The Transfer Insider – June 17th
Welcome to this the 2nd column from Ed Darnell of the Smart Betting Club focusing on all the transfer window news with a betting perspective. Ed will be reporting back on all the latest developments every Friday and you can find his thoughts last week, including his take on Arsenal, Man Utd & Chelsea at this link.
Last time I covered the title contenders, or the big three, of Arsenal, Chelsea and (of course) Manchester United. I’m going to have a run through the other likely candidates this week – Liverpool, Spurs and big-money Manchester City.
Can any of these three win the league? The likelihood is probably not but on the other hand I don’t see why not, especially in the case of City.
Liverpool and Spurs could surprise a few and mount a decent challenge if they manage to invest right in the summer, it is pretty unlikely but both can build and improve on where they finished.
I wouldn’t blame you for disagreeing with me over Spurs and Liverpool, neither came anywhere near eventual champions Manchester United last season but there are other factors to consider. Spurs had the rather sizeable distraction of the Champions League last season and I doubt they’ll treat the Europa League with the same respect throughout the coming campaign.
Liverpool have no European football to concern themselves with at all – and their form following Kenny Dalglish’s arrival was certainly impressive.
Could this be all set up for the most entertaining title battle in the history of the Premier League? Let’s hope so but I’m getting ahead of myself – time to get down to business.
I’ve started with the Reds purely because I reckon they’re probably the easiest of the three to predict in terms of transfers, but more on that later. Boss Kenny Dalglish has already been a busy boy, picking up Sunderland schemer Jordan Henderson for a cool £20million and continuing an encouraging policy of buying the best British youngsters he can – following Andy Carroll’s January switch.
They’re already hailing Henderson as the ‘new Steven Gerrard’ on Merseyside, even the man himself has indicated he thinks the former Sunderland youngster can be the heir to his throne. I’m inclined to think this is jumping the gun somewhat. Henderson is clearly talented but Gerrard has been one of the best midfielders at club level for over a decade, anyway time will tell on that one.
However, time is catching up with Gerrard and they’re clearly on the lookout for replacements, and if reports are true Charlie Adam is close to swapping Blackpool for Merseyside. Stevie G’s best bud Jamie Carragher is another one who is reaching the twilight of his career and there have been links with a few centre-halves, but it seems, unsurprisingly, as if midfield is Dalglish’s priority at the moment.
Both Henderson and Adam are central midfielders but the Reds are after a winger or two. That aspect was painfully lacking in their attack last season and they desperately lacked both width and pace. They have been linked with Ashley Young, who opted for Manchester United, and Charles N’Zogbia, who appears to be weighing up his options or is being forced to wait while the multitude of apparently interested clubs hold fire until one makes the first move.
The bookmakers don’t seem to rate Liverpool’s chances and they’re a best priced 11/1 shot with William Hill, Stan James and Victor Chandler. I honestly think they could surprise a few people next season but a real title push may be beyond them, although Boylesports have them at 4/1 without Manchester United and Chelsea – probably a better option.
Of all the sides in England’s top-flight, including the two Manchester sides, Tottenham Hotspur are the hardest to judge in the transfer market. Remember deadline day last summer? Boss Harry Redknapp categorically stated that he had no more irons in the fire, he’d be ‘surprised’ if they did anymore business and what happens? Rafael van der Vaart turns up at the 11th hour in a cut-price deal.
However, the story this summer for Spurs might not be who they’re after but who they can keep hold of, for the time being anyway. After all those mighty European performances there was massive anticipation of a transfer scramble for Gareth Bale but instead Luka Modric is creating the buzz. Manchester United have him as one of their top targets, but Chelsea have made the first move with a bid in the region of £20million – that Spurs have quite rightly rejected. The blues still remain favourites though with Skybet offering 5/6 he will be there once the transfer window closes, with Man Utd 7/2 and Man City outsiders at 16/1.
Make no mistake – there is no way Redknapp wants this to happen but many a transfer window has been ruined for a club who are simply battling vainly to hold onto their best players. Arsenal’s saga with Cesc Fabregas last summer demonstrate this. Fabregas basically refused to commit himself, and the signs are Modric is doing the same. The main question is whether Redknapp does the right thing and history suggests this means acting quickly. If he tries all summer and eventually forces him to stay then Redknapp runs the risk of failing to capture quality players by focusing on keeping his exiting stars, as Wenger did with Fabregas, or he could leave altogether, as Dimitar Berbatov did in 2009. If Redknapp acts quickly then he either gets Modric to commit or decides to cash in and move on with his own targets, with a bit of extra funding as well, the flip side is the longer he holds on then potentially the more money Spurs make from a game of transfer poker.
The story of Spurs’ transfer window should tell the tale as to whether or not Spurs are to challenge for the title anytime soon. Their chances hinge on whether or not they can keep hold of Modric and Bale, as well as bringing in a striker. Redknapp seemed to be drumming up business for Peter Crouch last week, stating he was surprised Sunderland hadn’t made a bid after selling Henderson. If this isn’t trying to move someone on I don’t know what is.
Harry Redknapp’s side are massive outsiders in terms of the six probable contenders and are a whopping 56/1 with Betfair, a price that could drift further if they lose Modric. They might be worth a cheeky each-way nibble if any bookmakers are offering 1/3 odds for the top three places, otherwise I’d suggest Betfair would be the way to go so it can be traded. Before we continue I’d like to point out I’m not a proven tipster, before you go remortgaging your house or anything crazy like that….
Money may be no object at Eastlands but how you replace a player like Carlos Tevez is beyond me. He seems to let slip that he’s unhappy in Manchester every time he does an interview with Argentine TV, his latest comments are that it rains all the time in Manchester and there are only two restaurants. As a native of the north west of England, I’d like to point out that he’s clearly never heard of Rusholme’s curry mile, but that is beside the point. On the other hand, the club have enough money to just say no to any transfer, it’s a strange one. Player power dictates that unhappy players are usually indulged – if only for morale. Tevez will surely get his move.
The movement at Eastlands this summer will be huge, as well as their targets the likes of Craig Bellamy, Roque Santa Cruz, Emmanuel Adebayor, Shay Given, Nedum Onuha, Wayne Bridge, Vladimir Weiss and Jerome Boateng all seem to be heading towards the exit in a partial book-balancing excercise.
At the moment City are being linked with some big names, or highly rated youngsters, such as Napoli trio Edinson Cavani, Marek Hamsik, and Ezequiel Lavezzi, Palmero’s Javier Pastore, Barcelona’s David Villa, Luka Modric, Udinese’s Alexis Sanchez and Gary Cahill. However, despite their vast finances, in purely footballing terms, City are still not one of Europe’s big guns. In a transfer tug of war sides such as AC Milan and Inter Milan, Barcelona and Real Madrid and Manchester United and Chelsea will usually come out on top. This could well result in City having to settle for other targets, but expect some big business regardless.
City are 4/1 with Coral and Betfred to win the league next season, making them third favourites for the top prize with most. This price could well shrink if they do go on a bit of a spree so if you fancy Roberto Mancini’s millionaires it might be an idea to get on them now.
Other bits and bobs…
It would seem as if Alex McLeish has all but been confirmed as Aston Villa boss. In fact, the Scot will almost certainly be in the hot seat by the time this article gets published. This is a bit of a surprise really, they said they didn’t want Steve McLaren due to the fans’ misgivings but McLeish isn’t a popular choice either. It also seems pretty likely he’ll try and bring Birmingham’s Scott Dann, a very accomplished centre-half, to Villa Park with him but the Blues won’t give him up easily – or cheaply. You can pick up 7/4 with Skybet on Dann making this switch before the window slams shut.
Newcastle are a strange one at the moment, they’ve let Kevin Nolan join West Ham and seem willing to either let Joey Barton run out his deal or are ready to sell, but Barton insists he doesn’t want to go. The Toon are also hot favourites to sign Demba Ba, and boss Alan Pardew will want at least two strikers after seeing Andy Carroll leave in January. Newcastle also look set to secure Leeds man Robert Snodgrass, who is also a target for Norwich. That move would surely kill any lingering notion of a move for Celtic skipper Scott Brown. The Scotland midfielder had been linked with a cash plus keeper Fraser Forster deal but surely Celtic will not pursue the merely adequate stopper – and will want to retain Scott Brown. Celtic are probably decidedly keener on Craig Gordon but may wait to try and get the best deal out of Sunderland as the clock ticks down. Interest in the former Hearts and Scotland keeper is on hold as he is currently laid low with a knee injury.
Swansea chairman Huw Jenkins has promised to back boss Brendan Rodgers in the summer after snapping up Danny Graham for £3.5million, they’ve been linked with Spain international, or former international, Marcos Senna – but that doesn’t look a likely switch. Villarreal are planning to offer him a new deal.
Fellow Premier League new boys Norwich will ‘buy British’ this summer according to boss Paul Lambert. This is a bit of a surprise, usually the newly promoted sides try and find some value in Europe and English players tend to command premium prices – to be honest I don’t rate the Canaries chances of survival next season and I reckon of the three promoted sides they’re the least likely to avoid the drop, with Bet365 and Boylesports both offering 4/6 on Norwich to go down.
Stoke will reportedly rival Wolves and Swansea for Reading centre-half Matt Mills. Potters boss Tony Pulis loves a strong central defender so it doesn’t surprise me he’s been linked with Mills, although I can’t ascertain where exactly these reports have come from. However, Royals boss Brian McDermott has been moved to come out and state the 24-year-old isn’t for sale – so there may well be some interest in Mills from the Premier League.
The Premier League have released a list of players who are now free agents, with Patrick Vieira, Jonathan Woodgate and Sebastian Larsson arguably the biggest names. Rather than go through it here I’ll let you check it out yourself – here is the link
Phew, that will do for this week! Next time out I’ll take a detailed look at the newly promoted trio of QPR, Swansea and Norwich and try and gauge their chances of survival.