Are the most valuable teams also the teams at the top of the league?

By Tony Attwood

We’ve been looking at the simple notion that sacking the manager and/or buying new players will turn a club around.  On their own, these approaches don’t deliver.

However, there is a complication because spending on transfers does work in the sense that the top four teams in the league have in their squads the most valuable players.   But that measure is the measure of the VALUE of the player now.  In short players’ value is created by a mixture of their own natural ability and willingness to work hard, alongside the tactical understanding of the manager in terms of how to utilise that player in the team.

So when we look at squads overall, we find the four most valuable squads in order, are those of the top four teams in the league, in the same order.  Not because those players are the best players, but because their value has increased because they are being played in a way that suits them, alongside other such players also being played in a way that suits them.

Plus the fact that the manager in question can work out how to create a balanced team.  In short Player X might appear to be worth £50m playing in a certain team, in a certain way, because the manager has appreciated that this is the way to play him.  Another manager may require changes that the player may not be able to deliver.  Yet another may try to make other players in the team change to accommodate the newcomer.  It can work (Wenger got it to work with Henry) but not always.  And of course, it takes time which these days the media and some fans are not willing to give.

So you can end up with top players in a club, but the club simply not functioning.   Take Everton for example; they have the eighth-most valuable squad in the league and are 16th in the Premier League at the moment.

Going the other way Brighton have the 16th most valuable squad in the league but are 9th in the league.  These two figures (-8 for Everton +7 for Brighton) are the biggest differences for league position and value of players at the moment, and should remind journalists that transfers don’t always work.  But sadly, journalists seem reluctant to learn.

As for Arsenal, they have the seventh most valuable squad in the league but are currently sixth in the league.   But Arsenal are still changing and developing to allow their players to fit into  the manager’s view of how they should play.  The fact that the club is second in the form league over the last six games, and with games in hand over the clubs above us suggests it could happen.

If that happens it is likely the value of the players we are using will increase.   Martinelli for example is valued at £25 million.  A few more quality performances and goals from him and that will really start to rise.  If he develops his Henry type role of playing on the wing but also scoring goals, he will look like one of the great bargains of this century.

Above all, what is interesting is just how long and how much money is needed to take a club up a position or two.  Manchester City have a squad valued at £433 million more than Arsenal’s squad.  There is of course no way we can spend £433,000,000 on new players to catch them up – neither our owners nor FFP rules will allow it and we don’t have the sponsorship from an official tractor supplier to Arsenal FC either.

And as we have seen, being the top spender last summer has lifted us just one place.  Now that might turn out to be two or even three places when the dust settles on the season, but even so, buying our way to the top is not going to work unless the buying is very cleverly done and combined with tactical changes.

Value figures in the table below are derived from  Transfer Market and these are related to league position quite closely.

The final column shows how high we have been in the spending league this season.  As you can this figure has no relationship for Arsenal or any club to the position of the club in the league.   In short, the value of the club’s players, which strongly relates to league position, is built up slowly over time by having a tactical plan and bringing in the players who can make that work.
Club Total value Value position Lge pos Diff Transfer 2021/2 Transfer pos
£892.17m 1 1 0 £-45.63m 10
£800.10m 2 2 0 £-51.75m 9
£794.70m 3 3 0 +£3.56m 16
£711.23m 4 4 0 £-98.37m 3
£522.95m 5 7 -2 £-55.60m 7
£462.42m 6 10 -4 £-57.24m 6
£459.90m 7 6 +1 £-122.42m 1
£417.38m 8 16 -8 +£5.85m 17
£392.85m 9 11 -2 £-2.54m 15
£315.68m 10 5 +5 £-63.24m 5
£304.65m 11 8 +3 £-5.49m 14
£250.56m 12 18 -6 £-118.35m 2
£238.50m 13 15 -2 £-53.01m 8
£222.08m 14 12 +2 +£15.54m 20
£215.96m 15 13 +2 £-75.99m 4
£215.91m 16 9 +7 +£4.32m 19
£197.28m 17 14 +3 £-32.13m 11
£140.00m 18 17 +1 £-23.09m 13
£130.50m 19 20 -1 £-5.94m 18
£130.14m 20 19 +1 £-27.59m 12

Which PL club that has had the most managers and the least success? Guess!

2 Replies to “Are the most valuable teams also the teams at the top of the league?”

  1. You can look at player values, team values, as much as you like, it doesn’t change the fact that the top 3 Nett spenders over the last 18 seasons have won 17 of the last 18 titles. How the players values fluctuated up and down over that time is irrelevant.

    As is looking at those that have spent big and failed because all that’s happened is they have been beaten by other clubs that have spent big.

    As is pointing out brief (and by this I even mean a season or two) periods of time when a low spending team (in that season) has finished above a high spending team (in that season) because it’snot about taking seasons in isolation it’s about an ongoing financial model.

    Yes chelsea and Man City may have seasons where they off load and buy relatively little, giving them a smaller Nett spend than a few clubs, but it has to be remembered they are trading Rolls Royces. They already live in a castle, others are still building. But rest assured the moment there’s a leak in the roof out comes the cheque book.

    As I said in the last article, to prove the point that spending big is not the definitive (definitive, not only) factor in winning the premier league, you need to give an example of a team that hasn’t spent big and has managed to win the title.

    By way of for example I’m going to ask this question yet again because it never gets answered.

    Everton, Aston Villa and Arsenal have each spent enormous amounts of money over the last 5 years and are still a long way from winning the title.

    To change that, what of the following do they need to do ?

    1) Stop spending enormous amounts of money and keep changing managers ?

    2) Stop spending enormous amounts of money and stick with Lampard for 5 years, no matter what, to give him time ?

    3) Stop spending enormous amounts of money and get Pep (Or other elite manager) ?

    We did that. Had Wenger, and couldn’t do it.

    Also if you choose this option you need to explain how this would work given Pep has spent over £500 Million Nett to do it at Man City, when you would be suggesting he didn’t need to ?

    4) Keep spending enormous amounts of money and keep changing managers ?

    Chelsea have made this work. In my opinion on a few occasions it was a good example of how even average managers can win the Premiership, given enough money. It has to be said, given the amount of clubs with huge budgets I think those days may be gone.

    5) Keep spending enormous amounts of money and stick with Lampard ?

    You never know, he may be the new Pep, Kolopp, Fergie or Wenger, as may Arteta ? Only time will tell, but time is something these top clubs, even the bottom, seem reluctent to give.

    6) Keep spending enormous amounts of money and get Pep (Or other elite manager)?

    Whether people are prepared to accept it or not this is just about the only way to win the Premiership.

    In my humble opinion options 1, 2 and 3 simply cannot be entertained if you want to WIN the Premier League. You could maintain top 4 if you have a genius for a manager, as we had, but as I said, even he could not win the title. In fact during the years we didn’t spend he didn’t managed a runners up spot. The moment he started spending again he won 3 FA Cups and did manage a 2nd.

    The link between big spending and winning the title is indisputable and continuously trying to find ways to disprove that is pointless.

    Maybe others think differently, but history is without doubt on my side.

  2. @Nitram,

    I agree with your comment on option Nr 3

    Pep Guardiola, as far as I know, has never been in a club that could NOT spend resp. outspend the competition.
    I remain non-plussed by his coaching capacit. Sure he brought new ways to play – with teams worth north of half a billion and packed with players among the best in the world in their position and the ability to spend anytime he wants.
    So, no, I don’t believe he could do better then Mr Wenger. Considering this I have much more respect for Pochettino or Bielsa for example and endless admiration for Mr Wenger.

    Thing is, I believe that Arsenal are looking much more ahead in time. The full business model of football is facing big changes. It is not sustainable, that is for sure. Investments in players are going to be lost because more and more players may end up walking on a free. And in other leagues, money is getting scarcer , just need to look at Bundesliga figures, Barcelona problems and how un-competitive the Ligue 1 has become. By going to the ‘bringing-up youngsters-from-within’ strategy they are preparing themselves to many scenarios by having a cleaned up balance sheet. When the hurricane looms, batten down all hatches

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