Ah, the post transfer window international break. Just as we're about to get into the meat of the season, and discover just how terrible (or otherwise) the deadline day acquisitions are, we have to pull away to experience the competitive delights of England v. San Marino.
While this international break has had more excitement and appeal than the average interlude - Wales on the verge of history, Northern Ireland set for qualification, Scotland making a complete horlicks of it all - it does feel like we are being denied the true start of the season just yet. Maybe it is because of the calendar, and that usually we get at least one week of the new signings before the international break. I suppose we'll just have to sit tight and wait in anticipation for Papy Djilobodji to prove whether he is worth the surprise investment, or indeed if any commentator can quite get their tongue around his name.
There was a lot of talk, outside of the reaction to over-inflated spending on unproven teenagers and exotic imports, about the deals which did not happen. John Stones and Saido Berahino did not move - thankfully, as it means these promising young Englishmen will continue to get game time, or at least Berahino will once he gets his head out of his backside. His boss, the usually admirable Tony Pulis, was among those calling for the transfer deadline day saga to be, if not scrapped, then moved.
Close the window before the season, they said. Having it four games in is unfair, apparently, as it unsettles players, creates start of season uncertainty, leaves managers unable to build a solid plan for the season as they don't know who they'll have on hand, and also has the questionable effect of players winning points for teams they won't any longer represent, even taking points off the one they may eventually spend the bulk of the campaign with.
This is an argument I disagree with entirely. Aside from providing jolly good fun, and being heaven for those whose favourite colour is yellow, keeping the transfer window open after the season starts hugely benefits clubs. It may not always be obvious what squad areas they need to strengthen until they see the players in action, and what their opponents have done, allowing for the only game of chess in the world that costs at least £800million - strategy and counter-strategy, move and counter move. A last minute attempt to sign Bobby Zamora here, a sudden urge to do a five-year deal for Paul McShane there.
Chelsea, for example, are very thankful the window stayed open. If they had the same squad at the start of the season now, they would already be out of the title race. Instead they could swoop for Pedro, which I think could prove the keenest signing of the summer. Arsene Wenger is also thankful the window stays open; it gives him longer to smirk with an air of superiority at these fools actually spending money, while he has a cigar and thinks happily of this year's fourth place finish.