Wimbledon, Wimbledon, Wimbledon. There are many things to detest about this tournament. The exclusive, smug, middle Englishness which is increasingly out of tune with reality and what tennis needs to get the British top players it so yearns for. However, if Newcastle and indeed other football teams in the premiership or elsewhere think they are subject to suffocation of expectation they should spare a thought for poor old Andy Murray who has assumed Tim Henman’s mantle as this Island’s sole white hope. Such is the interest in Murray they even interviewed his granny the other day! The only thing that I’m enjoying about Wimbledon is the weather. How I bet the All England Club is secretly praying for rain so they can show off their new £80m “toy” of a roof. Shine on!
Onto Liverpool and by the time you read this the finances may have taken a significant step to being sorted, though to what extent and for how long remains unclear. Glen Johnson may also have signed for us.
Regarding Johnson, Rafa has taken the unusual step of justifying what many see as a high price – £17m or so.
“Sometimes you have to spend a little bit more. You can’t compete in the top four of the Premier League unless you spend some money. We were looking for a player of quality and also somebody who is British because of the new Champions League rules. Glen Johnson fits both categories.”
Hats off to Rafa for his honesty but is Glen Johnson a good buy? The British quota issue was also a reason why Rafa pursued Gareth Barry for so long? However, it’s all relative (a few years ago Torres appeared pricey) and ultimately only time will tell, if Rafa is right. Who knows perhaps in say a few years time, if Johnson performs well he will be regarded as a bargain? I’ve feeling that despite these hard times, and clubs losing out to the likes of Satanta, transfer fees will continue to escalate, particularly if the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea continue to flex their muscles.
They say you get what you pay for and arguably in the past when it comes to full backs Rafa has got just that. We have yet to address the problem of these positions to the point that one wonders why we ever sold Steve Finnan and John Arne Riise. Dossena, Arbeloa and Aurelio haven’t exactly set the world on fire with their performances and we have often resorted to playing Jamie Carragher, and disastrously at Middlesbrough Skrtel, in that position. Perhaps Rafa, impatient and exasperated by what he sees as lack of progress and stability in this area, has decided that he now has no real option to splash the cash on Johnson?
In an ideal world Johnson’s signing illustrates the “fine tuning” policy Rafa spoke of a few months ago when he was asked about improving the squad this summer. Having got Johnson I guess it would not be unreasonable to expect him to acquire perhaps more major signing (in a more offensive position?) and leave it that? However, one wonders when considering this policy if Rafa actually bargained for the possibility of the likes of Alonso and particularly Mascherano leaving? It’s funny it seems ages since one of our major players has been tempted to move on because another club has made a better offer. Moved because he fancied a change, yes. Moved on because we wanted to sell him, yes but not because a club has moved in an attempt to prise him away from us without our blessing?
Perhaps this has caused Rafa to rethink the “fine tuning” strategy? Firstly because he might need to find replacements and secondly because he might have more money to play with – £30m odd more than he bargained for if Mascherano goes? Glen Johnson was a quick signing however others could be a long time in coming this summer because it may be dependent of other factors, or moves, that Rafa hadn’t bargained for?
What Johnson’s signing does throw in to focus is the need more than ever for Rafa to get his signings right. The current full backs were all Rafa’s signings so was Ryan Babel, Jermaine Pennant who have also been linked with moves away? Although these can be sold on and the money used to buy replacements surely there is a limit to this before Rafa’s judgment comes under more scrutiny particularly since he signed his new contract he has increased “purchase power”.
Thankfully signings such as Alonso, Torres, Mascherano, Agger, Skrtel, Reina, Kuyt and, too a lesser degree Benayoun and Riera add much needed counterbalance this argument. Let’s hope that Glen Johnson will be another player we can add to this list?