Arsene Wenger Is Right: The January Transfer Window Is 'Unfair'

Will Tidey@willtideySenior Manager, GlobalJanuary 25, 2013

SWANSEA, WALES - JANUARY 06:  Arsene Wenger manager of Arsenal looks thoughtful prior to the FA Cup with Budweiser Third Round match between Swansea City and Arsenal at Liberty Stadium on January 6, 2013 in Swansea, Wales.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Stu Forster/Getty Images

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is not a fan of the Premier League's January transfer window. Said Wenger to reporters in a press conference on Friday (as per BBC Sport):

It is unfair some teams have played, for example, Newcastle already and then some still have to face a side with six or eight new players. I think it (the January window) should be completely cut out or limited to two players.

Based on Arsenal's reluctance to spend, and their habit of selling their best players to the highest bidder, many will view Wenger's comments as further evidence of his stubborn stance in the face of an undeniable reality. 

Wenger's purist vision for financial sustainability is now seven-and-a-half years without a trophy. In that time, Arsenal have parted with the likes of Cesc Fabregas, Robin van Persie and Samir Nasri, and missed out on several big-name signings in their reluctance to get the club credit card out.

Thus far, Arsenal—who desperately need a new striker—have done no January business. Meanwhile, Chelsea have signed Demba Ba, Liverpool have bought Daniel Sturridge and QPR have added Loic Remy.

If teams were limited to two buys in January, those would all be fine. But the dealings of Newcastle, West Ham and Wigan would not.

Newcastle have upgraded to the tune of four new players, all of them French—Mathieu Debuchy, Yoan Gouffran, Massadio Haidara and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa. Wenger's argument is that Norwich, Everton, Reading and Manchester United—who have already played Newcastle twice—have faced a weaker team to the one Arsenal will play in May.

Video Play Button
Videos you might like

You might argue that the sale of Ba evens that out. But there's no denying the Newcastle squad emerging in February will be a different beast from the one that ended December.

The same is true at West Ham, where Sam Allardyce has already signed four players in January. Wigan have added three. QPR will surely add to their moves for Remy and Tal Ben Haim.

Taking things further, would Manchester United have won the title without a January window last season? Everton's January deadline day signings Nikica Jelavic and Steven Pienaar both scored in their 4-4 draw at Old Trafford—a result that ultimately put the outcome back in Manchester City's hands.

Neither player was with Everton when they faced City on Jan. 31, 2012.

To that end, Wenger's right—the January transfer window is unfair. Perhaps, as suggested by B/R's Dan Levy, the system should only allow deals at the midway point of the season (19 games played) to address this issue.

January buys would still influence the outcome of a season, however. The window allows teams with spending power to adjust to their failings, and frequently robs others of their best players in mid-flow. The Premier League is a competition of 20 squads over a 38-game season, so why not let it play out with the resources each started with?

The counterargument is that spending is healthy, whenever it happens. Here's what Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore said after the January 2011 window, which saw a record £225 million invested—most notably Chelsea's £50 million on Fernando Torres and Liverpool's £35 million on Andy Carroll (as per the Guardian):

I don't want clubs that can't afford it spending on transfer fees they can't afford and taking on liabilities in wages they can't afford. But for those who can afford it—look at what happened, it is Roman [Abramovich's] money that allowed X to happen and Y to happen and there are some people sitting with stronger balance sheets than they had at the start of the window: Newcastle for one.

Scudamore has point.

Premier League clubs are businesses who need to make money. But is a defined period of desperation really the way toward a fair and functioning free market? Or just the quickest way to inflate prices and force teams to make hasty, ill-advised decisions? (See: Carroll and Torres.)

Some think there's no need for a January window at all.

Why not just allow transfers from the end of one season through the midpoint of the next—with no interruption? That way, buying teams have time to carefully consider their decisions and selling teams can't hold others to ransom.

Fans would miss the excitement, but their clubs might make better decisions and prices would be less likely to become inflated. It's the latter part that appeals to Wenger most strongly.

The Arsenal manager will not be dragged out on a rich shopping spree for the sake of it. He will not pay over-the-odds for a player if he doesn't think they're worth it. The January window represents everything he hates about the transfer market and he'd love to see the back of it.

Maybe he's got a point. But you suspect his argument is less about the window, and more about the competition buying their way out of trouble, when his principles won't let him do it.