In the past two weeks, Manchester United and Chelsea have played The First Big Match of The Season, a more-interesting-than-most-people-think 0-0 draw; Arsenal has plunged into chaos, then suddenly recovered, almost as if the team hadn’t plunged into chaos in the first place; Aston Villa’s new defender, Antonio Luna (gangster nickname: Tony Moon), has established himself as one of the league’s most hilariously erratic players; and Swansea City’s new striker, Wilfried Bony (gangster nickname: Daddy Cool), has scored his first Premier League goal.
In short, a lot has happened since Liverpool kicked off the new season earlier this month. But because the summer transfer window doesn’t close until September 2, by which point every Premier League team will have played three games, transfer speculation – stuff that hasn’t happened, like Gareth Bale’s “imminent” move to Real Madrid, and David Moyes’ attempts to sign Marouane Fellaini and Leighton Baines – is still dominating newspaper headlines.
The final weeks of the transfer window, however, do more than just disrupt media coverage of what should be one of the most exciting periods of the season, a welcome end to a month of tedious pre-season friendlies. These weeks also influence individual games, players, and coaches.
A week and a half ago, Arsenal bid 10 million pounds for Newcastle United’s French midfielder Yohan Cabaye just a few hours before Newcastle played Manchester City in the league. Unsettled and, presumably, slightly insulted — 10 million pounds is nothing in today’s transfer market — Cabaye refused to play against City, and Newcastle lost 4-0. “There is a question about the transfer window being closed before we kick off the Premier League season,” Newcastle manager Alan Pardew complained in a post-match interview. “After the summer we have had, with the situations with Rooney as well, it’s definitely something that they need to put under the microscope again.”
Newcastle was always going to lose to City, with or without Cabaye. But it’s unlikely that Arsene Wenger would have delayed his bid had Newcastle been preparing for a winnable home match against a potential relegation rival like Ian Holloway’s Crystal Palace.
There’s no reason the end of the transfer window should overlap with the start of the new season. Premier League chairmen spend most of the window in a perpetual stare-down, with Daniel Levy laughing somewhere in the background. Not much happens until, with deadline day fast approaching, antsy fans and skeptical reporters start asking uncomfortable questions. A shortened window would eliminate a lot of pointless posturing. Transfer stories would progress more quickly; Cabaye would join Arsenal in July.
It’s often said that the season doesn’t “fully arrive” until after the transfer window ends and players return from the first international break. The European Professional Football Leagues organization, which decides these kinds of things, should vote to close next year’s summer window in early August and allow fans, coaches, and players to focus on what’s really important: football matches.