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Is form really temporary and is class really permanent?

Article written by: @ASelbyInfo

Although it has been somewhat of a grey area in football for a long time which has sometimes led to wholesale managerial changes or even domestic relegation for the club in question, increasingly it seems more and more difficult for a club to act shrewdly in either transfer market and for their star purchase to be an instant success in the modern game. For all the weeks, months and sometimes years of scouting, reviewing and the statistical analysis that a club often undertakes before eventually opting to take the plunge, write out the cheque out and sign a player, it has become a real rarity in modern football for a player once having signed his contract to simply hit the ground running and in many cases, take off in the same fashion that they left their previous club.

And there’s no transfer window which better exemplifies this cruel twist of fate than the saga of January 2011 and the memorable deadline day drama which saw Fernando Torres swap the red side of Liverpool for the blue of Chelsea, sparking a chain-reaction move leading Andy Carroll to join Liverpool in his place for a combined spend of around £85M between the two sides. Some would argue both moves were a step up for each players in regards to the level and quality of what they were used to at their previous club but having been used to the way the Premier League works and displaying their goal-scoring abilities on a weekly basis already, many pundits and fans alike expected both players to quickly prove their incredible worth for their respective teams. But as the so called ‘settling in’ period significantly over-ran its course, it was only then when fans of both Chelsea and Liverpool thought maybe their star signings weren’t exactly all what they had expected them to be. And in a sport driven solely by results which of course leads to success both on the pitch domestically and off the pitch financially, regardless of their potential and what they’re truly capable of, if a player isn’t scoring then a change is of paramount importance.

As both players struggled to replicate the form which helped earn both Carroll and Torres such stellar moves in the first place, their personal frustration on the pitch was echoed in the terraces by the paying fans who expected so much more. Consequently, an unsettled period for both was to follow which saw Andy Carroll shipped on loan to West Ham United whilst Fernando Torres was sent to Italy on loan to AC Milan on a two year loan deal, both in a bid to resurrect their faltering careers. And although they seemed to perform better than their showings would suggest at their parent club, neither re-found their form of 2010/11 and failed to perform at their optimum best as both Chelsea or Liverpool opted not to recall either player in a bid keep them permanently at the club.

So unfortunately the fairy-tale wasn’t to be for either player with both teams cutting their losses and selling each of their Winter window signings at cut price deals. Andy Carroll was to re-join West Ham United, this time though on a permanent deal, for less than half of the £35M Liverpool paid for the Englishman. Prior negotiations had stalled in the previous transfer window as The Hammers were unwilling to pay any more than the fee they eventually parted with for the Englishman and subsequently, Andy Carroll swapped red for claret for a fee of £15M. Meanwhile, Chelsea had to make do with an ‘undisclosed’ fee from AC Milan for El Niño, which one would most definitely expect to be a lot less than the record-breaking £50M the Blues paid back in January 2011. Yet admittedly, some Chelsea fans would argue even today that the signing of Fernando Torres was worth every penny for his vital goals alone the Spaniard scored at times during his four year spell at the club, most notably his goals in the 2013 Europa League final and at the Nou Camp in 2012 which saw Chelsea progress to the Champions League final at FC Barcelona’s expense.

But one has to ask in regard to both cases whether or not a player becomes buoyed by the financial figure they have hanging round their neck. Did Andy Carroll and Fernando Torres perform better and score more goals without such a great weight of expectation or were both players destined to peak at such a point in their career? Was it a case of a run of good form, has either player peaked in regards to footballing ability or will their class prove to be permanent?

In an attempt to delve further into the unknown let’s talk about Amr Zaki. No, really…

Amr Zaki joined Wigan Athletic on a one year loan deal for a fee of around £1.5M and not only scored on his debut but continued to score, hitting four in his first four league games for Wigan Athletic earning the praise of Wigan Athletic chairman Dave Whelan who likened the Egyptian forward to ‘Alan Shearer’. His instant success in front of goal caught the eye of many and having scored five goals in his first six games for the Latics it really did look like Wigan Athletic had a real star on their hands. However in hindsight, I think it’s fair to say his early promise proved merely to be a phase. His time at Wigan Athletic ended under a cloud of controversy following Zaki’s, in manager Steve Bruce’s words ‘highly unprofessional’ failure to return to training after playing for Egypt in a World Cup qualification match back in April 2009, with Bruce further labeling the forward as ‘the most unprofessional player he had ever worked with’ . Consequently, the Egyptian departed first on loan to Hull City and then to a further six clubs in five years during a troubled time in his career as a professional footballer where the forward failed to recapture even a shade of his record in-front of goal that he had recorded at Wigan Athletic. Evidently, Zaki genuinely did show signs of true footballing ability as a forward in one of the world’s most difficult leagues to assert yourself but in retrospect, I think it would be a much more honest assessment to look at his early performances for Wigan Athletic more so as a clear example of good form rather than true class and quality.

Even in the current 2014/15 Premier League season, although Southampton fans would suggest he probably does much more and contributes in other ways other than just simply scoring, but Graziano Pelle’s goal-scoring achievements in the first half of the season were consistently magnificent and in some ways the Italian has began his time in England in a very similar fashion to Amr Zaki. Please do take note, be assured that I am in no way comparing the two players individually, but it is fair to say that in the modern game you do now have to approach a players goal-scoring record, statistics and scout report with some degree of skepticism and caution, especially in light of the outcome of both Fernando Torres and Andy Carroll. Inevitably scoring in several consecutive games will always come to an eventual end but it only becomes clear with the use of hindsight whether that is purely down to form or true footballing quality.

All things considered, of course there are several factors which conjure together in helping a player to be a success at their new club. Some would say success is impacted by a players state of mind, some would argue how quickly they settle effects their performance on the pitch whilst some put it solely down to footballing ability. And as much as we’ll never be able to delve into the mind of Andy Carroll and Fernando Torres of 2011/12, we can certainly see that with hindsight both players still to this very day have incredible potential through the elements to their game they are now beginning to recapture and demonstrate more and more on the pitch for both West Ham United and Atlético Madrid respectively. Whether or not their big money moves have firmly destroyed any chance of either player returning back to their individual very best remains to be seen and will only become clear over time. Of course, recent performances this season would suggest both are not just much more settled in their current setup but that they’re also beginning to return to the Carroll and Torres of old, but how detrimental their major money moves of yesteryear were at such a stage in their careers will only become visible in the near future.

Article written by: @ASelbyInfo

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