Lynsey Hooper’s Column: Is deadline-day drama becoming diluted?

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Another transfer deadline day has come and gone, but this year it was more about the ‘what ifs’ instead of the marquee signings in the Premier League.

None more so than where I was stationed at St Mary’s yesterday to cover what was meant to be the conclusion of the Virgil van Dijk saga but turned out to be nothing more than a damp squib.

There has been reported interest from Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool all summer for the Southampton centre-back with a public apology issued after an illegal approach was made by the Reds.

Van Dijk had turned up early doors and managed to avoid the press as he went in to Staplewood training facility through a back gate. The aim was then for us was to get a shot of him leaving the training ground.

We worked together with Sky and covered both exits at 12.30pm when training had finished; we managed to get a shot but the not-so-keen-to-talk defender was clad in hoodie and blacked-out windows in his car.


Turning point

Eventually nothing happened, with Van Dijk remaining a Saints player at least until January, and I have it on good authority that there was no actual bid from the Merseyside club. There was the illegal approach but no bid in excess of £65million as rumoured.

Les Reed promised Mauricio Pellegrino when he joined Saints that Van Dijk would not be sold. They stuck to that – and needed to because what message would that have sent out to their new manager had he then departed.

This could be a turning point for the South coast club. A statement that suggests that they are no longer in the business of selling. Sulking players or those training in isolation can now afford to be kept. It was a quiet but, ultimately, welcome window for Southampton.

The Saints man was one of a few transfers that did not quite happen. Alexis Sanchez and Philippe Coutinho were also, at point of writing, staying put.

The Robinho and Dimitar Berbatov days of deadline dramas may be a thing of the past. All the mooted big moves from Sanchez to Ross Barkley didn’t happen. It has become a case of big moves not happening.

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Right move for Ox

A club that was high in the headlines throughout the entire transfer window was Arsenal. Whether you see the Gunners as an admirable business structure with no debt or how fans see them as a club that need to spend, one thing universally recognised by the football fraternity is not to be mocked by contradictions.

From going on record to say that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain would 100 per cent not be sold to ultimately selling him on deadline day and also not being willing to spend £50m on Thomas Lemar one day to bidding a British record fee for him three hours before he had a World Cup Qualifier to play in.

This season is really time for Arsene Wenger to earn his crust with the squad he has got and with two players who could be leaving for nothing in July in Sanchez and Mesut Ozil.

What wouldn’t have helped the mood of Arsenal fans is Lemar’s two goals, including a wonder goal for France that evening and Laurent Koscielny going off with what looks a nasty injury.

When seeing Oxlade-Chamberlain in a Liverpool kit yesterday I noticed something that I hadn’t even realised had been missing for a while.  A genuine, beaming smile from the player who I used to love to watch because his enjoyment for playing football was clear to see. I know think he’s been wearing a smile for a few seasons because it was back in all it’s glory yesterday.

From the outside, Ox has appeared a brilliant professional in terms of his conduct in this window and is a great example for players coming through.

He turned down huge contract improvements with Arsenal and then Chelsea to play for Liverpool who are paying him considerably less.

It would not have been an easy decision either. He has a famous popstar girlfriend and is entrenched in a London lifestyle, so to uproot and move for professional and tactical reasons is really impressive.

That is what fans want to see rather than sulking on the sidelines or on the bench. Thankfully that part of player power seems to be diminishing.

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Late business

There may have been a unison by Premier League clubs to battle player power with the majority of players mentioned. That seems to be the biggest statement this window but at the same time have Arsenal with Sanchez and Everton with Barkley shot themselves in the foot?

Both players are running down their contracts. In the case of Sanchez it could cost Arsenal over £60m along with Ozil’s contract running out too.

Barkley has an injury but him not wanting to join Chelsea at the last minute could cost him that opportunity later on. Everton are going to have to let him go but for what cost come January?

Late business was also a trend yesterday, mostly from Leicester. There is no news at time of writing as to whether Adrien Silva has signed and it wasn’t until almost 11pm that Aleksandar Dragovic had signed. Add to that the eventual sale of Danny Drinkwater to Chelsea, it seemed to be quite the late night for the Foxes.

The furore will be whipped up by the next transfer window again but the deadline-day drama is becoming diluted with near misses rather than huge signatures.

Follow Lynsey on Twitter at @lynseyhooper

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