One of the things we have shown many times over the years is that there is often no direct link between the amount of money spent by clubs in the summer transfer window, and how the club does the following summer.
In this table we look at the net expenditure in the summer of 2021 by the clubs that ended up in the top ten positions in 2021/2. A negative transfer balance means the club spent money. A positive figure means they made money in the window. The place rise is how much better the club did this season than the season before (with obviously a negative amount for the clubs that finished up lower).
|Team||Pts||Transfer balance summer 2021||Place rise|
|7||West Ham United||56||-£48.5m||-1|
|9||Brighton and Hove A||51||+£15.7m||+7|
The biggest rise in places came with Brighton, who actually made a £15.7m profit on their transfers but actually went up in seven places.
Only two clubs out of the top ten in 2022 actually spent more than they brought in from sales and went up in places in the league table: Arsenal and Tottenham each rose by three places. Manchester United, West Ham and Leicester all spent money and finished up lower. Manchester City spent money and stayed where they were, but then to be fair it is not possible to rise above first.
So yet again, as so often in earlier articles, we can see that spending money on transfers is not a guarantee of improvement – even though the media encourages us to think that how much a club spends in the summer is a mark of their ambition.
When considering how many new players a club needs to sign it is probably worth looking not at the league table for the whole season but rather at the form tables – as we have been doing through much of this last season.
The reason for this is simple: at the start of the season clubs are still buying players, and players who have arrived are still becoming integrated into the team, getting used to a new country, learning English, trying to find somewhere to live, missing their family, and so on.
One way to get a good feel for how a team is doing is to remove the games for the first two months of the season and see what happened thereafter. And of course, I know this doesn’t show what “really” happened, but it can reflect what sort of drag the new arrivals (if any) had on the team at the very start.
This first table shows the results for clubs excluding the first two months of the season.
|8||West Ham U||30||8||4||3||25||19||4||2||9||20||22||4||42|
What we see is that across the season after the first two months, Arsenal were still a long way behind the two leading clubs, but that the club overall was third. This, combined with the fact that transfers in don’t directly relate to success on the pitch, suggests that if Arsenal can avoid disrupting the first team very much we should do quite well.
This table however does emphasise that the low goalscoring rate ran through the season. Although we might also note that Tottenham Hotspur, who have adopted the approach of having a regular goalscoring number 9 (Kane) and the venerable second scored (Son) only knocked in six more goals than Arsenal.
Of course, we want more goals than that, but the difference between Tottenham and Arsenal goalscoring shows that having two top scorers in the team, is not a total solution.
The other approach involves looking at just the last six games of the season as a measure of how well the team was motoring at the end of the season.
Tottenham and Arsenal reverse positions in this table of the last six games, but are still in the top four.
|6||Brighton and Hove||6||2||1||0||9||3||1||1||1||4||4||6||11|
Now let us combine these findings. First, spending lots on transfers does not automatically equate with rises up the table. Second that Arsenal’s drop to fifth was in part due to the drag on it, which came from the first two months’ results.
Arsenal are of course not yet challenging Manchester City and Liverpool, but realistically our first task is to get back to the Wengerian days of being able to land a top four finish year after year. After that we can start thinking about closing the gap on those above.
Retaining what we have got and keeping the number of transfers at a modest level almost certainly will work best for us this summer.
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