Shortened Window Increases Player Power and leaves Clubs in the Dark

“If you compare with Europe I think you are at a complete disadvantage and sure it does not help the clubs in the Premier League”
— Mauricio Pochettino

Tottenham Hotspur were one of 14 clubs to vote in favour of closing the transfer window before the first round of Premier League matches this season, a move which ranks second only to the "mid-winter break" argument in terms of footballing foresight. The decision would protect clubs from harbouring unsettled players in matchday squads, allow the players to focus solely on their own performances from the start of the season, and give Jim White his day in the sun that gloriously hideous colour-coded tie deserves. The earlier closing signalled the end to player strikes, and scenes like last year when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain became a Liverpool player just after playing against them for Arsenal.

By some measures, the window remaining open for the opening rounds of the Premier League season is a compromise on the integrity of the competition, and it is hard to argue otherwise. A team whose star performer is agitating for a move more often than not will not have the benefit of his services until the window closes, either through an unfortunately-timed injury or the more brazen downing of tools, also known as "not being in the right frame of mind". Opposing sides in these opening weeks therefore have an indirect advantage over other teams later in the season when said player becomes available again. The opposite is also true, when said player does play in the opening weeks only to move in the frenzy of deadline day.

That of course is the theory, but this decision does not just affect the Premier League vacuum. Other European leagues will still have the option to buy and sell up to 31 August, including purchasing players from English sides. With the resurgence of spending in both Serie A and La Liga in this off-season, European teams will no longer be held ransom to the spending power of Premier League clubs. Now that English sides are working to a different deadline, the negotiation tables have turned. Pochettino has been the most vocal about the rule specifically, but Manchester United (who voted against the change) are also likely suffering as a result of the change.

It is not that transfer activity has dried up however, with Premier League clubs already breaking the £1 billion mark in terms of spending so far. Fulham, West Ham and Liverpool have all done their business early and admirably so, with West Ham the surprise movers in this window given their slapdash approach to player acquisitions in the past. But while the rule change has focused minds, it has also led to frustration, and further repercussions may only be evident after the first round of games. Thibaut Courtois has already laid down the gauntlet at Chelsea, and given his preference to return to Spain his exile may last until the end of the month. Meanwhile Maurizio Sarri has just two more days to prepare for the eventuality by signing a replacement. It is more likely than ever before that clubs will blink first in these cases in the hope of having a "settled" squad before the start of the season.

Has the change caught teams on the hop? The natural clock of CEOs and sporting directors may have been disrupted, despite the necessary majority voting for the change. More likely is the fact that necessary signings become more apparent after the season has started, and potential weak points in a squad can be more easily identified. For deadline day operators like Daniel Levy, who will be even less prone to spend given the club's financial obligations surrounding the new stadium, it can perhaps be tempting to "stick" for now and "twist" come January, as much as his manager may protest that by then it will be too late. Rafael Benitez finds himself in a similar situation on Tyneside, but his transfer woes have more to do with the parsimony of the current ownership than any external factors.

The situation at Burnley also highlights a potential failing with the earlier transfer window - currently engaged in Europa League qualifiers, Sean Dyche still isn't sure how many games his team will need to play between now and Christmas, with the secondary European competition particularly arduous against the relentless backdrop of the Premier League. At a club the size of Burnley however, the fine margins must be balanced, and a bloated squad would have a heavier financial impact if it is both unnecessary and not benefitting from European revenues. Having signed only Ben Gibson and Joe Hart (who could be their third-choice goalkeeper when Pope and Heaton return fit), the return of the club to European competition may be bittersweet if it results in poor league form and injuries depleting the squad.

“If we don’t make our team better, it’ll be a difficult season for us”
— Jose Mourinho

With most clubs still active in the market, a flurry of activity over the next few days is not unexpected. Daniel Levy is just waking from his summer hibernation after all, while Jose Mourinho continues to apply pressure on Ed Woodward to strengthen the team. Everton are also still seeking a centre-back, while Bournemouth to date have made just two signings in a year when two of the promoted sides have spent freely to compete. The January window may see more activity than ever before, but expect plenty of complaints between now and then focusing on how Premier League clubs have shot themselves in the foot with the earlier window. Unlike the majority of excuses we hear throughout the season, this one may be legitimate.