Surgical steel


Sunday February 5th, 4:30pm

Spurs @10/3
Man City @3/4
Draw @3/1
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The January transfer window has just slammed shut, with the glass somehow still intact.

For most clubs the activity during this period was a delicate process of scion grafting and light pruning with Bonsai shears.  Like a footballing game of Operation, minor damaged organs were carefully repaired or replaced.  And with sufficient deftness to not set-off the buzzer, light-up the red nose; and, in the process, disrupt the functionality of the existing squad.

Sabitzer will act as a temporary plaster for the recently-injured Eriksen at Manchester United; Jorginho will be a flexible and adjustable splint for Arsenal’s overworked engine room.

But for Chelsea this transfer window was like a roided-up game of Supermarket Sweep.  Many new, shiny, expensive signings arrived from all corners of Europe; and at a total cost of around £285 million. Enzo Fernández was a remarkable last-minute £100m+ signing from Benfica – a club who must have easily made enough money from inflated transfer fees over the last few years to allow them to retire.

Whether Graham Potter knows who half these fresh footballers are, and what exactly they can do for him, will be very entertaining to find out.  The functionality of this existing squad be damned!  Though, to be honest, there have been several signs in recent weeks that it already was…

Spare a thought for Hakim Ziyech too; who, despite requesting a late escape from Stamford Bridge, was presumably forgotten about amidst all the mania – like Macauley Culkin in Home Alone.

In an attempt to make a little cash on the side I tried to take advantage of Chelsea’s loose purse strings and offered their transfer department a few players of my own creation. I reasoned that, although these players didn’t actually exist, Todd Boehly might be tempted to snap them up anyway; lest Arsenal happen to show a passing interest.

First on the list was the highly-rated Mexican striker Carlos El Genérico. Then there was Brazilian midfield prodigy Massimiliano Estêvão Luis Rainforest Cavalera do Nasciamento – usually referred to as ‘Bob’.  And, finally, the electric winger of indeterminate Eastern European origin, Aijus Maydymup.

Three exciting, young but disciplined players who would create minimal dressing-room disruption – a surgical steal at £6 million each or £15 million as a job lot. But sadly, I received no serious offers before the transfer window closed.

I have, however, just had a positive query from a club called Al Nassr FC based out in Saudi Arabia. Though I have my suspicions that, much like my players, they also don’t actually exist…

The biggest fixture of the coming weekend sees Manchester City travel to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium for a 4:30pm clash on Sunday. Two teams for whom momentum is now the most sought after commodity.  And two teams who both undertook only minor nips and tucks during the transfer window – João Cancelo out and Máximo Perrone in for City; Pedro Porro in on loan to Spurs from Sporting Lisbon being the only significant modifications.

In one of this season’s many oddities, the reverse Premier League meeting between the two sides took place only a couple of weeks ago – an entertaining game of two halves where Spurs won the first 2-0, and City waltzed home with the second 4-0.

The pressure will be squarely on the Sky Blues to take three points back up to Manchester.  Likely to find themselves eight points behind Arsenal at kick-off, City will also know that in ten days’ time the first of two potentially season-defining encounters with The Gunners is due to take place.

Antonio Conte, unfortunately, is about to experience a much more personal and far less metaphorical kind of surgery, and will be missing from the touchline for the next few weeks. Will Tottenham, in his absence, be able to forge the necessary belief and steel to maintain their daunting quest for a top four finish?

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