Another transfer window has come and gone and this one was very quiet for Newcastle United. The Magpies made their last notable move (the signing of Gael Bigirimana) nearly two months ago (July 6) despite a rather glaring need for defensive reinforcements. The prepackaged MRE (Meal, Ready-to-Eat) version of the Newcastle transfer window is that we should be grateful that we were able to hold on to our star players. As a club with the stated ambition of qualifying for the Champions League THIS SEASON, I don't believe that we should be dislocating our shoulders as we pat ourselves on the back for keeping Yohan Cabaye, Cheik Tiote, Papiss Cisse and the like.
While the Newcastle United brass were sitting around having a snicker and feeling proud "We priced them out again! Ha Ha Ha!" feelings, other clubs such as Tottenham Hotspur and Fulham were making decisive and massive strides forward with their acquisitions. In the event that you need reminding, Tottenham were the club that we were in direct competition with for the final Champions League place (by league position. Chelsea's win in the CL made it moot, of course, but the combo of a Chelsea CL win and 6th place League finish seems.... unlikely to occur again.)
Perhaps I should be grateful. It wasn't too long ago that Spurs were rumored to be hot-and-heavy over Tim Krul. Seeing as we tend to make a study of ignoring gaping holes in the squad these days, a Krul to Spurs move would have left us with Steve Harper which is fine and Rob Elliott on whom it looks like the club have, rightly, given up. Instead, we keep Tim (huzzah!) and Spurs bring in perennial target for the top teams in Europe, France #1 Hugo Lloris. The relative merits of Mr. Krul and Mr. Lloris are there to be debated, but what really isn't is that Lloris is a decided upgrade over Brad Friedel who is, despite being in fantastic shape, starting to show his age just a bit.
I probably should have felt very good that Spurs ended up selling Dutchman Rafael van der Vaart as (when he's healthy) he is a very very good player. Perhaps his absence would give us a bit of hope in the midfield matchups v. Spurs this year. Not so fast! In comes Clint Dempsey to take over in a similar role. You may remember his four goals against us last year, including his first ever hat-trick in the Premier League by an American performance in the 5-2 thrashing we suffered at Craven Cottage. Luka Modric was transferred to Real Madrid only to be replaced (although still unconfirmed at this time) by Joao Moutinho, who was reported to be interesting all of the Sky6 among others. Ultimately, could this be the blueprint that Mike Ashley uses to move forward when he decides the time is right to cash in on Yohan, Cheik and Papiss? As of this moment (with the Moutinho transfer still outstanding), they look to have finished in positive balance this summer.
I focus on Spurs so much because, again, they were our most direct competition for a Champions League spot by league position last year. Also making big noise in the market around deadline day was Fulham. Selling Clint Dempsey is a big loss for them, but the addition of Dimitar Berbatov has got to be considered a strengthening of their squad. Add in their capture of Iranian winger Ashkan Dejagah from Wolfsburg and a year older and more experienced Kerim Frei into the equation, you'd be hard pressed to make the case that they have taken a step backwards.
While we were busy doing nothing (despite the long-term injury to Ryan Taylor), Chelsea, who finished below us last season in the League, look to have improved their side greatly with the addition of Eden Hazard with Oscar still yet in the wings. Having unsuccessfully tried to find Daniel Sturridge a loan assignment, the still have he and Fernando Torres available as well in the attack. The deadline day news from Stamford Bridge involved the loan of long-serving defensive midfielder Michael Essien to Real Madrid. Although Essien is perhaps a touch away from his best, you still feel he had a job to do for the Blues.
Although Everton are never a club to make the splashy moves in the transfer market, you have to feel that they've done a solid bit of business for themselves this summer. Steven Pienaar returns from his ill-fated stint at Spurs (which, come on, never made a dang bit of sense anyway) and the club added Belgian winger Kevin Mirallas. who had a hand in each of Everton's 5 goals in their 2nd round Capitol One Cup match. Costa Rican defender Bryan Oviedo rounds out the "big-ticket" acquisitions for Fulham this summer, and if Oviedo can make a more solid mark than their last Costa Rican purchase, then again you feel that Everton have put a decent foot forward as well.
Liverpool also splashed the cash a couple of times this summer as well with the arrival of £10m Fabio Borini from Roma being widely praised while the £15m of Joe Allen from Swansea City was met with more skepticism... until he took the pitch. The two players are certainly an upgrade for Liverpool, but there is still a hole in their squad here and there, so if there is a club that didn't potentially put a foot in front of the Toon this summer, it may have been them.
There was a ton more transfer activity out there with Queens Park Rangers and Southampton making some decent size splashes with their deadline moves, but I think the above squads most directly influence our potential league position, so I will leave off at this junction. While the additions of Gael Bigirimana, Romain Amalfitano, Curtis Good and Vurnon Anita look to be decent business (if not for immediate impact today), I'm not convinced that keeping hold of our star players means we should feel we have come out of the summer on a positive note. The holes in the squad are still just that. Holes.