This Window Seems 9/10

So, right now, there is a thread on North Stand Chat asking fans to rate the permanent transfer window that closed yesterday at 6 p.m.

I gave it a solid nine. But…….

Last season, in the middle of this window and on several posts I have argued that the time to really judge the business you have done is just before the next one. The table after half a season will not tell a lie and your team’s new purchases will have, by then, gone up against everyone else’s new purchases. At that point it becomes a case of HAVE done well rather than it LOOKS like we’ve done well.

With that disclaimer in place though I’m confident. A look at the business in and their starts to the season will show why.

Firstly there are those who have already made a first team impact. Rosenior, though mainly used as a sub, showed his versatility on Saturday against Ipswich with a stand out performance in midfield. For a – shall we say – more experienced player he has bags of pace. His open letter to Hull fans shows him to be the same sort of person as Calde (IMO). In other words, where last season we were lacking pace and leadership our initial signing seems to bring both.

Hemed meanwhile looks a genuine number nine. Three goals already, one dubious, but I wouldn’t want a centre forward in the team who didn’t claim a goal if he thought he got half a hair follicle on it. That’s what strikers do. Baldock – as so many said last season – looks a different player playing off him.

Bong is fast. VERY fast. As an attacking threat he is more potent than Bennett from the same position last season and the combination of his pace and reading of passes means he can get himself out of trouble. He can get himself IN to trouble as well, we’ve already seen that, and he will commit the odd howler or two. However, his partnership with Lua Lua is looking as good as Hemed’s with Baldock.

Zamora. I really don’t need to say anything do i?

Hunemeier, aka Uwe, aka the BFG brings more leadership. Already we have seen he will put his body on the line for the team and will stop at almost nothing to intercept or make a tackle. Despite GG being club captain his organisation of the line at Fulham – his debut – was noticeable (with the exception of their goal which he or Bong should have cleared). If he has a weakness it’s in the air with teams already bombarding us long ball stylee (I’m looking at YOU Blackburn and Fulham).

As for the later additions we will have to see on Murphy and Manu. Murphy had a very solid debut without tearing up trees and was sacrificed tactically against Ipswich. Manu has such a flair name I might just forgive him anything. As far as I can gather either of these players could play the Baldock role as well as out wide if needed bringing real flexibility to the front line.

Of the ones bought to develop or play back up I am yet to see Maenpaa in action and cannot comment. However, his signing has had an effect on Stockdale who looks twice as fit as last season and is playing out of his skin.

Hambo and Harper are risks but I’m told Hughton and the team really rate Harper and getting him from Real Madrid is possibly the biggest coup we pulled off in the whole window. Goldson? I’d have to see him first.

Finally it’s goodbye to COG for now. It was inevitable he would go out on loan once Zamora was match fit. A genuinely nice bloke and intelligent man it just never quite worked out for him here. While he can do a job we will never play to his strengths, or even know what those truly are beyond holding the ball up. Sending a COC Cup penalty in to orbit was the final straw.

No loans yet either. Last season’s biggest bugbear has turned in to this season’s relief. I would not be surprised if we did land one or two. Perhaps an additional attacking option if CH felt that we needed one, However, on the evidence of the first part of the season what we have already will do just nicely thanks.

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Patience and Realistic Expectations Needed

Bedwetting. Not a pleasant theme for an opinion piece you might think but there’s an awful lot of it about. Also panic, impatience and general doom-mongering. The reason? On the face of it it’s because we haven’t signed Messi, Ronaldo and Harry Kane. Yet. Or even Ben Marshall.

Last season’s omnishambles continues to pop up and tweak us on the nose like a cheeky chimp with a nasal fixation. The squad regressed, no doubt about it, though at the end of the season with loans returning home and the impressive Kayal in situ the bottom of the curve should have been reached. The problem is twofold however. Firstly we have a real and urgent need to improve the squad. Secondly everyone can remember how badly we went about that task this time last year.

At this point a little perspective is needed. Firstly I believe it’s helpful to the sanity of any Brighton fan to have a good long think about where we really are in terms of this league, taking our own unrealistic ambitions and expectations on Tony’s wallet out of the picture. I would suggest that our budget is not going to be a top six budget, meaning we are going to have to pull well above our weight if we are to go up. That’s not impossible though as Burnley demonstrated a couple of seasons ago and Brentford so nearly did last season.

I would also suggest that we do not have a bottom three budget – or anywhere close to that in fact. That doesn’t make you safe of course as we very nearly proved last season.

The fact is that we are going to have to attempt to buy smart. Not only is Messi out of the budget but Marshall may be as well. We didn’t make a very good fist of that last summer but David Burke is now gone and the man ultimately calling the shots is a knowledgeable and intelligent manager with a lifetime of football experience behind him. I’ve had my moments with Paul Barber on these pages but when he says foreign players represent better value it’s not club spin. It’s like saying that grass is green. When Manchester City are prepared to waste £49 million on an English bench warmer you know it’s time to look overseas.

So why the outbreak of wet sheets across Sussex? Why are toys being hurled out of virtual prams across Twitter, Facebook and North Stand Chat?

On the face of it we’ve done good business so far this summer. The club have been open about the fact we need to cast the net far and wide to get players in and we have. The panic is therefore about who we HAVEN’T signed. Zamora, Marshall and Alirazor Whatisname. Yet the guys we have brought in have followed a pattern, and that is no one linked us with them ahead of their arrival. Hughton clearly plays his cards close to his chest which is a bit of a shame for the Soccer Sauce and ITK crowd.

Over the summer we’ve brought in six new faces already. Liam Rosenior comes with bags of experience and a great reputation. Then there are three full internationals and Harper, the ex Real Madrid starlet, who should be pushing to take Teixeira’s role despite being one for the future. The gamble as I see it is Hambo. He may be known as the Finnish Zlatan but he could just as easily end up as the next Roland Bergkamp. I don’t think anyone really knows. We haven’t paid a fortune for any of these players and, far from showing an unwillingness to compete, it shows exactly the dealings Paul Barber alluded to, deals that Brighton fans are going to have to get used to.

So what of the supposed known targets? All has gone quiet around Zamora with the tip off I got about his suspect fitness looking quite likely. The fact he has not signed for us, nor anyone else, speaks volumes right now. Marshall is definitely in play, the issue being that Blackburn risk leaking players like a badly fitted take away lid leaks chicken curry. As far as Jahanbakhsh goes we know that NEC accepted a bid of around £1.5 million and that the player has had talks and seen our facilities. Either he, or more likely his agent, are stalling on a deal and do not seem keen on either England or The Championship. If that is the case then not only have the club done everything right but we’ve also dodged a bullet.

I’m not saying the summer has been perfect. I’m not saying we have a world beating squad. There are obvious weaknesses particularly on the wings and at centre back. But for once – at the point of writing at least – there has been no attempt at spin beyond Hughton making all the right noises in interviews as you would expect. Not only do I expect us to plug those gaps but I expect that when we do the players’ names will not have been on any rumours site, rogue twitter account or NSC thread.

For now my sheets are dry.

Bong! Here is the news…………..

gbong

Another signing then.  A permanent starting left back, something we’ve not has in a while and very much needed. Another nationality to add to the Amex League of Nations. Welcome Gaetan Bong.

Here’s how much those transfer rumour sites know. One “new” one claiming to be a journalist called Peter Allen (@PeterAllen78) was actually set up in 2012 but did not tweet until a few days ago. “Peter” claimed to have excellent links to agents and to our club and tweeted that Zamora and Jonas Gutierrez were talking to us in those few days. Lots of tweets per day until someone did a Google image search and found that Peter’s profile pic was actually of a disgraced psychic from Wales who had once been in The Telegraph. When posted and challenged on North Stand Chat the account went amazingly quiet again. The one player that they had not mentioned in the tweet flurry was Gaetan Bong. Neither had anyone else.

I know very little about Bong, having not seen him play for Wigan or, as far as I know, anyone else. If I had he didn’t stick out. This contrasts with our first two signings. I’ve seen plenty of Rosenior over the years. I hadn’t seen Tomer Hemed live but the good thing about strikers is that they have highlight reels on Youtube where you can at least watch back what you think their finishing is like, so they are not a complete surprise. No one does highlight reels of left backs as far as I’m aware, but if they did they wouldn’t show the important stuff, covering, positioning, overlapping, blocking and closing down anyway. I’m just going to have to take the club’s word on this one. And do you know what? I think I will.

This summer’s recruitment feels different, like a continuation of January. Although the only addition of note was Kayal in that window he turned out to be head and shoulders above anything else we had in that team. Now we have added an ex Premier League defender and two internationals. Though we started big last summer with Stockdale, to say that player had a mixed season would be an understatement. It will certainly be interesting to see what sort of a season he has in front of a strengthened back four and with an initially impressed Ben Roberts coaching him. But then we moved on to Danny Holla, about who I knew even less than I do about Bong, before belatedly filling up with has-beens and loans.

Up to now we seem to be adding steadily, in areas of obvious weakness rather than necessarily replacing like for like, and with real thought. And we’re keeping it quiet rather than alerting the world and his wife to our targets (who DIDN’T know we were in for Ward and Clayton last season).

It’s very hard to justify a good feeling on recruitment when you admit that you are relying on Youtube highlights and past pedigree. I can only do so for the reasons above. But nevertheless I’m starting to hanker for the new season whereas, at the start of May, I’d have been happy to never see a ball kicked again.

Why We Spent Sensibly and the Squad is Stronger

So tweeted Andy Naylor last night, some considerable time before the transfer deadline closed. Our last day’s deals consisted of confirming Bridcutt to Sunderland and confirming David Rodriguez Sánchez, a striker, until the end of the season.

Bridcutt brought in between £2.75 and £3.5 million depending on who you believe. The day before we bought Dale Stephens from Charlton for a fee that is also undisclosed but rumoured to be under a million. In the rest of the window we also got fees of under a million for El-Abd and Barnes, shifted Maksimenko out on loan and lost Crofts for the season to injury. We have undoubtedly made a profit financially in the window but why didn’t we reinvest. And how does the squad compare in terms of ability?

To take the first question I would imagine there are a number of factors but the most important is not wanting to be ripped off. And let’s face it who wants to be ripped off? How good do you feel when you get that car home that looked fantastic on the garage forecourt to find out that the clutch is going, it makes hideous barfing noises when doing over 60mph and you can’t fit the toddler’s car seat in? Or a “Stephen Dobbie” purchase as I like to think of it.

Let’s face it we were in for plenty. Huddersfield got very annoyed indeed when we had a bid rejected for Adam Clayton, unleashing a flood of U2 puns on twitter. Lewis Grabban used us to negotiate a better contract with Bournemouth. Joe Mason suddenly became a two million pound footballer (I mean REALLY?).

Any one of these players represented the metaphorical lemon. We would have paid too much or signed an uncommitted player. Surely the club sticking to its guns is a good thing? The point, for me, is not that we should have splashed the Bridcutt cash on just anyone but that it HAS to be carefully invested. When someone gives me a large sum of cash (and generally this only happens when I buy a house and then I have to pay it back to them) I spend it very, very carefully. Why should our football club be any different?

But among the many moans I’ve read (and admittedly there’s more of them on North Stand Chat than twitter) the biggest is that we have a weaker squad and, therefore, no ambition. Such claims are the product of both short termism and short sightedness.

We DO have a weaker set of centre backs for El-Abd having left. But centre backs get injured far less than nippy wingers. Adam had barely played this season. The loan / free agent market is not closed and this is the most likely source of finding a player prepared to bench warm for most of the rest of the season. In the meantime we have Dunk. Ince started off as a centre back and Calde and Maksimenko can play there, the latter of whom can be recalled if needed.

The rest of the squad needs to be assessed not only in terms of who is available but (crucially for FFP and transfer fund availability) who we are paying. The long term injured are therefore going to get mentioned because, even if there is some sort of insurance covering their wages it won’t be covering all of them.

I am also taking the comparison from this time last year. In that time we have shorn ourselves of the terrible (and expensive) Ryan Harley, the unbothered, unplaying Vicente, the aforementioned lemon that was Dobbbie, the inconsistent Dean Hammond and the brilliant Wayne Bridge who has spent most of the season at Reading injured. Then there are those who left in this window. Of those who have just come in Stephens excites me and could well do the Crofts job (and let’s remind ourselves that this time last year, under Poyet, Crofts was barely playing). No one – and I mean no one – except David Burke and Oscar Garcia know how Rodriguez (or Spanish Rodney as I really hope he’ll be known) will fit in. Hands up if you’ve seen him play live? Thought not. With the exception of El-Abd though Burke has done exactly what he told Albion Roar he does – replace like for like.

Of the other recent additions Andrews is absolutely Hammond-esque in his inconsistency, Agustein is FAR better than Dicker and Chickson looks better, younger and quicker than Painter. Ward has been solid as.

With injuries (and I explained why I’m including them) our front five is Ulloa, Rodriguez, CMS, Hoskins and Obika. Attacking midfielders Buckley, Orlandi, Lua Lua, March and Spanish Dave. Central midfield Ince, JFC, Andrews, Crofts, Agustien, Stephens.

Now substitute in Dicker, Hammond, Dobbie, Harley and Painter. Still think we’re weaker? We’re not.

We have done sensible business at a time when sense is quite hard to find in football. Oscar is building style that is suited to a team rather than individual stars. In other news Frimpong has taken his rap records and Dench clothing to that hot bed of street culture Barnsley (oh how I laughed when people moaned he could have come here). In fact losing Liam and Palace getting Thomas Ince on loan are the only deals that have annoyed me.

FFP rules Mr Naylor? It IS the rules and we’ve done alright out of them. Sorry about your quiet evening.