Why the panic? What’s going on? How this summer’s transfer market has turned itself upside down.

By Tony Attwood

There has, I think, not been a transfer market quite like this one, and that for two reasons.

One is that the Premier League summer market gets crazier every year, first because each year the media tries to do more and more to outdo whatever crazy things they got up to last year, and second because while the attractions of somehow, anyhow, staying in the PL seem to get bigger each year, this year the PL incomprehensibly changed the rules.

No more buying after the day before the season starts, but you can go on selling until the end of the month.

The result was always fairly easy to predict.  Increasingly desperate buying by those clubs who like to feel they are good at making a deal, and an ever increasing number of players who clubs want to get rid of while the rest of Europe looks on, smiling (one imagines) waiting for the bargains to be offered with increasing desperation.

At first it was thought of unwanted players, “we’ll deal with him once the buying window shuts” but now it seems too many clubs have too many players in that position, and panic is setting in.   Not least because the 17 and 25 rule is still in place.  Only 17 non-home-grown players over 21 in the squad, and no more than 25 over 21s in the squad in total.   Arsenal’s own web site currently shows 28 players in the first team squad, and that does not include the two who have gone on loan and the clearly unwanted such as Campbell and Lucas.   Although it does include some under 21s – I will let Andrew tell us who that is – I always get it wrong.

So there is a desperate worry that clubs will end up paying the wages of players they don’t want and thus the loan market starts to hot up.  But as anyone who has ever sold anything knows, the more anxious you look as a seller the lower the price you’ll get.  The story of players going on loan but still having half their salary paid by the owning club has been around for a while.  This year it looks like getting much much bigger.

Clubs waiting to sell before they buy is one reason among many to explain the days of madness at the close of each transfer window.  But we should be clear, the money raised through sales is not the important part. Most Premier League clubs are cash rich, and transfer fees are almost always amortised. Reducing the wage bill is often the purpose of clearing the decks, especially since the Premier League implemented their Short Term Cost Control rules.

Clubs have been able to increase their wage spend by £7m each season from 2016/17 to this coming season. Clubs can exceed this £7m cap if they generate increased revenue from commercial income, player trading and Match Day income.  But the rule came into disrepute almost at once as cash-rich Manchester City immediately paid off the entire future salary of one of their players – Mancini – whom they didn’t want, and counted it as the base line salary cost.  As a result they have massive amounts of spare room to increase their salary cost, which other clubs don’t have.

Of course saying that Mr Wenger got it right is not allowable under Agreed What You Can Say Rules in the British media, but the fact is that Mr Wenger did suggest that more and more players would just allow their contracts to run down because it was now so much to their advantage so to do.  Yet now the media is reporting more and more players doing this although few credit Mr Wenger with seeing this in advance.

As the Telegraph pointed out in a recent review Man U have (or had  – they may have done something about it of late) enough first team centre backs to allow them to put out three teams.

Arsenal meanwhile are still (last time I looked) trying to find a home for Ospina and Welbeck, Lucas and Campbell (although Lucas may be about to sign for WHU).  Tottenham it is said (but I can’t verify) would like to offload  Danny Rose, Mousa Dembele and Toby Aldweireld.  They still ain’t signed no one – but maybe they feel they don’t need to.

But is this all coming about because of the decision to allow sales to go on longer than buying?  One other problem that arose was the move last year by authorities in the People’s Republic to force Chinese clubs to pay a tax equal to the cost of the transfer fee on any incoming foreigners.   And while PL clubs are notoriously creative in arguing that salaries are image rights and image rights are gratuities, I am not sure too many Chinese league clubs try arguing with the state tax collector.  Not least because when I was last there I saw the driver of my bus being arrested for having too many suitcases on board.  Last seen being frogmarched away.

The League itself has also got a bit tougher on the clubs requiring the teams to play with the same number of Chinese national under 23 players as foreign players.

Personally I can’t remember Arsenal getting rid of this many players in a window ever, although of course my memory isn’t what it used to be, and I am sure I will be corrected…

  • Takuma Asano to Hannover 96 on loan
  • Santi Cazorla to Villarreal for free
  • Jack Wilshere to West Ham United for free
  • Hugo Keto to Brighton for free
  • Marc Bola to Blackpool for free
  • Kelechi Nwakali to Porto on loan
  • Jeff Reiné-Adelaïde to Angers for just £2.7m
  • Matt Macey to Plymouth Argyle on loan
  • Chuba Akpom to PAOK for under £1m
  • João Virginia surprisingly to Everton for an undisclosed sum
  • Calum Chambers to Fulham on loan

In comparison we can see

  • Chelsea have moved on 25 players thus far – but that is quite normal for them.  I’ve never quite understood it.
  • Everton who last season bought everyone who could move have so far moved on 13.
  • Liverpool have moved on 16.
  • Manchester City have gone one better than even Chelsea and got rid of 31 players (unless I miscounted)
  • Manchester United, restrained as always (!) have only said farewell to eight.
  • Tottenham Hotspur have let just three go.  And still have not bought anyone.

And all that is before the last part of the window from Friday onwards in which it is selling time only.