky six' all targeting similar players to us.

We also lost momentum and form in the second half of last season which has started noises about changing our formation and style. Finally, we are lucky to still have Declan Rice but have the 'he'll go next summer' axe hanging over any centre midfield rebuild. So it was a tough ask this window.

We're looking like covering the key positions - Alphonse Areola meant we didn't sign Sam Johnstone (a gold star for that reason alone). Nayef Aguerd looks like adding a different dimension defensively, Gianluca Scamacca looks cult hero in the making, Maxwel Cornet will deliver pace and goals (hopefully) and has flexibility for a number of roles in attack and Fylnn Downes looks assured as a squad player who could push on with good coaching.

Kehrer is of very good standard - I don't think he'll be right back but will be starting at centre half - and we seem keen to sign a left back and another centre midfielder to challenge/rotate with Tomas Soucek. We're covering every position I would have hoped at the start of the window - plus an extra centre back due to unfortunate injuries. I'm pleased with that 'coverage', personally.

On the flip side - we've brought in little proven Premier League experience so there is a heightened risk with the signings we have made. They likely won't all be a success. For various reasons we've lost players to clubs we consider less attractive currently - and although these reasons seem ok in isolation for each failed signing I understand why some fans are starting to see them as a pattern.

We appear to negotiate for a lot of time on players we know we want and create the impression of a lack of conviction, organisation or both. Are we trying to squeeze the budget, or are we undecided? We may well save £1million on Kehrer - but had we signed him a game earlier would we have more points, a higher league finish, £2million per position and momentum at the start of the season?


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I'm not sure, but it seems that 'value' in transfer negotiation still may hurt us in the grand scheme of things when closing transfers - which has been a pattern under the club's current owners.

We've gone for a lot of players for a number of days to ultimately find out they aren't interested - it seems odd that this isn't obvious from a short phone call given the role of agents nowadays. Finally, I personally would have liked us to bring in two or three young players with high potential (Moyes' previously-referred-to Red Bull model etc) but we don't seem to have done that. Hopefully that's because our youth team are really as good as hoped.

We'll see if there are some bargains late in the window - I think comments about 'holding our nerve' are right and I support those. But it is a high-risk strategy and can result in getting nothing (January window) or players that don't fit the manager's plan (Niko Vlasic).

I'd be more comfortable with that approach if we seemed like a club that can have a good appraisal of a player's expectation ahead of any bids (which we don't seem to) and can move quickly in closing transfers (which we also don't seem to). We also appear to be on a mission around wage bill control which further complicates acquisitions at short notice late in the window.

In all, I feel like the 'whats' have been better than the 'hows' this window. We feel like a club in transition - which is as expected. But it feels more like we're in transition to try to stay in the 'tier below the Premier League's 'big six' group rather than transition to improve and challenge upwards.

Of course there's still a bit to go in the transfer window yet so I will reserve judgement, but it's hard to judge this either as a poor or excellent window so far.

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