Transfer window: One week to go - 10 issues still outstanding
Apart from the chase for RVP, the transfer window has been a calm affair so far, which means there is plenty of issues still to be resolved
It has been a relatively slow transfer summer, not exactly rivalling the Olympics for entertainment. The biggest move, of Robin van Persie, was more interesting for the clubs involved than the fee, and with a week of the window left quite a few plot threads remain to be resolved. Will the manager get the player he pines for? Will the warring factions reach a compromise? With actual football matches now taking place, there are still 10 outstanding issues which can reach a climax of sorts this week, and which will influence the rest of the season.
Will Manchester City stick or twist?
Can Manchester City be serious? The Premier League champions, desperate to retain their title and conquer Europe, have been conspicuously cautious in the transfer market. Roberto Mancini wanted Eden Hazard, Robin van Persie and Daniele De Rossi, all from the very top bracket of European football. So far Brian Marwood has delivered Jack Rodwell, with a promise of Scott Sinclair to come. Mancini is not impressed and not averse to saying so.
It has been City's quietest summer of spending since 2006, when Stuart Pearce brought in Ousmane Dabo, Bernardo Corradi and Hatem Trabelsi. And so the flaws of last year, such as they are, remain: a lack of cover at centre-back, no intelligent deep-lying midfielder and no pace out wide.
Mancini is well aware of these problems and wants them fixed. Whether he can convince the board to bid big again for top-class talent, though, remains to be seen.
Maybe they have one more big move in them.
Has Sir Alex Ferguson really finished?
It has been a busy summer for Manchester United so far. After the frustrations of last season – no trophies, and failure in the Champions League group stage – they have bought two top-level players in Shinji Kagawa and Robin van Persie. Nick Powell and Alexander Büttner have also signed and Ferguson said yesterday that that is it. But we've heard that before.
The 1-0 defeat to Everton showed that the post-Roy Keane lack of midfield steel is as much of an issue as ever. Had Marouane Fellaini been wearing red and not blue, the result would surely have been different, as the whole season would be. United, at least, would have someone capable of matching Yaya Touré. It may be too late to sign Fellaini but there is a feeling Ferguson has a move for a midfielder left in him. Mexican international midfielder Hector Herrera is a target but what if there was someone bigger and more established to fill that gap?
What will happen with Luka Modric?
Tottenham Hotspur have spent the whole summer waiting for their best player to leave. As chairman Daniel Levy fights for the best possible price from Real Madrid, Andre Villas-Boas has been left with neither his finest midfielder nor a usable replacement.
Surely Luka Modric will swap one white shirt for another before the end of the month. But the later Spurs leave it the less time they will have to bring someone in. Scott Parker and Jake Livermore are admirable players but not exactly straight replacements. A deal for Porto's Joao Moutinho already looks impossible, while Spurs are not interested in Rennes' feisty but gifted Yann M'Vila. Maybe Miralem Pjanic of Roma will be the man to come in and prompt proceedings. But it will require some swift dealing next week to keep Spurs competitive.
Levy is gambling with his team's midfield for this season. He is a master of the deadline time, but even his nerve will be tested over the next few days.
Where will Andy Carroll end up?
It has been clear for a while that Andy Carroll is not at the heart of Liverpool's plans for this season. Brendan Rodgers' precise, technical game plan does not fit well with the £35m man's historical re-enactment football. Luis Suarez and new boy Fabio Borini are much better fits. So earlier in the summer Liverpool accepted a loan offer from West Ham United, a much more natural match; but Carroll did not want to link up with his old mentor Kevin Nolan, and so he remains at Anfield.
But an unwanted player is a wasted player. And there might be another solution; a club with better players than West Ham, a club with European football, a club where Carroll would feel at home: Newcastle United. Rodgers has said that it would be a "liberty" for Newcastle to take Carroll on loan, but Liverpool are not awash with options; 18 months ago Mike Ashley took his time and earned the best possible deal for Carroll from Liverpool. Why should he not do so again?
Can Paul Lambert complete his renovation of Aston Villa?
More than anything else, Paul Lambert teams are about hunger. He likes lower-league experience, hard workers, unproven players desperate to make a name for themselves. His Norwich City team last season barely had a minute of Premier League time in it. So it is little surprise that he has not particularly liked what he inherited at Aston Villa, a squad full of contented Premier League veterans brought in during the club's damaging last few years of drift. Carlos Cuellar, James Collins and Emile Heskey are all gone but Alan Hutton and Stephen Warnock stubbornly remain.
The pair of full-backs, not exactly on top of their games last season, have been distant from the first team in pre-season as Lambert tries to keep the wages down and the hunger up. So far no buyers have been found. It is just possible that somewhere a club seeking the experience Lambert does without can be found. And if they do, Villa might have space to bring a few more in.
Where will Clint Dempsey score his next goal?
Liverpool's pursuit of Fulham's Clint Dempsey has turned ugly, with the player fined for refusing to play and Liverpool reported to the Premier League for the ancient and much-practised crime of "tapping up". Meanwhile the clock ticks and no formal bid has been lodged.
Dempsey, like most players with his ability, wants to play in the Champions League. So do Liverpool, but they are not doing so this year. One club which is in the competition, has cash to spare, and could do with a versatile, intelligent forward player is Arsenal. Having seen Liverpool pinch Nurat Sahin from under his nose, might Arsène Wenger not be tempted to steal Dempsey from under theirs?
After six years on these shores Dempsey, unlike Arsenal's new strikers Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud, is familiar with the English game's particular, often bruising, rhythms. To judge from the American's nose-to-nose spat with Craig Bellamy at the Cottage last year, he would add the hard edge Arsenal sometimes lack, as well as the ability to make and take goals.
Where, if anywhere, will Joey Barton play?
The time before last that Queen's Park Rangers spent so enthusiastically on Premier League experience, they bought Joey Barton from Newcastle United, gave him a generous contract and made him captain. This was no great success, not least when his minutes of madness against Manchester City on last season's final day landed him a 12-game ban. Barton is still a QPR player, although no longer captain, and obviously unavailable for the first few weeks of the season. He trained with Fleetwood Town, and played some non-competitive football for them, but a proposed loan deal fell through. He will not meekly return to Shepherd's Bush, though. There is talk of a loan to Marseilles, where at least he would be out of the British public spotlight. Barton could emulate Chris Waddle, another former Newcastle midfielder. It would certainly represent genuine ambition from a player who, at the age of 29, is still looking for his natural footballing home. He may even surprise us by going somewhere more exotic.
Can QPR get lucky in transfer tombola?
Mark Hughes still has more work to do at Queen's Park Rangers. They just managed to stay up last season, and responded this summer by buying Premier League experience by the overpriced barrel-load. Park Ji-sung, Junior Hoillet, Rob Green, Andy Johnson, Ryan Nelsen and Jose Bosingwa have all come in, but the first three of them could not save QPR from losing 5-0 to Swansea City on opening day. At Loftus Road.
Clint Hill and Anton Ferdinand played at centre-back and neither did desperately well. Neither did Green. Hughes, unsurprisingly, is still in the market for a higher class of defensive purchase. QPR have agreed a fee with Tottenham Hotspur for Michael Dawson, and Ricardo Carvalho – older, slower but better at his peak – could follow. Julio Cesar, a Champions League-winning goalkeeper two years ago, could come too. None of these three would be cheap, but Rangers do not look particularly worried about short-term outlay to secure their status. Two or three of these and they might stumble towards stability.
Will Dave Whelan reinvest the Victor Moses money?
While Wigan Athletic owner Dave Whelan has done very well to get £9m for the talented but incomplete Victor Moses, he now has to decide whether Roberto Martinez has enough talent to keep Wigan safe, or whether that money should be used to strengthen the squad. Moses brought unique pace and width to Wigan's play. They have another winger, in Albert Crusat, but he has not been able to make the same impact yet.
Wigan do have clever players in midfield, in James McCarthy, James McArthur and Jordi Gomez, as well as the talents of Shaun Maloney, who helped to keep them up. But they still need someone to run beyond defenders and burst to the byline, and with Moses going that role looks alarmingly vacant.
Can Southampton resurrect a deal for Gaston Ramirez?
The greatest transfer that never was this summer was Gaston Ramirez's mooted move to Southampton. The brilliant Uruguayan midfielder, who plays for Bologna, was close to a £12m move to St Mary's last week, only for it to founder on the payment details. Were he to join, he would be the most thrilling out-of-place player in the division, at least since Robinho joined a mid-table Manchester City.
Ramirez is probably the most exciting talent in Serie A, a delightful mover and creator, with a charming first touch and a deadly eye for free-kicks. He was excellent in patches for Uruguay in the Olympics and it was a surprise that one of Europe's elite did not buy him. He would be a transformative signing for Saints, a player capable of driving them up through the Premier League. They have had talent before, Marian Pahars and Matt Le Tissier, but if they can salvage their move for Ramirez they will be in for a real delight.
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