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By Tony Attwood
The transfer window is of course still open and things can change, but as they stand the most money thus far has been spent by Chelsea at £331m. Arsenal are second in the spending league at £201m. (Figures from Transfermarkt translated into pounds at the current rate of £0.86 to the euro).
In fact the top seven positions in the current expenditure table are occupied by the “big seven” clubs: Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham, Manchester United, Newcastle United, Liverpool and Manchester City.
But the gap between them is quite large. Chelsea have spent over three times as much as Manchester City. And in a rather unexpected development, in eighth place is Bournemouth who have spent £86m. Bottom of the league in terms of spending so far is Everton who have spent £17.2m meaning Chelsea have spent 24 times as much as Everton this summer.
But in terms of the number of new players arriving, for once Chelsea have been outdone by Brighton who have brought in 24 players. Chelsea are on a mere 18. And while Arsenal are second in the expenditure league, £130m below Chelsea, they are a mere 10th in terms of the new players arriving, with 10 such men – although one of them has already gone again so maybe that should be nine.
To explain that number we have to look at the fact that Transfermarkt considers a player returning from loan as an “incoming” player which means Arsenal have Rice, Havertz, and Timber recorded as transfers, plus Raya recorded as being on loan. But there are eight players listed as returning to Arsenal from loans elsewhere: Balogun, Pepe, Tavares, Mari, Soares, Okonkwo, and Runarsson who gets listed twice having returned from Alanyaspor in Turkey and is now going on loan to Cardiff City. He is Iceland’s number one keeper.
Brighton’s big transformation can be explained by the fact that only four players have been brought in for a fee, two have come in as free transfers, six have been promoted from the under 21s, and 12 have returned from loan.
In terms of income Arsenal are a mere 11th having brought in around £30m. Xhaka and Turner you’ll know about, but we must not forget Austen Trusty the centre back who has gone to Sheffield United for £5m and Pablo Mari who is now at Monza (transfer fee around £4m). Marquinhos who plays on the right wing has returned from Nantes, and is currently back with Arsenal, while Ainsley Maitland Niles has left on a free transfer to Lyon. Rúnar Alex Rúnarsson completes the list.
This really does show what a phenomenal level of shuffling around there is in football. For Arsenal it means 12 arrivals and seven departures, but that is nothing compared with 24 arrivals at Brighton and 16 departures, or 18 arrivals at Chelsea and 19 departures.
The only way to bring all this together is through looking at the overall net expenditure and here we find four clubs in profit at the moment (Brighton, West Ham, Wolverhampton and Everton) with Brighton making the most money at just under £100m. All the other clubs are making a loss on trransfers thus far. And the biggest net spenders (which is what we normally call “making a loss” on the transfer market) are Bournemouth, Newcastle, Chelsea, Manchester United and then top (or bottom of the league, depending which way you look at things) Arsenal. Arsenal in fact have a current net loss of £172m on this summer’s dealings.
The reason for the loss-making is of course that players are getting ever more expensive, and the desire to win (or survive) is getting ever stronger. Probably the only club in the Premier League who could meet relegation this season without being too upset is Luton, who have already spent some of their additional income by rebuilding one end of their ground. That money has gone but the results will stand for some years to come.
Whether all this spending can continue is hard to say. Players are getting ever more expensive, the desire to win now seems to be increasing all the time, and most players brought in at high prices are then sold at a loss.
Ultimately all such spirals do end as this one must, as there is a limit to how much income can be increased. The stadia are full, and there are only so many pre-season tours, and only so many players to buy while balancing FFP.
Ultimately the tv audience will slip; ultimately the Saudi teams will have their full complement of players, and then… Well that’s where the problem is, for no one is planning for an end game. In a real world, Fifa and Uefa would be working to control things, but they are part of the squabble. The only hope we really have is that the 19 clubs fighting Manchester City will win, and the countries and the mega rich will start to wonder if it is all worth it. If not, then the number of clubs going bust is going to rise inexorably.
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