Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Transfer markets

August is both an exciting and not very exciting time in my two favorite spectator sports, cycling and football (EPL, not so much NFL). It’s not very exciting in terms of the actual competitive action, with the exception of the Tour of Utah, which passes through my neighborhood, and the Champions League qualifying matches and first few matches of the Premier League season, which can make or break the rest of the year.

The real excitement is in the transfer market and corresponding rumor mill. Football has until the end of the month to finalize rosters until the transfer window opens again in January. This is always a frustrating time for Arsenal fans, because team manager Arsene Wenger is a notorious tightwad when it comes to signing new players.

Wenger’s problem is that in addition to having a great eye for talent, he also has a masters degree in economics, so he can’t bring himself to even pay market value for a player who’s at or slightly past his prime. Instead, his M.O. is to find young, underappreciated players with great potential, sign them on the cheap, and then sell them to a more spendthrift type of club, such as AC Milan or Barcelona (he rarely sells to EPL rivals, Adebayor and Toure going to Man City this summer being notable exceptions), when they’re at their peak and can command top dollar.

It’s also not unheard of for Wenger to buy players when they’re past the point that the big clubs want to keep them around. William Gallas and Mikael Silvestre are prime examples here, as was the rumor that never came to pass of former captain Patrick Viera returning to the squad. I still have hope, mostly in vain, of Viera signing before midnight Monday.

This approach is great for the club’s shareholders and why you’ll never hear about Arsenal being overburdened with debt. It’s lousy, however, for fans like me who have no financial interest in the club and just want them to win trophies. Wenger’s transfer behavior and other football phenomena that can be analyzed with econometric methods are explored in the book Why England Lose. Haven’t read it (but if you’re looking for Christmas gift ideas…), but I imagine it’s quite a bit like Moneyball, which is a fascinating read, as well as a source of deep frustration for Oakland A’s fans.

Unlike football, which has to wrap things up by August 31, cycling can’t officially announce signings until Sept. 1. So all we have to go on are rumors. Recent news of note is that the Feillu brothers will not be joining team Radio Shack but Gert Steegmans will. Also, Jens Voigt, at age 38, will be returning from his horrific crash for another year with Saxo Bank. More will come to light in September, but the way the teams are shaping up, I’m already looking forward to the 2010 campaign.

A campaign I’m not looking forward to is the coming one in American football. With the Broncos giving away Jay Cutler and having that idiot Josh McDaniels at the helm, it’s going to be a long season. When are people going to realize that despite what he says, it’s Belichick and not the assistants that make New England great? Not one of the assistants has done crap as a head coach. The only team more stupid than the Broncos is Notre Dame for signing Charlie Weiss to a ten year contract extension. Michigan, unfortunately, is saddled with a six-year deal for Rich Rodriquez. Let’s just hope this year is less of a disaster than last and pray that Les Miles has a change of heart sometime soon.

As for me, I guess I’m kind of a free agent too. Steve and I have come to the realization that we’re going to need to be on a real team (of more than two) next season, we just haven’t decided which one. Skull Candy is an obvious choice, as they have a strong Cat. 4 presence and an affiliation with Revolution, a shop I’m loyal to and already ride for on the MTB side. Spin Cycle is also attractive, especially should we manage a Cat. 3 upgrade, since we could race with Alex. The Cat. 3 upgrade is almost a foregone conclusion for Steve, as his 3rd place finish in the 1,000 Warriors race has him already more than halfway there. Podium at Lotoja, and he’s got it. I, on the other hand, am yet to earn an upgrade point but hoping that will change at Saturday’s Sanpete Classic.

If you race or are familiar with road racing on the Wasatch Front and have a suggestion regarding who we should race with next season and why, please let me know in the comments.

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