Statements of intent in club soccer | Pakistan Today

Statements of intent in club soccer

COMMENT – On is back from his sojourn in Australia, where the focus was on the tennis action in Sydney and Melbourne. And now back to football, where much has happened since the New Year. The January transfer window for club football closed Monday night, and the frenzy in the closing stages was such that none could have predicted where we would be come Tuesday.
In a tremendous spending spree that caught everyone unawares, the British transfer record was broken when Chelsea bought Torres from Liverpool for £50 million, and Liverpool signed Carroll, fetching a club record £35 million, from Newcastle and finalised the transfer of Suarez from Ajax for a total of £57 million. Add to this less eye-catching transfer activity, the financial bulk of which involved Chelsea and Manchester City, and the result was a new record for the amount spent – a sum in excess of £210 million.
When the world is barely limping out of recession, football clubs operate in a reality far removed from everything else. Roman Abramovich put paid to his earlier declared policy of reigning in expenses and running Chelsea as a more sound business, by putting up the funds for £70 million acquisition of two players on a day when his club declared losses of an equal amount.
The UEFA may be pandering about regulations concerning sound running of clubs, and there were statements to this effect issued by UEFA after the transfer window closed, but it appears clubs, at least in the Premier League do not share such sentiment. Liverpool were quiet throughout most of the transfer window, with the only sure thing the ongoing deal with Ajax for Suarez’s services.
Fans and pundits were drawing up ideas of where the Uruguayan would fit into the side, and if the formation would be tweaked to allow for a second striker to play off of Torres, as is Suarez’s style too. That Torres handed in a transfer request the weekend prior to the end of the window shows much was going on behind the scenes at Anfield. Torres, Gerrard, and Reyna have been considered the three star performers for Liverpool for the past few seasons now, with Xabi Alonso making his effectiveness known after departing from the club. Selling either of the aforementioned three was anathema for a struggling club.
However, since the start of last season, Torres has suffered frequently from both injury and inconsistency. In a Spain side that won the World Cup, Torres can quite easily be said to have made no significant contribution. Still, you cannot disregard talent, and the Spaniard possesses that in abundance. Although he has moved to London still in bad form, he will score goals. Naturally gifted to fit into multiple formations and playing styles, Torres gives Chelsea the option of mixing things up. On that note, it will be interesting to see how Carlo Ancellotti now juggles a forward line that contains Drogba, Torres, Anelka and Malouda.
Torres had joined Liverpool to win trophies, and fans from his earlier club Atletico Madrid alternately grudgingly and forgivingly found that understandable. After three and a half seasons, and his search of silverware in vain, he has moved on, and Liverpool fans must accept the same. As for the Reds themselves, Dalglish used a formation in their last game against Stoke that is far removed from anything Liverpool have in the past few seasons.
Three centre backs and two wing backs meant that it was a system inherently focussed on choking the midfield and building from the back, with Gerrard and Lucas the deeper lying midfielders. Meireles was responsible for linking up with the striker, while Aurelio was shuffling back and forth along the left wing to help out Johnson in defense and to whip crosses in for Kuyt. The Dutchman had as good a game as he has had for Liverpool.
For all his time spent out on the wings, he has not forgotten how to ply his trade as centre forward; he was strong where he needed to be, held up the play, spread the ball and was all round a great performer. The whole side looked like they knew the system that was to be played, and, most importantly, it was a system that worked, for the most part. Flair and slick passing aside, the formation choked out the midfield area, with the wing backs attacking and defending further up the pitch, and the Reds were able to stretch the game enough to keep Stoke worried more about defending that attacking.
Still, this is not a side that ticks all the boxes just yet, and both attacking and defending down the left will pose problems against superior opposition. Suarez also got a goal, albeit he scuffed his shot after skipping past the keeper. Goals will help him adjust that much more quickly to the new environment he finds himself in, and if Liverpool play like they did against Stoke, with a purpose and with a plan of attack, Suarez will find himself well supplied with opportunity.
The result also moved Liverpool to their highest position in the league table this season, a lowly 7th, and the rest of the season will require good performances and a fair share of luck if they are to compete in Europe next year. Elsewhere in Europe, there was not nearly as much sensational transfer activity. Inter Milan are still trying to pull their season back together after a torrid first half, and new signing Pazzini is already on the score sheet, ready to help them along that way.
Serie A leaders AC Milan have signed the mercurial Antonio Cassano, and it remains to be seen if he will settle down to the work at the San Siro, or his flashy temperament will keep him from the success that his talent ought to bring his way. Barcelona made a shrewd signing in Ibrahimi Afellay from Ajax, who will fit in well on their left flank, where this will be a departure from Barcelona’s tactic in recent seasons of using a right-footed player who will cut in towards the centre.
Real Madrid may be two clear victories adrift of the La Liga leaders in terms of points, and I am sceptical of Adebayor’s credentials as the man to lead them to the top. The big target man is not the most clinical of finishers, but at times Real have lacked someone to hold up the ball in the opposition half. Perhaps more significantly, he is the kind of striker that Mourinho used at Porto, Chelsea and Inter Milan very successfully.
On the subject of Milan, Ronaldinho is set to live out the twilight of his career back in his homeland, and this is a sad fate for a player who reintroduced us to the magic of football with his vast array of skills and tricks. Seeing his flare and sublime skills on a regular basis will be missed by purists and casual fans alike.
As is always the case with transfer season, the rumour mill goes into overdrive, and the most apt example of this is the linking of Tottenham with every other player. Perhaps this is the effect of Harry Redknapp, who is all too ready to lavish praise on any player, in any part of Europe or elsewhere, who makes the news headlines with a good performance here or there.
Still, the fact that the closes Spurs came to signing a player was to miss Charlie Adam’s transfer by a few minutes owing to some missing Blackpool shareholder signatures, is a lesson for all of us to not get too carried away with all the prospects that present themselves at such times.

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