Transfer Deadline Day: Two Days to Go_ Club In Focus: Everton_

Howard's end: Everton's no1 has picked the ball out of his net 10 times in three games

Howard’s end: Everton’s no1 has picked the ball out of his net 10 times in three games

The mad trolley-dash would appear to have started early for some clubs, while others may only just be realizing their freezers aren’t fully stocked for the long winter nights that lie ahead.

Mario Balotelli’s £16million move to Liverpool has inadvertently created a void that Harry Redknapp may now wish to fill at QPR: the knock-on effect of Loic Remy replacing Fernando Torres at Chelsea, with AC Milan choosing to replace one mercurial talent with another. It often takes a deal involving great sums of money to light the blue touch paper for fireworks elsewhere and while the media strive to cover all angles in the build-up to the final few hours, the permutations of one money-laden Premier League club choosing to part with their surplus stash are endless.

The domino effect of Marouane Fellaini joining Manchester United for £27 million was felt greatest by Wigan Athletic after losing a Championship play-off semi-final nine months further down the line. The Belgian’s exit immediately activated the arrival of Latics midfielder James McCarthy at Everton, and the cocktail of desperation and tough negotiation will no doubt again lead to there being outright winners and losers come the early hours of Tuesday morning. The biggest losers, however, may be those who only identify a growing cancer once the window has shut.

It’s been a gruelling start for Everton. Buoyed from an excellent campaign under Roberto Martinez in his first season at the club and fresh from making Gareth Barry and Romelu Lukaku’s presence at Finch Farm permanent, the Toffees cruelly lost Ross Barkley to a knee injury sustained in training 48 hours before the season opener at Leicester. The results, and most glaring the defensive performances in the opening three games have left the Blues looking like an ageing squad in need of an injection of players in their pomp. McCarthy has shown himself to be an exceptional talent, and at 23 he has many years at this level ahead of him, while Seamus Coleman and indeed Lukaku can claim to be shy of their best years. But only the front three behind him on Saturday – Aiden McGeady, Steven Naismith and Kevin Mirallas – out of a 25-man squad can be classified as ‘at their peak’.

Losing to title favourites Chelsea in a game more akin to a Sunday league match, not only in score line but in refereeing, is not enough on its own to warrant Martinez to flick the panic switch, but the perfectionist that he is will demand far more from his preferred defensive partnership of Sylvain Distin and Phil Jagielka, who looked every inch the oldest Premier League centre-half pairing against a rampant Chelsea front-line.  

John Stones performed with great composure and fearlessness during Jagielka’s absence in the second half of last campaign, but after a summer in which he narrowly missed out on World Cup selection, a spate of erratic pre-season outings would suggest throwing the 20-year-old into a defence low on confidence and high on goals conceded (10) may exacerbate Everton’s Achilles heel. Antolin Alcaraz is the other alternative, as well as being the other side of 30. The Paraguayan has only made six appearances since joining on a free transfer last summer, and will be remembered more for his unfortunate own goal which ended the side’s Champions League hopes at Southampton last April than the glimmers shown of being a deputy capable of taking the club onto the next level this time around.

The cameo from Samuel Eto’o was one of the few positives the ever-optimistic Martinez should rightfully glean from a performance bereft of defensive considerations against Jose Mourinho’s side. His instant impact at Goodison is all the more welcome given Lukaku’s unexpected poor start and Arouna Kone’s expected absence. Steven Naismith is most certainly doing his level best to offset the creative absence of Barkley, not least in terms of goals, but if Everton are to come through a winter schedule complicated by a tough Europa League draw unscathed, any money that remains in chairman Bill Kenwright’s coffers ought to be spent on reaffirming the Gwladys Street hymn of ‘playing from the back’ without the current tinge of irony it possesses.

Transfer Deadline Day Drama rating: 7/10

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Transfer Deadline Day: Three Days to Go_ Club In Focus: QPR_

In the rough: Redknapp had hoped to attend a charity golf event on Monday.

In the rough: Redknapp had hoped to attend a charity golf event on Monday.

A Transfer Deadline Day wouldn’t be the same without Harry Redknapp sticking his head out of a battered old Range Rover, so it’s just as well his QPR side look in desperate need of a brand new set of tyres.

A week on from becoming the latest profile to offer Paul Gascoigne an olive branch, Redknapp knows that he himself is heading for the last-last saloon in the transfer market, after his Rangers side have welcomed the visit of Sunderland on Saturday.

Two defeats in a week, both embarrassing for differing reasons, have only served to highlight the growing concerns that the west Londoners are yet to learn from their last sojourn in the top flight, but Redknapp told a sparsely populated media hall on Friday that he foresees an upturn in fortunes.

“I’m back in the Premier League and I want to stay here. We will stay here this season, we will stay up,” Redknapp insisted. “People talk about systems, but it’s all about the players at the end of the day.

“We’re just a little bit short of gelling a team together. If we get the players we’re trying to get, I’m sure we’ll be strong. It takes time to knit a team together. I’m confident that after this break, we’ll see a very different QPR.”

Redknapp believes Ale Faurlin has the character to come back from a third anterior cruciate ligament injury in as many years, but with Armand Traore headed for Crystal Palace and Danny Simpson likely to join Leicester, the former Spurs manager may be faced with a shortage of full-backs going into Monday’s deadline.

Tony Fernandes had told Sky Sports News HQ on Thursday that the club were hopeful of concluding a deal with Reading over the services of goalkeeper Alex McCarthy, and that there was the potential of another midfielder joining the newly arrived Leroy Fer, but so far nothing has been forthcoming, with a move for West Ham United’s Mo Diame by all accounts dead in the water.

Redknapp says that he would like to ‘freshen things up’ if he can, but with many players – including Shaun Wright-Phillips and Jermaine Jenas – seemingly content to sit on their sizeable wages in the capital, the 67-year-old may find convincing members of his squad to look elsewhere for regular first-team football a hard sell.

Edu Vargas completed his move from Napoli over a week ago, but the Chilean is still in his native country finalising a work permit. “He’s not disappeared!” barked Redknapp. “As soon as he gets his passport, he’ll be back. We were hoping he would be back in time for tomorrow, but obviously it seems like he’s not going to make it.”

Vargas’ absence will no doubt add to the growing tension among those at Loftus Road tomorrow – something that would be exacerbated not so much by another defeat as if the likes of Loic Remy and Adel Taraabt are allowed to leave at the eleventh hour on Monday without new faces coming in the other direction.

“As far as I know, there’s been no offers for him,” Redknapp said of Remy. “I’m hopeful that he’ll be here. [Arsenal] have had plenty of time to come on, but nothing’s happened.”

Both Remy and Taraabt – who has again been linked with AC Milan – have buy-out clauses that Redknapp insists must be met, but if his side are to shrug off the moniker of Queen’s Park Strangers this campaign, they must hope whoever joins the discovered Vargas as a new recruit on Monday earn their hoops quickly and are not of the same ilk as those who relegated the club two seasons ago.

Transfer Deadline Day Drama rating: 9/10

Transfer Deadline Day: Four Days to Go_ Club In Focus: Man Utd_

There is little time left for LVG to announce new signings before the transfer window shuts

There is little time left for LVG to announce new signings before the transfer window shuts

What is there left to say about Manchester United this transfer window? What is there left to chew? Analysis of Louis van Gaal’s new-look side now verges on the obsessive following the 4-0 humbling in the Capital One Cup against MK Dons earlier this week, as the vultures already begin to circle over Old Trafford, not content with the scraps that remain of England’s World Cup carcass.

Is the 3-5-2 formation ever going to work? Where will Juan Mata fit in? When will Tom Cleverley be sold?

Roy Hodgson would appear to be on the same page as van Gaal not only on the Aston Villa-bound Cleverley, who was omitted from his latest England squad, but also when it comes to choosing the torchbearer of a new dawn. Wayne Rooney was named the new England captain on Thursday afternoon, with Hodgson following the Dutch coach in entrusting him to carry the ‘baggage’ of previous misdemeanours and the extra responsibility with aplomb.

Rooney will surely relish the prospect of playing alongside new British record transfer signing Angel Di Maria, who shall wear the famous no7 shirt of United previously worn by the likes of George Best, Eric Cantona David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo. Di Maria’s arrival brings the Red Devils’ total summer spending to £130.7m following the arrivals of Luke Shaw, Ander Herrera and Marcos Rojo, but early indications are that van Gaal is only likely to do further business if he allows one or two players to leave.

Speculation surrounding Arturo Vidal and Daley Blind’s futures at Juventus and Ajax respectively refuses to go away, but if United are to break the £200m mark for total expenditure this year, following Mata’s arrival in January, it has been widely reported that either one or both of Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernandez would have to join Cleverley in heading for the exit.

There were many, including myself, who swooned over the new managerial appointment at the 20-time champions of England, believing that in signing two excellent prospects van Gaal had brought the club back from the brink. Results have dictated otherwise, with the gulf in class between they and title favourites Chelsea and Man City never more apparent in all the months since Sir Alex Ferguson called time on his managerial career.

Di Maria has already been heavily dissected by the media, down to every last cross. No matter how much one searches, attempting to justify the £59.7m fee will be as futile as questioning whether Phil Jones or Chris Smalling will ever fulfil their potential. The acquisition of the Argentine at a premium price will allow for very little bedding-in time, but his 22 assists in La Liga last campaign was unrivalled and signals prosperity for Rooney, Robin van Persie, and company regardless of whether defensive concerns are addressed.

Transfer Deadline Day Drama rating: 8/10

 

 

Hodgson names Wayne Rooney as new England captain

New Roo: Rooney says captaining England is 'beyond his wildest dreams'.

New Roo: Rooney says captaining England is ‘beyond his wildest dreams’.

England manager Roy Hodgson has named Wayne Rooney as his new England captain ahead of next month’s friendly against Norway and the start of the European Championship Qualifiers.

Rooney, who has 95 international caps, replaces Steven Gerrard after the Liverpool midfielder called time on his England career following a disappointing World Cup in Brazil.

Hodgson said: “I gave it a lot of thought. But I think Wayne is an obvious choice and he certainly deserves it. He has the responsibility at Man United…these factors played in my thought process. He is prepared to accept the pressures that being England captain brings. You have to feel that whoever takes the captaincy can accept the responsibility.

“It’s dangerous to demand of people that if you get the captaincy you take [your performance] onto a new level. What he’s done from a young age we’ve seen is that he’s ready to accept the responsibility and to push on his in his career.

Hodgson believes that the question of Rooney’s temperament didn’t play a factor in his thoughts, as he judged the forward on his attitude during the two years he has worked with the player, who has twice captained England already, and not the ‘baggage’ that he has carried from his previous misdemeanours.

The England manager has called up four uncapped players ahead of the September internationals, with Calum Chambers, Jack Colback, Fabian Delph and Danny Rose entering the fold. Hodgson doesn’t see the arrival of fresh faces coupled with the retirement of experienced leaders as the turning of a new leaf at Wembley.

“I don’t see this as the start of a new era,” Hodgson said. “After the first game [at the World Cup] we had high hopes, but then they were dashed. I see this as us continuing a line we have already started on with players who we think have a great futures in front of them, which to some extent this has been force upon us. We hope the players can accept the responsibilities both for their club teams- in a protected environment – but also for England, where the scrutiny is far greater.

“[Calum] Chambers first impressed me at Southampton where he played a few games at right back before he lost his place to [Nathaniel] Clyne. I had a long chat with Arsene [Wenger] last night, to check if we weren’t pushing him too soon. He assured me that he was ready to accept whatever challenge we shall give him; selecting him does mean he jumps over the 21s, but with six injuries in the defensive part of the field, I didn’t have that luxury [of choosing].

Hodgson hopes that fellow newcomers Fabian Delph and Jack Colback will embrace the opportunity of stamping their mark on the midfield places vacated by the departed Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard.

“I don’t think there’s any reason for trepidation. Don’t forget there’s no [Theo] Walcott, [Ross] Barkley, [Adam] Lallana. I don’t see us to be fearful in any way. But on the other hand, it will be exciting and anxious to see how these players do step up.

“On paper, we’ve been unlucky that the opening game [of the European Championship Qualifiers] is perhaps the most difficult fixture we have [away at Switzerland]. The players will have to confront and assume a lot of responsibility without the softer introduction that might have come their way against somewhat lesser teams beforehand.”

England squad to face Norway and Switzerland: (GK) Hart, Foster, Forster; (DEF) Baines, Rose, Stones, Chambers, Cahill, Jagielka, Jones (MID) Delph, Townsend, Wilshere, Milner, Henderson,  Oxlade-Chamberlain, Sterling (ATT) Rooney, Sturridge, Welbeck, Lambert.

Transfer Deadline Day: Five Days to Go_ Club In Focus: Chelsea_

Arrivederci Fernando?: Torres has not yet featured for Chelsea this season.

Arrivederci Fernando?: Torres has not yet featured for Chelsea this season.

A former Premier League manager once said, ‘football is full of lies’. The manager fields questions from the press, insisting that a player is not for sale, while the chairman does his level best to contradict him by calling all broadcasters to express an asset’s availability, like a call for auction on eBay.

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho is King when it comes to conducting the quashing of a rumour in his press conferences. “We are very calm,” he told the media last Friday. The club got what we need, and the club did it in a record time – as though our deadline was July 31st.”

With a glance to Nick Collins came another unmistakable and unequivocal retort from the Portuguese: “This countdown clock you have at Sky Sports News all the time – for us, no tick-tock.”

The final five days of the transfer window that remain will bring with it an increased scrutiny from the media on managers such as Mourinho, whether they like it or not. History suggests it should be no different. Sky Sports News HQ reported this morning that the average percentage of total Premier league spending during the summer transfer window across the past three seasons amounted to 30 percent in the final week.

Whether the crescendo of transfer activity skirts the west Londoners is highly unlikely. Mourinho was responding to the uncertainty surrounding Petr Cech’s future last week, and this week brings forth speculation regarding Marco van Ginkel and Fernando Torres – both of whom are linked with AC Milan.

The Italian club are in search of a replacement for the departed Mario Balotelli and are ‘optimistic’ of securing the season-long loan signing of Torres, who has falled down the pecking order at Stamford Bridge, behind Diego Costa and Didier Drogba. Milan confirmed on Wednesday that an official approach has been made for the Spanish striker and any deal involving Torres is likely to include Chelsea having to pay £5m in wages for the former Liverpool forward.

Torres, 30, signed a five-and-a-half-year, £180,000-a-week deal with Chelsea back in January 2011, but has only managed 20 league goals since that £50m move made him the record transfer to a British club until this week. Chelsea, of course, have already decided to let Romelu Lukaku leave for £28m to Everton, who have also snapped up Samuel Eto’o on a free transfer this week after Chelsea released the four-time African Player of the Year.

Mourinho currently has a squad he is very happy with, however, having conducted his incomings very early on in the transfer window. The results and performances at this very early stage would suggest his side will be a formidable outfit this season, without the need to make further reinforcements. But he would be glad to see Big Ben striking 11pm this very second.

The sale of Lukaku made sound financial sense in this ever-constricting age of FFP, but were Cech and Torres to follow him out of West London, the commonly held perception of Chelsea having strength in depth would be the next topic to be brought before the Special One.

Transfer Deadline Day Drama rating: 8/10

Transfer Deadline Day: Six Days to Go_ Club In Focus: Arsenal_

Forward thinking: Arsenal's attacking options have been dealt a blow

Forward thinking: Arsenal’s attacking options have been dealt a blow by Giroud’s absence

New fitness coach, same old problems. Arsenal fans are coming to terms today with the news they and Shad Forsythe dreaded: Olivier Giroud will be out until the New Year after scans on the ankle he injured during the dying embers of last weekend’s 2-2 at Everton revealed damage that will take four months to repair.

The extent to which the injury will dent Arsenal’s title challenge is not yet known, however. The France international made an immediate impact upon replacing the ineffectual Alexis Sanchez on Saturday evening, but he will now have to wait until 2015 to add to his dramatic late equaliser at Goodison Park.

Gunners manager Arsene Wenger may now be forced to dip into the transfer market once more, but with previous target Mario Balotelli signed by Liverpool and Samuel Eto’o set to join Everton, the Frenchman may find the right option elusive in the final week of the transfer window.

Whilst Wenger will be solely focused on negotiating a tricky Champions League play-off second leg against Besiktas for the time being, next weekend’s trip to Leicester has become an unwanted distraction with the need for a striker ever-more apparent after the north London club’s worst fears over Giroud’s injury were confirmed on Tuesday.

Yaya Sanogo, who has been suffering with a minor hamstring problem himself, is yet to score a competitive goal, while Lukas Podolski’s absence from the squad that travelled to Merseyside would suggest the German forward doesn’t feature in Wenger’s plans.

Whether Giroud’s setback now enables Podolski to re-enter the fold will surely be apparent after the side to face Besiktas is announced, but with Theo Walcott still weeks away from full fitness, Arsenal surely cannot gamble again on making the Champions League at the very least for another season.

One manager who would have listened intently to news of Giroud’s plight is QPR boss Harry Redknapp. While the former Tottenham manager has stressed his keenness to keep Loic Remy at Loftus Road – especially given his side’s inability to score yet this season – the forward has not shied away from his desire to play for a Champions League club.

Redknapp has stated that he would not stand in Remy’s way should a club meet the £8.5 million valuation for the player, and be able to fork out £90,000 a week on his wages.

Wenger was hoping to make Real Madrid’s Sami Khedira and Olympiakos’ Kostas Manolas the last of his summer transfer business, but while he may yet move for defensive reinforcements, Arsenal fans will be desperate to avoid any more rudderless showings like the one produced in the opening 45 minutes at Everton, in the absence of a natural born centre forward.

Transfer Deadline Day Drama rating: 8/10

Transfer Deadline Day: Seven Days To Go_ Club in focus: Crystal Palace_

Palace fans were full of optimism 48 hours before the new season started...

Palace fans were full of optimism 48 hours before the new season started…

Few would’ve predicted the first ‘team in turmoil’ this season to be Crystal Palace as little as ten days ago. But that is precisely where the side that finished so strongly last season under Tony Pulis find themselves: Two league defeats from two doesn’t begin to tell the story.

West Ham showed precisely how to take advantage of a rudderless ship, but with a week remaining of the transfer window, this is no time for a squad with the same nucleus that accrued 45 points last term to sink without a trace.

That Palace are among the sides without a point so far cannot solely be explained by the off-field uncertainty regarding the identity of Pulis’ replacement, nor the resignation of disgraced sporting director Iain Moody. The Eagles produced a performance that matched the result at the weekend, when previously they’d left the Emirates unfortunate to succumb to a newly resolute Arsenal.

The logical question is how can a side without a manager or a sporting director recruit players? Who should they recruit? Well, the root cause of Palace’s problems arose from chairman Steve Parish’s disagreement with Pulis over transfer targets, so any arrival is likely to be either on loan or for a knockdown price.

Caretaker Keith Millen has said that the club is in no rush to appoint Pulis’ successor, and with only a week of the transfer window remaining, it may not be until January that we see new faces emerge at Selhurst Park at least among the playing staff.

Two players who found their chances limited under Pulis for differing reasons were Glenn Murray – who was ruled out for a large chunk of last season with a knee injury – and Jonathan Williams, who was kept on the periphery after the promise shown in the promotion-winning campaign of 2012/13.

Defensive reinforcements have already been made to a backline that conceded less than Liverpool last campaign, so Millen may be entrusted to bring in a more attack-minded player with a week of the window remaining.

Wilfried Zaha is the obvious choice, but realistically his return would be welcomed as much by the downbeat but never dejected Palace faithful as it would be by the player whose stock has fallen since moving to Manchester United.

Make no mistake however: Parish’s priority is finding the right man to stabilize a club that is striving to consolidate its top-flight status having achieved its highest league finish (11th) since 1992 last season.

Transfer Deadline Day Drama rating: 6/10