There is a well-known psychological experiment.
It is designed to show one of the differences between small children and the rest of us. It goes like this.
You get a group of however-many small children; and you get the same sized group of older children, or of adults. You then give each member of the two groups the same choice:
‘You can either have one piece of something you like now, or you can have two pieces of the same thing in half an hour’s time.’
In general, what you find is that small children are much more likely to choose to have one piece of whatever it is now. They are more likely to choose instant gratification. The older we get, the more we acquire the ability to wait – on the basis that we know that if we wait a little bit we’ll get more of what we want.
Here we are in the January transfer window and a fair few of us are behaving – well, a bit like little infants.
We know that players are ridiculously over-priced in the January window – players that will cost 10 million this month will be five or six in the summer. Players who will be 10 million in the summer are priced at 20 million now.
We know that Rafa is going to be working with a fixed budget – there is no earthly chance that Mike Ashley is going to be coming into Rafa’s office with a big sackful of cash any time soon saying ‘there you go, enjoy yourself with that!’. Whatever money Rafa Benitez has available, when it’s spent it’s spent.
We know that Rafa completely re-jigged the squad in the summer in order to prepare it for the rigours of a Championship season.
We know that, more than halfway through the season, we are exactly where we would want to be – top of the league (temporarily in second due to Brighton’s Friday night win, until the Rotherham game, hopefully), and more importantly, well clear of 3rd place.
We know that for every position in the team, we have more than one player available who can play in it.
We know that we already have a much deeper squad than anyone else in the division.
(If you doubt that, here’s a challenge. Go to the website of any of our Championship rivals, take out the 11 players who have started the most games. Do the same for our squad. Compare the two lists and think to yourself, how many of the players on their list would I swap for the ones on ours. If you’re honest with yourself, even if you look at Brighton, you wouldn’t have many of their squad players even if you could.)
There’s always risk – but Rafa has already bought insurance against that risk. Take a player like Daryl Murphy. For most of the season you might look at him and think, ‘there’s a waste of several million pounds’. And on another season we might have gone right the way through without ever having to play him. But he was bought as insurance – and now we’re claiming on the policy, so to speak.
There are only a couple of players in our team who we struggle to replace – Shelvey and Gayle.
We have players on the books who can cover in their absence – not as good, but they can do a job. We would have to break the bank to get in anyone to completely fill either pair of boots (and even if we were willing to spend the money, it’s questionable that a good Premiership player would want to sign for a Championship team at this stage in the season). And what’s the point of wasting money on another journeyman squad player ‘just-in-case’.
Thankfully, Rafa Benitez is a proper grown-up.
He knows that the squad he has is good enough and pretty much big enough. There’s always risk – and if the right deal presents itself he might buy another bit of insurance.
But the question he’s going to be asking himself is something like this:
‘Do I need to spend this money now, or do I keep it till the summer when I’ll be able to get someone twice as good?’
‘Do I have one piece of chocolate now, or two in the summer?’
Keep your money in your pocket Rafa.