- Could Arsenal actually be better than the media lead us to believe?
- Arsenal team against Forest and the prognostications for the match.
By Tony Attwood
One year ago clubs in England spent between £815m and £843m on transfers (depending on which newspaper you read) which was double the previous January record. Chelsea alone spent £323m.
At the last count we seem still to have under 20 players being signed by Premier League clubs – and that includes loan deals which account for around half of what has happened so far (although of course as I write this on the morning of deadline day, it is possible the unexpected will be happening right now. (Please don’t laugh too much if it happened just as I push the “publish” button.)
And it wasn’t that January 2023 was out on its own. Until this window every window was hailed by the over-excited media as a record transfer window.
So what’s gone wrong? Simply Financial Fair Play which changed its name to the less exciting “Profit and Sustainability Rules,” the increasing feelings in some quarters that Manchester City won’t be cleared of all charges, the thought that Everton are not only going to lose their appeal but are now being hit by a second set of charges, that Nottingham Forest are in FFP trouble, and Chelsea still don’t know what will happen to them after they put their hands up, admitted guilt, but blamed the previous owners.
Of course it is the nature of the punishment that is causing some clubs to wobble. Fines for spending too much never worry clubs. But points deductions… now that is different. That and the fact that the limit on the losses (excluding the allowable things like developing the youth training ground) is limited to £105m over three years.
Worse those three years roll over so a loss made last year is in the books for two more years as the accounting process goes forward.
What has happened is that clubs across Europe – and they of course are the powerhouses in all this – have just stopped spending – but not just because of the financial rules.
The case of Barcelona really is exercising the minds of many – as it seemed inconceivable just two years ago that the club could get itself into a tangle so deep there seems to be no way out. Then the notion of selling off future broadcast rights came along, and using the money to show the current season was in balance (which of course was thrown out by the authorities). That was so bonkers (the first week of accountancy classes would tell anyone that wheeze is not on), that the realisation sank in. Barcelona really are bust, which could mean that money due from them to other clubs simply won’t arrive on time.
As a result everyone paused, and the investigations into the clubs in England simply made that pause go on and on.
Saudi Arabia stepped up and started offering bizarre money for some older players, until the players and their partners realised just what living in a repressive religious dictatorship is actually like, and anyway the crowds haven’t turned out in huge numbers to see the old men.
Thus the transfer turnover which sat at £161m in January 2015 and was £842m in January 2023, is now almost nothing. Loans are still taking place but that’s about it.
Only seven players have moved on permanent deals as I write this, and four of them were loaned out again straight away. 14 Premier League clubs have not bought anyone.
So what’s the cause?
First the enquiries into Manchester City and the rest are worrying the clubs, and the punishment to Everton (who some thought had the excuse of their stadium build as a get out of jail card) plus their second charge now being heard, is really worrying everyone.
Second the delays in the Manchester City case are also equally worrying. That club has repeatedly stated that it has clear answers to every issue raised by the League and there was nothing to worry about. But it still rambles on.
Third, we seem to be getting a drip drip drip of other clubs that have broken the rules. Nottingham Forest are the latest to be put under the microscope, and we’ve no idea if there are any more.
Fourth clubs like Arsenal are saying that FFP restrictions are stopping them from making purchases. And then we see Manchester City buying just one player (Claudio Echeverri for £12,5m) and then leaving him at his current club for a year on loan, seemingly in order to keep him out of their books.
Now all this has a knock on effect. Clubs buy new players to put in their “25” – and that generally means they then sell one or two players to make room. But if no one is buying, they can be left with the previous Chelsea situation in which players are bought but are simply not in the 25.
So it is not just about buying – but also selling, and if no one is buying then …. well you see the connection. If you can’t be sure of selling a player, most clubs can’t buy a player, even if the owner could hand over another £100m.
As a result there has been a growing use of under 21 year olds in squad.- and that is fine except those players have a habit of getting older (Saka, Martinelli and Timber all recently jumped up from not being in the 25 to being of the age where they are counted).
And even that is not everything because in recent years European clubs have used the largesse of Premier League clubs to fund their own spending. Now the Premier League is not buying big time, a lot of European clubs are not selling. Transfers have stopped.
Plus if that were not enough, the Premier League has often been able to rely on the clubs that have come up from the Championship to buy like crazy in a desperate effort to stay up. But after the Nottingham Forest experience (for whom it worked but only just and now they are being investigated), it is now not considered a good idea.
So everyone is in a tangle. And with Barcelona trying to renegotiate its stage payments and liable to slip even further into financial chaos plus FFP certainly not going away, it probably isn’t all over yet.
- Is the Premier League getting more exciting or simply ever more predictable?
- How far down might these points deducations take clubs?
- Big clubs that foul less lose fewer players of their own to injury
- What takes clubs up and down the league: attack or defence?
- Referee Extremism: the situation in Spain and in England