The Lead

By most accounts, yesterday’s Transfer Deadline Day was a dud (although I had a lot of fun watching several hours worth of Sky Sports yesterday). The biggest news was a former Blackburn defender signing for a relegation-threatened Queens Park Rangers from a Russian Premier League side. That, and the colossal bungling of Peter Odemwingie’s day tripping to West London in the hope of a Redknapp-engineered miracle.

A few comment pieces today blame the legacy of Chelsea’s infamous signing of Fernando Torres in January 2011 for £50 million and Liverpool paying £30 million of that profit in the same month to Newcastle for the services of Andy Carroll, now on loan to powerhouses West Ham United where he has scored one goal in eleven appearances. Paul Wilson writes:

The more excitable media outlets always seem to think there is going to be a repeat of the dizzying last day of January 2011, when Fernando Torres went south for £50m and Liverpool shoved the proceeds towards Andy Carroll with all the rash optimism of a tourist at the roulette table, though it was clear even at the time that that would be the exception rather than the rule. Two years on it is even clearer that major clubs are going to be more guarded with their money in winter. There are two main reasons for that. One is called Torres and the other Carroll.

David Conn adds a little to that:

In fact, considering this transfer window played out under the billowing prospect of £5bn expected for the Premier League’s three-year TV deals from next season, there has been a notable measure of calm and evidence of more strategic, professional recruitment than some trolley dashes of old.

Newcastle signed five French players, but say they were not knee-jerking at the sudden glimpse of the relegation zone but responding to it responsibly by bringing forward the signing of players they had tracked for some time.

So, in a climate now characterised by more careful, statistics-based assessment of players’ abilities and the financial implications, all of football looked at Queens Park Rangers’ dealings as a club edging towards red on the barometer.

Conn is correct in his view that clubs are more conservative in winter, in part because match data indicates ambitious Winter signings have a net negative effect on team performance.

However, if Prozone’s research is accurate, QPR were actually correct in their attempt to halt their slide down the Premier League table by recruiting three or four players. This makes intuitive sense; four players provides a significant change in overall team make-up, whereas one player—no matter how talented—must do all the work in adapting to an already-set system of play. Despite Conn’s attempt to characterize QPR as an outlier here, they are in effect following a positive trend for clubs facing the drop. If you are going to gamble and spend big in January, it only makes to do so if you are facing certain relegation (Villa fans, take note).

All of this underlines how indiscriminate spending does not necessarily improve team performance. That puts into doubt some analysts who attempt to closely tie wages and transfer fees (or just wages) to final table position, a correlation they use to criticize break-even requirements like FFP as anti-competitive. Yet if club spending on players in the January transfer window does not guarantee team improvement, then spending per se does not guarantee improvement. While big-spending clubs will always enjoy a position of dominance, it’s by no means absolute, as intelligent clubs turn to other means to carefully manage their squads.

This new approach was perhaps always on the cards, but FFP (or at least the threat of FFP in the Premier League) has likely spurred it on. It may not make for great TV, but it’s a far better use of financial resources.

England

Odemwingie told to take a few days off after West Brom/QPR fiasco.

“In England they’ll regret Balotelli for a long time.” -Mario Balotelli’s agent.

Wenger signed Nacho Monreal because of Kieran Gibbs injury.

Kompany possibly ruled out for another three weeks.

Liverpool’s Sterling charged with assaulting a woman.

Italy

Kasami move from Fulham to Pescara not completed due to a failed internet connection in Italian hotel.

Preview to this weekend’s Serie A.

La Liga

Dani Alves wants Spain’s football bodies to take a stronger stance on tackling racism.

Brazilian midfielder Casemiro joins Madrid on loan till the end of the season.

Germany

Preview to all the Bundesliga games this weekend.

A brief history of football in Berlin.

Loew selects squad for France friendly.

Bit and Bobs

A look at how the French media reacted to the signing of Beckham.

Egyptian league faces further delays because of clashes.