Arsene Wenger is a smart, pragmatic man whose coaching techniques, dietary practises and managerial nous have revolutionised the modern game. The Frenchman didn't earn the nickname "The Professor" for being a fool.
For some time, the Arsenal manager has had a bee in his proverbial bonnet with regard to the transfer window. Born either from his club's cautious spending approach or a genuine concern for the mechanisms of the game, Wenger believes the current system of having a January window does not work. And he is right.
In January 2013, he labelled the window "unfair," referencing Newcastle's French spending spree. The year before, he mentioned his desire to scrap the current FIFA-enforced window system. "Either you leave it completely open the whole year or you close it completely for the whole year," he told The Telegraph.
True to his annual form, the Gunners boss has spoken out this week on the subject. The Daily Mail asked him if he would support the abolishment of the winter window:
You have my signature straight away.
Either you scrap it completely, or you leave it open until as long as possible to the last four games.
It is like running a relay, then in the middle of the relay you change your runners.
It gives teams a chance who are already convicted, it gives some teams hope.
But when I arrived in England, the window was open until April, the whole season, and it was not a problem.
Why did you change it? To create that high intense activity and suddenly in January everybody becomes nervous.
Before it was the whole season and it did not create any problem.
The transfer window system was first proposed in the 1990s and made compulsory in the 2002-03 season. One of the most compelling reasons to adopt the system was that it would create "stability."
Clearly, it does the exact opposite of this.
The window prevents agents doing deals all year round and helps managers focus on games—rather than the market—for the majority of the season, but many will tell you it does more harm than good.
Richard Bevan, CEO of the League Managers Association, has spoken about the subject several times. "It doesn't create stability, it doesn't create a level playing field, and certainly in the Football League they are very keen the domestic window is removed," he told the BBC in 2011.
Bevan notes that the January window is often a "tipping point" for club chairmen, who will scapegoat and fire managers instead of spending in the permitted window.
In addition to creating a mood of general panic, the window system also unsettles players.
Last week, Stoke striker Kenwyne Jones had the audacity to text manager Mark Hughes the night before a game to tell him he wasn't going to play. Would a player do this if they didn't have their head turned by another club who only have a limited time to buy them?
It's quite simple: If a player believes they can better their circumstances elsewhere, they will be less committed to the cause.
The closing of the summer window in September is just as disruptive. Last summer, we saw Gareth Bale miss numerous training sessions and completely dodge his employer as Real Madrid set up a world-record bid for him. If he had stayed, his preseason preparations would have been heavily disrupted.
Furthermore, in the current system, a player can start a season playing for one team and end up somewhere new after just a few games. Whom does that benefit?
The window also creates instability from a financial perspective. Prices are driven well above market value by clubs desperate to seize the only chance they will get to bolster their squad. Relegation-threatened sides often succumb to a fire-sale mentality. Poorer teams who may need to offload talent to keep the wolf from banging at the door can sometimes be forced to wait months until they can do business.
In 2008, Michel Platini promised to review the current window system. That never happened.
Once again, Mr. Wenger is right. Either the window should be closed completely—so no teams can make any transfers during the season—or it must return to the old system, where players could be bought and sold right up until the final few weeks of the campaign. Either option would be superior to the current mess.
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