Before the Transfer Window opened, Roy Hodgson was blunt about what he wanted to be added to his squad as he plotted Premier League survival; a goalkeeper, a central midfielder and a striker. As injuries mounted up at the start of January, that evolved to Roy suggesting he would need six or seven additions.
While transfers are complex transactions, usually with four directly interested parties and usually at least two other intermediaries, the Window has now closed with the only additions being Erdal Rakip (on loan), Jarosław Jach and late on Deadline Day Alexander Sørloth. These signings provide the manager with cover at centre back, central midfield and up front but being the only additions, concerns about squad depth remain.
Hodgson has performed above expectations, taking a team which has zero points and goals from seven games to one which has 26 points in the 19 game since and is currently on a run which has seen just two defeats from 14. If ever a manager deserved backing above and beyond it is Roy. He, his staff and the players in the squad who have been working hard to drive the team up the league can all feel let down.
A goalkeeper should have been one of the priorities of the Window. The Vicente Guaita saga hung over the club and while it is understandable that Palace tried to get him in now, a call should have been made earlier that the €4 million gap between what we believed his release clause to be and what Getafe believe it to be was too large and a line should have been drawn under this. Instead, a move for Frederik Ronnow fell through late on as his club hadn’t enough time to sign a replacement.
Likewise with Ibrahim Amadou, where issues with the transfer were being reported throughout the day yet the club did not move on other lined up targets. Reports in Turkey suggested Palace pulled out of a move for Ozan Tufan because they were confident of landing Amadou but that was premature and showed aspects of recruitment as being immature.
There is frustration among the fan base; this frustration is justified. The squad, given the injuries, is arguably weaker than when the window opened. The midfield has lost Ruben Loftus-Cheek for some time and Jason Puncheon for the rest of the season. The only replacement brought in was Rakip. Bakary Sako has been used as cover wide and up front – his injury has not been covered. While Sørloth has come in, he should have been in addition to our fit players. The attacking options remain sparse from the bench.
And Hodgson still only has Wayne Hennessey and Julian Speroni to pick from in goal. The issues with this position are two-fold. Firstly, neither a marginally improved Hennessey nor declining Speroni are of a standard of being an assured Premier League number 1. For a multitude of reasons, the club could not address this in August. To let another window lapse without adding a ‘keeper to start in February is rightly causing angst.
Ultimately, though, the club needed to sign a goalkeeper just to make up the numbers anyway – we have gone through half a season with some rotation between the pair. To go on for the rest of the season, with Hennessey’s back injury issues documented, borders on incompetent.
The cumulative impact of Transfer Windows like this should not be underestimated.
We are in this position because the club’s need to buy first team players each window, usually because of a change in manager and thus outlook, has meant beyond the first XI, the gap in talent is startling. We needed a strong window this time not only to boost the chances of survival, but with next summer in mind. Many players are out of contract and there needed to be plans in place in January to ease the burden at the end of the season. Failure in January has meant the pressure is already on for the summer.
It is understandable, in the context of the transfer market, that clubs like Palace have to wait until close to the end of the window to bring players in. Not ideal, but fathomable. Transfers are difficult in themselves – that they occur like a house sale chain adds to the entanglement factor. However, sometimes it needs to be acknowledged that effort was not enough; the January 2018 Transfer Window has been a failure even if Roy keeps us up.
Notwithstanding the foregoing, it should be acknowledged that that club has made strides in terms of the infrastructure around recruitment. A system has been invested in. New analysts are in place. There is a Sporting Director increasing the club’s network in Europe, building upon the contacts of a manager who has vast experience on the continent. That provides hope for the summer, however the January Transfer Window went. But we are Palace fans; and hope is our biggest killer.