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Wenger: It’s time to scrap the January window

It’s not a new position, but it’s still a good one.

West Ham United v Arsenal - Premier League Photo by Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images

Arsene Wenger has never really been a fan of the January transfer window. Throughout his Arsenal career, he’s made the same argument: it shouldn’t really happen, it’s not really useful, it’s hard to find good value, things like that. And he’s not wrong.

He has done some decent business in January - Theo Walcott was signed at the end of January 2006, as was Emmanuel Adebayor, and Nacho Monreal was signed on Jan 31, 2013. But overall, Arsene’s record in January isn’t great - Kaba Diawara, Wellington Silva, Ryo Miyaichi, and most recently Kim Kallstrom are examples of the type of business that a lot of clubs do in January.

It’s tricky to find someone that is a true gamechanger in the winter - most good players are cup-tied, so there’s no point in them moving from a team in the Champions League to another Champions League team, and it’s pretty rare that a team who wants to make noise in the Champions League is a squad player away from doing so. It seems much easier to retool in the summer than tweak in the winter.

There are exceptions, of course, as we saw yesterday with Virgil van Dijk, who wanted to join Liverpool in the summer, couldn’t, and mailed in a half season with Southampton until he got the move he wanted. A similar situation is playing out with Alexis at Arsenal, so we’ll see if he moves or not.

The overall point being, January isn’t the best time to acquire elite talent, as teams do in the summer; given that, Arsene’s latest comments go into a little more depth than he has in the past about exactly why he doesn’t like the January window:

“The players today are very well paid, they make a lot of money. What you want in return is commitment to the club for the whole season. I think that’s absolutely vital. I think you should not be able to move once the season has started until the end of the season.

Nobody knows [how it would affect pre-season if the window closed then]. I believe people would adapt and make their decisions earlier.”

I think he’s got a strong point - in an era where contracts longer than a season are essentially meaningless for players at a certain level, one way to give them even a little bit of meaning is to insist that the player give an entire playing season to the club to which he’s contracted.

He also talks a bit about the ramifications of how transfer business gets done:

“What happens now is that you’re contacted 48 hours before the end of the transfer market and people ask if you’re still interested in a player you worked on for three months. They close the door and open it suddenly with two days to go.

While that’s also true in the summer, it’s particularly acute in January, with games flying fast and furious, and all of a sudden the squad cohesion you’ve spent months trying to build is just gone.

That said, though, I’m not sure how the league could work with Wenger’s idea that rosters are essentially locked from Aug 31 until July 1; since the concept of a player trade doesn’t exist in non-MLS football, it seems like something resembling that might need to be explored in order to make sure rosters don’t get depleted too much from injury or exhaustion or whatever. Alternately, squad size restrictions could be eased in order to allow teams to carry more players, which would reduce the need for in-season moves.

Either way, a simple “no January deals” would seem to be an ineffective solution to a problem that a lot of people think needs to be addressed in some way or other. And Wenger, as he usually is, is at the forefront of voicing these concerns, which for all my issues with him as a managerial entity right now, is good to see. He’s clearly still engaged with the game, and I believe the game will be made better with this sort of engagement.

If you were in charge of UEFA, and you had taken all the bribes you could handle and decided it was finally time to do some work, what would you do to reform the transfer system? Would you scrap January? How would you change things?