The ticker counted down to 5pm in quiet desperation.
Despite the Sky TV hosts’ best efforts, and the presence of Sam Allardyce, the notion that “anything can happen” on Transfer Deadline Day bordered on delusion.
Closing the window on the eve of the season saw sense prevail in the Premier League with a £150m lower total spend than in 2017’s summer window, but who should be satisfied with their business, and whose fans are entitled to worry?
Manchester City – Winners
What do you give to the team who have everything? The answer was Riyad Mahrez, one of English football’s most quixotic talents to add to an already awesome phalanx of talent.
City’s executives were deeply annoyed they were beaten to the punch for Napoli’s Jorginho, but rather than settle for second best, Pep Guardiola and his Catalan cabal did not move for the next best option, which may place top-heavy emphasis on the ageing legs of Fernandinho but also opens up a spot for homegrown teenager Phil Foden or possibly John Stones.
Manchester United – Losers
Jose Mourinho’s bottom lip has been stuck out since he boarded a flight for the club’s US tour, and his doom-laden prophecies of trouble and strife have been brought to bear. Fred, Diogo Dalot and Lee Grant is nobody’s idea of a trio to throw down the gauntlet to runaway champions City. In that, Mourinho’s complaints hold water, since his team requires a right winger, perhaps some creativity in midfield, and quality, fresh-legged full-backs.
Considering those holes, the reported afternoon trolley dash for centre-backs including the unreachable Diego Godin, plus leaving it too late for moves for Harry Maguire and Toby Alderweireld seemed like looking in the wrong place for salvation. That United’s execs felt unable to back Mourinho’s demands looks a signpost towards his departure.
Tottenham Hotspur – Did not enter
Tumbleweed blows down Seven Sisters Road towards Lillywhite House, the business centre of the club after Daniel Levy decided to stick with what Spurs had, and with the public backing of Mauricio Pochettino.
A new stadium has been built, and will soon be open for business and the formula has worked well for the last three years so why mess with it? That seems a reasonable conclusion to come to, but for a squad that collectively played the most minutes at the World Cup, it also presents a significant risk in the quest to end the club’s ten-year trophy drought.
Liverpool – Winners
Retail therapy costing £173m has soothed the pain of losing the Champions League final in Kiev, and Liverpool fans are more excited about their team than in any time for a decade. Alisson is a goalkeeper of class, and not Loris Karius, Fabinho is the midfield general who will protect the defence while Naby Keita is box-to-box runner of skill and power, and Xherdan Shaqiri was not too much of a risk at £13m.
It is tempting to consider the difference Nabil Fekir might have made after his signing from Lyon collapsed, but even without him, Liverpool failing to be Manchester City’s closest challengers would be a disappointment.
Chelsea – Losers
With Roman Abramovich in exile, and Mauricio Sarri not being confirmed until just a month before the new season, Chelsea’s summer has been rushed, with the departure of Thibaut Courtois to Real Madrid and replacement by Athletic Bilbao’s Kepa a case in point. It was clear that the Belgian had long pined for a return to the Spanish capital.
If City wanted Jorginho, he has instead arrived at a club with an already crowded midfield, with Mateo Kovacic joining him there in a loan from Real which would seem to treat the five-time Premier League champions as some kind of nursery club for the Spanish giants. The lack of a striker to supplant the misfiring Alvaro Morata is a concern; it places a burden on Olivier Giroud, a player not exactly suited to Sarri’s style of play.
Arsenal – Call it a draw
The winds of change sweeping through Arsenal have been made explicit by the players washing up at the London Colney training ground this summer.
They would appear to embody the new manager, Unai Emery, in being solid but unspectacular, with Stefan Lichtsteiner and Socratis Papastathopoulos both tough operators. Lucas Torreira at 22 has promise in midfield, though Matteo Guendouzi, signed from Ligue 2 Lorient, a star of pre-season, looks like the type of signing Arsene Wenger once prided himself upon.
Everton left it late, and it looked as if their budget had been blown on Richarlison, before the late arrivals of Yerry Mina and Kurt Zouma bolstered an ageing defence. Andre Gomes’ loan was a good piece of opportunism, too.
Wolves’ cornering of the Portuguese market through friend of the club Jorge Mendes has seen the newcomers add real class in Joao Moutinho and Rui Patricio while fellow promoted club Fulham have also taken the eye with the signing of Jean Michael Seri and Alfie Mawson while holding on to Ryan Sessegnon.
Brighton have again spent plenty on a glut of players who may or may not pay off, and Leicester’s addition of Jonny Evans and James Maddison seems like smart business whether or not boss Claude Puel survives. West Ham have gambled on talent that may not be reliable but might at least entertain.
Beyond the signing of Jannik Vestergaard, Southampton’s additions look cut-price for a team that only barely survived last season, with Dusan Tadic allowed to leave for Ajax.
Newcastle’s purchases are of the Mike Ashley bargain basement kind.
Meanwhile cash-strapped Crystal Palace held on to Wilfried Zaha but could not loan Ruben Loftus-Cheek again, and Jordan Ayew may not be the answer to a lack of striking quality.