Transfer spend and league position; Arsenal, Aston Villa and Chelsea.

By Tony Attwood

Since moving to the Emirates, Arsenal have made something in the order of £5.5m per season profit on player transfers.

Chelsea on the other hand have spent around £50m per season on transfers under this regime.  Liverpool have spent around £31m a season under the current ownership.  Clearly the amount spent doesn’t have much to do with when you end up in the league

The total spend figures look like this for the past nine years.

# Nett Spend 03/04 – 12/13 Purchased Gross Sold Nett Per Season
1 Chelsea £704,500,000 £180,000,000 £524,500,000 £52,450,000
2 Manchester City £605,220,000 £187,400,000 £417,820,000 £41,782,000
3 Liverpool £441,880,000 £264,580,000 £177,300,000 £17,730,000
4 Manchester United £365,250,000 £241,850,000 £123,400,000 £12,340,000
5 Aston Villa £216,850,000 £108,375,000 £108,475,000 £10,847,500
6 Tottenham £369,900,000 £267,550,000 £102,350,000 £10,235,000
7 Stoke City £93,670,000 £15,595,000 £78,075,000 £7,807,500
8 Sunderland £188,280,000 £112,100,000 £76,180,000 £7,618,000
9 QPR £74,800,000 £2,650,000 £72,150,000 £7,215,000
10 West Ham £143,880,000 £108,225,000 £35,655,000 £3,565,500
11 West Bromwich Albion £80,485,000 £50,990,000 £29,495,000 £2,949,500
12 Fulham £85,830,000 £68,745,000 £17,085,000 £1,708,500
15 Newcastle £185,800,000 £171,700,000 £14,100,000 £1,410,000
14 Norwich City £28,350,000 £17,410,000 £10,940,000 £1,094,000
15 Everton £131,050,500 £122,416,000 £8,634,500 £863,450
16 Swansea £31,970,000 £27,325,000 £4,645,000 £464,500
17 Wigan £88,865,000 £89,000,000 -£135,000 -£13,500
18 Southampton £56,965,000 £60,150,000 -£3,185,000 -£318,500
19 Reading £22,220,000 £28,550,000 -£6,330,000 -£633,000
20 Arsenal £252,500,000 £267,770,000 -£15,270,000 -£1,527,000

Figures from Transfer League

Arsenal, having won four and drawn one of their past five Premier League matches are not slowly clawing their way up the league.  And although everything can change in a blink of an eye, Chelsea are just two points away.

To take these things a little further here’s some more comparison.  As we all suspected we are spending less, and generating more since being at the Ems than we did before that move – undoubtedly in part because of the cost of the move.   Looking at figures like these it has difficult to see why Mr Wenger is blamed for anything – in fact quite the reverse.  Despite the downturn in money spent (and that has to be a board decision), he has kept us near the top.

But before we move on compare this with what happened at Aston Villa, who we played last weekend.   Their spending has shot up since the new owner arrived, and yet we are fifth and they are in the bottom three.

Arsenal Comparisons Players In Players Out Nett Spend Per Season
Before Move to the Emirates £202,790,000 £132,274,000 £70,516,000 £5,036,857
After Move to the Emirates(06) £190,600,000 £230,900,000 -£40,300,000 -£5,757,143
Aston Villa Players In Players Out Nett Spend Per Season
Before Lerner Buyout £136,390,000 £76,675,000 £59,715,000 £4,265,357
After Lerner Buyout(05) £194,500,000 £102,400,000 £92,100,000 £13,157,143
Chelsea Players In Players Out Nett Spend Per Season
Before Abramovich £136,940,000 £68,475,000 £68,465,000 £5,705,417
After Abramovich  (03-04) £612,500,000 £160,000,000 £452,500,000 £50,277,778

The third comparison there is with Chelsea, who of course have outspent Arsenal considerbly.  The pre-Abramovich spend per season is quite similar to our spent per season before the Emirates.   Since then our spending has gone down per season while their’s has gone through the roof.

Although the number of years is different, if we take the per season spend of Arsenal, Villa and Chelsea we have Arsenal making a profit of nearly £6m, Villa a loss of £13m and Chelsea a loss of £50m.

And yet at this moment Arsenal are two points behind Chelsea and Villa are looking possibles for relegation.

As for the amount of money in the bank, Chelsea’s funding is seemingly infinite, although clearly not literally so.  Villa’s owner must be wondering what on earth he has let himself in for, while Arsenal have just made a half-year profit of £17.8m and are apparently sitting on cash reserves of £123.3m.  And it can only get better.   We have just done a new stadium naming deal which is about to bring in £150m, and there is also a new kit deal on the horizon.

Arsenal’s figures for the six months to last November show profits of £42.5m from selling Robin van Persie and Alex Song.  Most of that was spent on Santi Cazorla, Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud.  If Nacho Monreal is included then we spent more than the income of the summer in players this year.

There are however two oddities in the figures.  Transfer fees don’t include, obviously, salaries, and are accounted for over the length of the contract, so in terms of the club’s accounts, a different picture is to be seen.

Arsenal’s wage bill was last reported at £143m,  which is £53m more than Tottenham’s who are four points above us, which is not such charming news.

I am not writing this in any way to say that everything is fine and wonderful – that would only be so if we were top of the league, obviously.  But I am suggesting that buying and selling players and the money spent on salaries don’t have too much to do with league position.

The books…

The sites from the same team…

25 Replies to “Transfer spend and league position; Arsenal, Aston Villa and Chelsea.”

  1. Do the same analysis over the last 9 nine years about winning trophies compared to spend.The stats will show Europe wide those who spend the most on players win the most trophies.

    You can use the stats that suit you to show anything you want.

  2. I can see the argument idea of a lack of connection between transfer spend and league position, although I would be more interested in seeing the first table alongside the club’s average league position over the same period.

    You would certainly be able to get a better feeling for any correlation or not. Clearly Arsenal stand out, but alone don’t disprove the idea. We are clearly an anomalous point.

    The analysis I’ve seen is that (over the long term) it is wages that strongly correlate to league position. I cannot find the articles right now, but stack wages to league position over time and you get an eerily close pattern. Arsenal aren’t an exception here either with around the 4th largest wage spend, and on average recently we finish in 4th.

    Obviously I am not saying that is you pay the 5th highest wages; you are guaranteed to finish 5th. its a human system so you get variations due to other factors.

    By the way, shame on you for the Spurs–Arsenal comparison at the end. It definitely highlights the possible variation, but how could you even write that without adding context (but the season isn’t over yet, but its time for Spurs’ annual bottling …..etc).

    I suppose that should they actually finish above us, it highlights my point about human systems. Try anything often enough and the most ridiculous results will turn up sooner or later.

  3. Matt,

    That’s true but what exactly is your point? You’re either saying that we shouldn’t expect to win a trophy or we should somehow spend more than clubs who have no effective limit on their spending.

  4. Stuart,
    Except in the last two seasons “we” have had close to 50M and now, by wide agreement(?) “we” at least now do have 70M. Under the celebratory smoke of these stats, there has been net inadequacy in the last 3 transfer windows as for quality depth for rotation and expectable injury (mid-field and back line) and clinical finishing in the last third. While you are quick to identify with the “we” who decides on spending (the board, says Mr. Atwood, exempting AW, which is fine by me), I am quick to slate the “we” who spends with being reckless in their bean-counter service to produce those figures above in red.

  5. Woolwich.The author was making the point the money spent had no correlation to league position which is obviously not correct.The more you spend the more chance you have of winning.

  6. Matt,
    In fact you are wrong, it does not have a direct correlation to league position as Chelsea finished 6th last year.

  7. I still think the wages issue is a red herring in all this Tom Fox said in an interview last year that Manchester United pay players with personnel sponcership. Since Kagowa has been at United he has recived 4 new personnel sponsorship deals that boost his wages, these deals do not go down as wages. So officially United pay him £50k per week unofficially he could be on anything upto £100k per week, Tom Fox said that Arsenal are looking into this form of paying players, I think clubs will use this method more to get around FFP.

  8. Adam. Thanks for that. Its the sort of thing I mean, but not the article I meant unfortunately. I felt Swiss Ramblery but is not there, and is not on any of the other usual suspects as far as I can tell. Maybe I dreamed it.

    As to the rest. The reason wages feel like the main factor comes down to the shift in power between the players and clubs. Recruiting a player now is more about paying them than compensating their club. Bosman transfers skew the balance even further. Other factors come into it, but a player is not going to a club unless he is paid what he is worth.

    Bob. I can see your point, but it is interesting that in all of that time of restricted spending in the market, our wage bill has inexorably risen, both in absolute terms and as a proportion of our income.

    Stuart. The case with Chelsea may well be a one off and the correlations between spending and success are only going to be credible over the longer term (anyone can have a bad year). If they do finish 5th or lower this year, them there may be a case. Equally, cash is not the only factor, and you can argue they are underachieving due to instability or similar.

    Steve. I can see the point with Kagawa, and that system is largely how the Brazilian league works I think. It could make things interesting if it becomes the norm, but right now I assume it is rare enough that it wont skew the wage figures too much. It would be interesting to know if the sponsorships were on the table when he signed so Kagawa would have known the total package.

  9. Talk about the usual smoke screen.
    Quite simply had Arsenal spent more money then I have no doubt that they would have won something in the last few years.You can package it up how you like using what measure you want but the facts are that the top four spenders have won trophies in the period whereas the bottom 4 spenders ,including Arsenal havent.
    You have all be conned by AW in that he seems to have convinced so many that a succesful season at Arsenal is purely measured on attaining 4th place in the league. In reality no one remmbers who finishes second just the league winners.
    What about the the FA cup, the league cup and CL. Last season Arsenal finsihed 3rd Chelsea 6th but who had the better season?
    Oh silly me it was Arsenal because they qualified for the CL ! Ah but then again

  10. @Tony

    If “…buying and selling players and money spent on salaries don’t have too much to do with league position” as you suggest what is the reason for the gradual slide from the title contender position to merely a CL spot challenger?

  11. Tony, I would never, ever use the TransferLeague, TransferMarkt or Soccerbase, as a base for transfer spend by any EPL club!

    It is rather like the Transfer Price Index, created by Reilly and Tomkins, worthless.

    Which brings one naturally to Zack Zlaton, of A Beautiful Numbers Game. Zach, is the person who persuaded Professor Syzmanski to look at both Transfer Spend and Wage Spend as a more reliable measure of success in the EPL. It was obvious that Zach did not understand the Wage database that the Professor passed to him (Zach), since the foundation of the EPL. Zach, was led astray with the Transfer Price Index that is based on internet gossip, and not the audited accounts of the EPL clubs.

    Try fitting the transfer spend quoted on the Transfermarkt etc., into the actual cash spent in the November 2012 accounts, unaudited.

    Player registrations:
    Payments for purchase of players (£37,116,000).
    Receipts from sale of players £29,055,000.

  12. let me cut through this Gordian knot if I may. Spending money does not guarantee success: that much is clear, look at City this season (dumped out of the CL early) or QPR (likely candidates for a swift return to the championship). Instead look west towards south Wales where you will see a side that play attractive football, compete within their budget, have talented players, an excellent manager and scouts with an eye for a bargain (Michu). Swansea are more than holding their own in the PL and have just secured their first trophy in countless years.
    Let’s look at the way they operate instead of always looking at the supposed ‘big boys’ around us.

  13. Rufusstan
    It’s not just a one off though.

    Arsenal have not finished bottom of the league and yet following the rule that league position is directly related to net spend, this is where we should be.

    It’s a non argument i’m afraid.

  14. Villa fan in peace.

    I think your analysis is fundamentally flawed. Certainly looking at our spending is as we started if with a very poor squad (look how poor our gross receipts are compared to the other top 6 and this is virtually all for players bought in that period) – just avoided relegation before we started spending – O’Neill came in and blew a lot of money and we have had to reduce our spend materially so we are back where we started.

    Arsenal started off that 9 year period probably as the best side in the league and should have needed less investment as a consequence, although your lack of spend compared to your main rivals has seen you move very much backwards – even the most biased Arsenal fan couldn’t classify Arsenal as one of the best sides now.

    Most of the QPR spend has come in this year. They have failed to gel. Spending gradually, tweaking and refining should always be the preferred route BUT it is not that easy for a lot of clubs – QPR being a classic example.

    Swansea are a very good example of good management BUT this started well before the bargain purchase of Michu. Martinez (and maybe earlier – don’t know as they weren’t that visible to a non-Swan prior to him) started a style of play and ethos that works for the PL – evidently – and build that up gradually as they came through the leagues. Laudrup has done well since his arrival but he has only had to tweak an already successful model (albeit I accept that he has done this well). Lambert did similar with Norwich but has arrived at Villa and found that you do not get time to build in this way in the EPL – his naivety around this has been exposed this season.

    If only football were as simplistic as your analysis suggests I think we would all be winning the pools every week and successful PL managers.

  15. notoverthehill – yes media figures are ballpark, but so are accounting figures, such as those you cite from the accounts.

    You’d struggle to actually define “payments for purchase of players” as you dont pay everything in one lump sum – very feasible those numbers could be lower than what we will pay, as some payments are yet to go out of the bank (appearances, success etc linked payments).

    All you can really do is take figures with a pinch of salt, assume they’re vaguely accurate, and proceed from there. As long as your argument doesn’t rest on being accurate to a decimal place, I think you’ll be fine

  16. There are other studies that take in to account more than just player wages and transfer fees, Agents fees are also an indicator as to how well a team should do. Both from a clubs perspective and the players, as agents earn from both and the bigger the fee or salary the bigger the agents cut.

    But on the other side we have contract renewals that involves no transfer fee but can highlight a players progression via pay rises and a clubs stability in keeping its better players.

    No method is fool proof but the most realistic model I have come across involves agents fees. Which highlights their ever growing power. But saying that, using the “points to spend” model Aston villas struggles have been predicted (sorry Barry’sBoots, its not a dig), as have QPRs so there is something in all the models we could use to gain an insight.

  17. If you add wage (which is also money spent on players) then we arent so special, add champions league money head start then there is no contest.
    i am not saying we are s**t its just we arent doing anything special either.

  18. IMO the key factors in whether a team ¨succeeds¨or ¨fails¨in the competition(s) is quite complicated but includes the following factors in order of importance:

    1)The quality, fitness and experience of the first team players,and their efficiency in key games (scoring,defending)
    2)The attitude and will to win of the above first teamers,
    3)The inspirational, managerial and motivational abilities of the coaching staff and manager,and his bench strength,
    4)The spend to performance ratio of the Club (Chelsea is a good example of a poor ratio when considering Torres, etc.)
    5)The approach of the BoD and manager when buying or selling players…are they frugal but effective negotiators?
    6)The entire scouting network and system, including the personnel tasked with finding those hidden gems,
    7)The commitment and reliance of the Club on their youth,reserve and academy setup,and their willingness to bring in new faces from the aforementioned,
    8)The Club’s ability to retain their best players or if forced to sell them, their ability to replace them fairly effectively,
    9)The supporters’ tolerance for a long-term approach to improving the Club and their willingness to support the team regardless of the on-field results,
    10)The ability of the Club to regularly perform at a standard that entices potential top transfers to seriously consider that Club as a target,
    11)The good fortune to have consistent officiating and fair treatment on and off the field.
    12) Stable and professional management and administration from the top down.

    Some clubs play not to lose, others play to win and aren’t distracted by the prospect of losing. Currently Arsenal have most of the above 12 strengths but their players’ attitude is often predicated in playing not to lose, because the boo boys and whiny plastic fans have excessive influence on how some of the Gunners play. If tyou know you’ll get booed everytime you make a mistake, you’ll take the safe route and avoid taking risks, preferring to pass the ball rather than risk attacking or defending imaginatively and creatively.

  19. So, we’re winning the financial trophy are we? Shame it doesn’t translate to REAL success. Why is everyone getting excited about being 2pts behind Chelsea in 4th?

    Is that what it’s come too? Celebrating the attack on the 4th place trophy? Pffft.

    Sad how pathetic that is.

  20. @Domhuail, so it’s the fans fault that the team is nt playing so well, right? it has nothing to do with average players, poor tactics, the manager not able to motivate his players etc etc! u are really making sense!

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