Un-Settling In Period: Players Like Caicedo And Mount Need Patience

The internet has reduced a player's ability to bed in
13:49, 21 Aug 2023

The Premier League has staged two of its 38 rounds of fixtures and yet opinions are already steadfast. Snap judgments have been made over teams and players as the online shooting gallery fires opinions left and right. The most thought-bullet-ridden party are the new signings. Fans are quick to make up their minds about the new men at their club, as well as new arrivals elsewhere.

The online echo chamber eats opinions like an intoxicated Pac-Man eats tiny dots. Consideration and patience sit far behind reactionary invective in the court of digital hot takes. The internet-focused world has changed the way we view almost every facet of life. Football is no stranger to this paradigm shift.


This past Premier League weekend saw two examples of how quickly new signings are judged. The most searing was Moises Caicedo’s nightmare debut for Chelsea. The midfielder, signed for a British record £115 million fee from Brighton & Hove Albion, gave away a penalty in stoppage time against West Ham United. Lucas Paqueta, he of the car dealership-inspired chant, sunk the resulting spot-kick as the 10-man Hammers were unlikely 3-1 winners.

The final whistle had not even tolled before the 21-year-old Caicedo was being called every name under the sun. His own fans openly wondered what their club had paid for. Liverpool fans, who had seen the Ecuadorian snub their club for a move to Stamford Bridge, breathed exaggerated sighs of relief. All very emotional. All curiously aggressive, particularly when aimed at a player two massive clubs had jousted over and several more would have welcomed.

There were several motivating factors in the vitriol. The mammoth fee was always likely to prove an albatross. Since the late, great Trevor Francis moved for an unprecedented £1m in 1979, large outlays have been thrown in the faces of the players commanding them. Little thought is given to the fact these footballers never asked to move for such sums in the first place. But the complications of commerce are of little concern to the online mercenary.

Caicedo’s choice of club didn’t help either. Liverpool boast one of the largest and most vocal fanbases in the Premier League. They were never going to let the failings of their nearly man pass without comment. Also, since Chelsea spend with such cavalier recklessness, fans of most other clubs delight in any of their multitude of signings appearing to fail.


But perhaps the most prevalent force at work here is the modern reduction of the 'settling-in period'. New signings used to be given time to adjust to their new surroundings and teammates. After all, Chelsea play a very different style of football to Brighton. We are also in the nascent days of the Mauricio Pochettino reign. The club is finding itself under a new head coach and such adjustment will take patience.

But patience is not a virtue a lot of fans share, at least not when the conversation is taking place behind keyboards rather than on terraces. Caicedo is not the only player to invite such scorn. Manchester United’s new midfielder Mason Mount has come in for similar criticism. Even during his debut, in a slovenly 1-0 win over Wolverhampton Wanderers, supporters of all stripes were giving chapter and verse on the fact United had wasted £60m on him. Never mind the fact he is adjusting to a new team with new tactics. Put aside the fact manager Erik ten Hag is deploying him in an unfamiliar deeper role. He was sh*t and that was that, or so Twitter (sorry, Elon) would have you believe. 

To highlight the ridiculousness of this fad, we are only a year removed from Erling Haaland getting pelters for a quiet display in the 2022 Community Shield. Liverpool new boy Darwin Nunez scored his side's third in a 3-1 win over Manchester City. In the process, the snap judgements online deemed the Uruguayan a better striker than the Norwegian. Haaland went on to break the single-season Premier League goal record and lead City to the treble. Nunez, his supposed superior, scored nine Premier League goals to Haaland's 36. 

This weekend saw the anniversary of Sir Alex Ferguson sending a letter to the retiring Eric Cantona. In the document, he outlines his hopes for the new season and talks about the early struggles of a striker by the name of Teddy Sheringham. Yes, it did take the former and future Tottenham Hotspur man time to get his sea legs at Old Trafford. He would go on to score in both the FA Cup and Champions League finals as the Red Devils clinched the famous 1999 treble. There is, after all, virtue in patience.

The fickle nature of internet discourse will soon be exposed if Mount, Caicedo and other maligned new men hit their stride. If Mount scores against Nottingham Forest on Saturday, if Caicedo inspires a win over Luton Town, the complaints will subside. But do not mistake this for the reinstatement of the settling-in period. Because if these players do not perform in the near future, they will be branded flops. It is the modern footballer’s curse. Be amazing and do it now or forever appear on lists of the club’s worst signings. 

United and Chelsea have had a few of those in recent years. Some, like faltering marksmen Radamel Falcao and Romelu Lukaku, they have even shared. But a collective three games into their new club careers, Mount and Caicedo should not be judged in these terms. After all, If Sheringham was afforded the same curt treatment, then the very first treble in English football may not have arrived until last season.

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