Deadline Day: A loveless night only brings failed flirting and frustration

ANALYSIS: Most Premier League clubs eager to clear out dead wood as January window closes without much romance in the air

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The Independent Football

As the deadline clock ticked towards 11pm, and clubs scrambled to squeeze in one last loan signing, Monday’s closing of the transfer window became awfully reminiscent of the final minutes of a student disco. When the DJ reached for a couple of slow numbers to finish the night those remaining upright, but alone, would scan the room wondering if there was someone left they would want to go home with.

They might have a reputation, they might not be exactly who you wanted, they might be on the rebound, but they were available. Thus QPR and West Ham were attracted to Emmanuel Adebayor, West Brom pursued Carlton Cole and Everton, Hull and Stoke chased Aaron Lennon.

In the end, of those three, only Lennon ended up in the warm embrace of a loving new club, opting for Everton, not that he seemed too thrilled in the photographs. The others were left frustrated on the flattest of deadline days. Indeed, Harry Redknapp appears to have decided to quit the scene altogether and settle for quiet evenings by the fire in Dorset.

What was striking about those Premier League players on the move, or touted for transfers, is that none of them were first team players at their clubs. It was managers clearing out the shed and trying to shift the dead wood.

That was the case for the rest of the transfer window too. Only one first team regular was sold, Wilfried Bony, and even then Swansea made £16m profit and already had understudy Bafetimbi Gomis, retained despite advances from West Ham. Otherwise, from Ossama Assaidi to Wilfried Zaha, Jozy Altidore to Mauro Zarate, clubs were busy trimming their wage bill of unwanted players.

Bony was the most expensive signing of the window

This reflects several realities. Premier League clubs are now wealthy enough to resist most bids for their players, especially mid-season when it is hard to get a replacement. Thus Burnley held on to Danny Ings, Southampton Morgan Schneiderlin and Everton Kevin Mirallas.

Then there are the strictures of Financial Fair Play, both Uefa’s and the Premier League’s. Aside from Manchester City, who seem oblivious to its restraints – and no wonder after a gentle slap on the wrist from Uefa, most clubs largely balanced the books.

Chelsea’s sales more than accounted for the purchase of Juan Cuadrado. Of other clubs who spent more than £5m net Arsenal have cash to spare, Southampton spent some of their summer profits, and Crystal Palace’s outlay was not as large as it looks as Manchester United will have owed money on Zaha. Which leaves Leicester City, who bought conservatively in the summer and so could afford £9.5m Andrej Kamaric.

Juan Cuadrado signs for Chelsea

Maybe clubs were also being careful because the players being moved out underline how difficult it can be to get transfers right. Zaha, Altidore, Zarate, Scott Sinclair, André Schürrle, Samuel Eto’o, Tom Ince, Matija Nastasic, Mohamed Salah, Jordon Mutch and Maurice Edu have all disappointed. And that roll call of failure does not even include Brown Ideye, West Brom’s £10m misfit, signed without Alan Irvine seeing him play and scorer of one fluke goal. Albion were unable to shift him, even at a cut-price fee.

Getting it right in January, when time is often too tight to do due diligence, is harder. There are few successful deals and even some of those that work out, like Patrice Evra and Nemanja Vidic, do not prosper until the next season, when the player has had time to bed in.

Those moves blossomed into long-term relationships, and who’s to say that Dame N’Doye and Hull will not fall mutually in love, and Darren Fletcher lose his heart to the Hawthorns?  Mostly, however, transfers consummated on deadline night are soon regretted.