Soccer

English Premier League Analysis: Recent Transfers

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Did Premier League teams need to name their mythical "25-man" roster for league player Wednesday? Oh, Jonathan Woodgate is excluded from Tottenham's team? Shocker.

Apologies.

Lost my mind for a bit. Seems like I spent the last 48 hours staring into the eyes of Sunil Gulati. Not exactly good for the ol' mental constitution.

Even if it was a quiet transfer window, or as English MENSA candidate Rio Ferdinand so aptly labeled it, the "recession window" there were a couple moves worth exploring, or at least knee-jerk hypothesizing how they'll pan out. Is that what writing on the Internets is all about? Jumping to impulse conclusions and then contradicting yourself months later? Wait, I said that out loud? Oops.

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Rafael van dar Vaart to Tottenham from Real Madrid -- Was this Jose Mourinho throwing Harry Redknapp a bone, since it materialized from seemingly no where at the last minute. Does the man famous for his puppet doppelganger secretly like the man who actually looks like a puppet?

Definitely a head scratcher.

When you an add a player like van dar Vaart for a semi-bargain price of $12 million to the squad, you probably have to do it. There's no way Redknapp couldn't make this, right?

It'd be like a compulsive gambling addict finding a roll of scratch off tickets on the ground. You can try to fight it, but your urges are going eventually take over.

And that's probably want the Dutchman is, a gamble. An unscratched ticket.

Does he exactly address a need or fill a gap for Spurs? No, not really.

Will he create a central midfield logjam? Maybe.

Does he marginalize Luka Modric or Niko Kranjcar? Probably.

Tottenham's best success last season came with the four-man midfield of Gareth Bale, Modric, Tom Huddlestone and either David Bentley or Aaron Lennon on the right. You could still play this base lineup, with van dar Vaart sitting behind a lone striker like Peter Crouch, yet it doesn't address Spurs' need for a goal scorer.

How well van dar Vaart integrates is anyone's guess. Does he slot in and fill a role, or does the team create and cater to integrate him?

It's not a slam dunk by any margin. To me, van dar Vaart always seems like he's a given a little more credit than he should. Maybe if his name wasn't so undeniably Euro-cool, we'd rate him a little lower. If his name were Joop Schnars would he still carry an aura of quality?

Don't get me wrong, he's technically astute and skill set is elite caliber. Even in a marginalized role at Real Madrid, he made things happen when he got onto the field.

In the end, it's a gamble and at the price Spurs paid, probably a gamble worth making. It's hard to see a player of van dar Vaart's class submarining Tottenham in either the League or Champions League. What upside does van dar Vaart have in being a contankerous malcontent? Shouldn't he behave like a new person, liberated from the margins at the Bernabeu?

If anything, the other day I wrote how Spurs didn't have any "Blue Chip" players. The 27-year-old Dutchman could be that caliber, if all depends if Redknapp finds the right combination and spot to deploy him.

Bottom line, we've got Sylvie van dar Vaart back in our lives. If only Peter Crouch didn't muck things up with Abby Clancy the Spurs WAGS might top the table.

Asamoah Gyan to Sunderland from Rennes -- Very torn on this one, and it has nothing to do with this game-winner vs. the U.S. at the World Cup in June.

On paper, yeah, adding a potentially game-changing player with Gyan's gazelle-like pace even at the club-record cost of $20 million, makes sense. Yet Gyan, despite his outstanding movement at the World Cup, isn't a prolific scorer -- 14 in 47 at Rennes. Not great. Not terrible.

It's a large outlay of money for a player who could easily flop like any number of foreign forwards coming to England, Shevchenko on down the line.

Ideally, you'd think Steve Bruce is envisioning a scenario where Gyan's speed creates more room for Darren Bent to operate in the box. If they click, it might be the best potential traditional two-man 4-4-2 strike unit in England. Gyan's speed, too, could prove very useful to spring counter attacks when Sunderland is pinned in deep against some of the better, possession-based teams.

This could go either way, but if Sunderland ever wants to move up the table instead of spending life in mid-tier purgatory, bold moves like this are necessary. With Frazier Campbell out
six months and Kewyne Jones sold to Stoke, Bent can't do it by himself.

Jean Beausejour, Martin Jiranek and Alexsandr Hleb to Birmingham City-- Obviously the one takeaway here is that Hleb must be a huge Black Sabbath fan. Huge. Even the Dio years.

Tired, heavy metal jokes aside, hard to find any fault with what Alex McLeish did. He found two potentially exciting wide players in Beausejour and Hleb, who can help fill a massive hole on the left side, plus relieve some pressure from Seb Larsson, who's been the loan creative outlet at St. Andrews Park.

Don't discount moving for Czech midfielder Jiranek, either. Birmingham got a ton out of Lee Bowyer and Barry Ferguson last season. Neither are spring chickens, so Jiranek helps them and fills in the Lee Carsley hard-man role.

Throw in the prior move for Matt Derbyshire and McLeish probably couldn't have done a better job of consolidating for an extended stay in the Prem.

Jermaine Pennant, Eidur Gudjohnsen and Marc Wilson to Stoke City -- Not crazy about what Tony Pulis did, though you can see the logic behind it.

Pennant, at this point, is a tease. Do we have any idea where his mental state is at after a couple seasons at Real Zaragoza? He's a guy that have one blinding game, then disappear for weeks.

At the very least, we've got another guy named Jermaine in the Premier League, which is rapidly becoming its most popular first name.

Gudjohnsen is who he is. A fair-haired Nordic hard worker, who's limited from a pace standpoint, but gives you all he has for 90 minutes. That ought to fit into the Stoke ethos.

Quietly, in exchange for Wilson, Pulis sent a message shipping over troublemakers Liam Lawrence and the massively disappointing ginger Dave Kitson to England football's Serbia -- Portsmouth. Pulis wants guys who'll fight for the cause.

Two moves that didn't happen: Arsenal didn't get a keeper. Liverpool didn't get a striker (or ship out Ryan Babel on a helicopter ... next year: hydrofoil!).

It's not the popular opinion, but can't fault Arsene Wenger here, or Roy Hodgson.

With the Gunners, yeah, it's sort of a Bob Bradley situation with Manuel Almunia. Nobody much cares for him, but most of the time he's competent enough. It's his mistakes that cause the most ire, though it seems some of the time Gooners are just tiring to find reasons to hate the would-be Spanish pornstar.

Think of his rumored replacements. Mark Schwarzer, who's 37 and maybe Shay Given who's 34. Are either that appreciatively better than Alumnia? Granted soccer doesn't yet have it's statistic for everything single little bit of minutia like baseball (UZR, WAR, etc.), but the difference there is minimal over the course of 38 games.

Why Wenger didn't open the change purse for a guy like Hugo Lloris or Igor Akinfeev is more inexcusable.

Same logic for Liverpool's Quixote quest to find the Andrew Ridgeley to pair with Fernando Torres' George Michael.

If the only option seems to be Carlton Cole, you might as well role the dice with the rapidly improving David N'Gog.(*)

(*) A WHAM! joke and praise for N'Gog in consecutive sentences. I might have to sit down for a little bit and stop typing.

Sometimes the best moves are the ones you don't make.

One Quick American Addition:

Surprised Villareal is keeping Jozy Altidore, but not really.

The team paid around $10 million for him, and it's today economic climate nobody is paying that much for an unproven 20-year-old American who spent a season on loan in the Premier League and scored but once.

Villareal likely came to the conclusion they couldn't afford a sunk cost, so they might as well play the kid and hope he pans out. If Alitdore rides the pine and can't force way into the lineup for some La Liga matches this year, well, they we all might have to re-evaluate things.

Brief Conclusion:

The Premier League 2010-11 is going to be hard. Almost like cranking the AI setting on "FIFA" to Legendary.

Didn't want to spend a lot of time on it, but Wigan kept Charles N'Zogbia, added Franco Di Santo and Tom Cleverly on loan. Maybe Roberto Martinez gets his act together in time.

Blackpool didn't do anything aside from bringing back playoff-hero DJ Campbell and will likely eventually be overwhelmed, but for now Ian Holloway's side is playing with genuine moxie.

Tuesday Sunderland, Stoke, Birmingham all got better. We've already seen major improvement from Bolton. Newcastle has talent, too.

Last year West Ham and Wigan avoided the drop to the Championship essentially being less crappy than three other teams -- Burnley, Hull City and point-deducted Portsmouth.

Come January 2011, teams will have earned their place in the 2011-12 Premier League season.