There was method in the madness. As the dust settles on a manic month, the final 24 hours allowed the outline of a strategy to come into focus that had been obscured by all the extraneous noise. Still without a CEO or a director of football, Howe, Nickson, Staveley, and Ghodoussi juggled a set of competing priorities in a constantly shifting market. I don’t think they got every decision right. But every decision was at least consistent with five key principles that we can identify in their transfer business.

1. A single statement signing

A lot of the early excitement, and subsequent concern, was prompted by our very public pursuit of Sven Botman and Diego Carlos. As the asking prices were ratcheted up, accusations of naivety and over-ambition surfaced. But what the eventual capture of Bruno Guimarães demonstrated was a clear intention to make a single statement signing in the £30-40 million bracket, both as a marker of intent and also as a transformative influence on the pitch. Ultimately, the exact position in which that signing played proved to be flexible, but other factors were not.

Indeed, the qualities that the management team insisted on in their statement signing are best defined by what that player could NOT be. He was not to be a luxury, flair player; not a troublemaker being shipped out by another team; not a mercenary purely motivated by money; and not an older player on the way down. Guimarães is no Robinho, just as Botman and Carlos would not have been. He is one of the brightest talents in world football, has his best years ahead of him, and plays in a position that will influence every minute of every game.

2. Mentality

Famously, Alan Pardew used to talk about signing little rogues. In Ashley’s barrow boy world, there was value in buying a talented player who had made himself unwelcome elsewhere, whose temperament knocked millions off the price. Talk about a false economy.

The strategy in the first post-Ashley window was diametrically opposed. For a squad demoralised by years of managed neglect, conditioned to lose meekly, and too used to squandering leads, character and attitude were essential in any incoming players. We needed leaders, by example and by temperament.

Step forward Kieran Trippier, who in a few short weeks has already set the standards to follow, not only in his own play but in his interactions with his fellow players, cajoling and supporting, constantly talking and shouting. Burn, Wood, and Targett are all cut from the same cloth: model professionals, self-motivated and resilient. Or, to put it another way, there’s a reason we didn’t sign Aubameyang.

3. Availability

January, they say, is a difficult window. And there’s truth behind the cliché even if it has long acted as an alibi for inaction on Barrack Road. This was never going to be a fantasy football shopping spree. Everywhere there were barriers to completing signings, if not the takeover tax and reluctance of Premier League rivals to do business, then certainly the need to source a replacement before doing any deal.

Necessarily, that shaped business, but availability was also used positively when sourcing targets, and in a number of different forms. Again, Trippier is a standout example. Having achieved what he wanted in Madrid, he was looking to come home for the right challenge, preferably in the North. His agent made that clear and we were, by all accounts, negotiating months ago. Then, there was Wood’s buyout clause, Burn’s hometown connection, and Targett’s recent demotion to Digne. These factors made deals possible and were exploited astutely.

4. Positional need

One might have expected this to be the most crucial factor for a relegation-haunted team in need of instant results. And certainly Wood was an example of a signing driven entirely by an immediate positional need.

But, in truth, the strategy was more flexible here than elsewhere. Yes, our full-backs were weak and Howe’s previous systems have depended greatly on strength in those positions, but Trippier was signed as an elite character and an experienced, available talent, rather than primarily for his position. The shift from Botman/ Carlos to Guimarães also shows that other factors outweighed positional need, as does the pursuit of Lingard – in an area of relative strength in our current squad.

At the same time, that same flexibility reveals another truth about the new regime’s approach: no position was off limits for an upgrade. Perhaps Howe always knew that and was only saying the right things in order to keep the existing dressing room on side for ten games. Or maybe the evidence of his meticulous observations in that time have opened his eyes and left him no alternative. Either way, our business in the window was at once a damning indictment of every part of the existing squad and a bold statement of the new beginning underway.

5. Experience

Finally, our five signings show a clear preference for experience over potential. Had a deal for Ekitike been sealed, then things might have looked different. But of our five signings only one lacks Premier League experience, and he is a full Brazilian international with two years of experience in Ligue 1, as well as the Europa League, Champions League, and Olympic Games.

Those four other signings have an average age of 29 and have combined for nearly 1500 senior first-team appearances from the National League to the Champions League. This is no close-your-eyes, spin-the-wheel, fingers-crossed punt. It is an informed investment in proven talent.

Of course, that investment may not pay off. Gaping holes remain in certain areas, and the 25-man seems set to include players long since surplus to requirements. Equally, the need for senior executive appointments on the footballing side of the business remains as pressing as ever. But the management team deserve credit for a coherent plan implemented under the most trying of circumstances. And that credit extends as much to the players they refused to sign as those that they did.

Matthew Philpotts @mjp19731