What impact did big spending have on results this past season?

By Sir Hardly Anyone.

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
1 Manchester City 93 -£69.1m 0
2 Liverpool 92 +£5.5m +1
3 Chelsea 74 +£31.7m +1
4 Tottenham Hotspur 71 -£29.8m +3
5 Arsenal 69 -£125.5m +3
6 Manchester United 58 -£107m -4
7 West Ham United 56 -£48.5m -1
8 Leicester City 52 -£45.6m -3
9 Brighton and Hove A 51 +£15.7m +7
10 Wolverhampton W 51 +£1.6m +3

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.

Pos Team P W D L F A W D L F A GD Pts
1 Manchester C 30 12 1 2 46 15 12 3 0 37 8 60 76
2 Liverpool 30 13 2 0 41 6 10 3 2 31 14 52 74
3 Arsenal 30 11 1 3 29 12 8 0 7 25 24 18 58
4 Tottenham H 30 10 1 4 34 15 7 4 4 26 13 32 56
5 Chelsea 30 6 7 2 28 20 9 3 3 32 10 30 55
6 Newcastle U 30 8 4 3 19 17 5 3 7 15 26 -9 46
7 Manchester U 30 8 4 3 22 18 4 4 7 19 29 -6 44
8 West Ham U 30 8 4 3 25 19 4 2 9 20 22 4 42
9 Leicester City 30 8 3 4 27 18 3 5 7 22 27 4 41
10 Crystal Palace 30 6 5 4 21 14 4 5 6 19 19 7 40

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.

Pos Team P W D L F A W D L F A GD Pts
1 Manchester City 6 3 0 0 13 3 2 1 0 11 3 18 16
2 Liverpool 6 2 1 0 6 2 3 0 0 5 2 7 16
3 Tottenham H 6 3 0 0 7 1 1 2 0 6 1 11 14
4 Arsenal 6 3 0 0 10 3 1 0 2 2 6 3 12
5 Newcastle United 6 2 0 1 3 1 2 0 1 5 6 1 12
6 Brighton and Hove 6 2 1 0 9 3 1 1 1 4 4 6 11
7 Crystal Palace 6 2 1 0 2 0 1 1 1 5 5 2 11
8 Leicester City 6 2 0 1 8 3 1 1 1 7 5 7 10
9 Brentford 6 1 1 1 4 2 2 0 1 5 6 1 10
10 Everton 6 2 0 1 6 5 1 1 1 3 6 -2 10

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.

9 Replies to “What impact did big spending have on results this past season?”

  1. A reasoned argument and I agree with your conclusions. I think if Nketiah had started every match the past season as striker I’m convinced he would have scored 20. I’m hoping the club can convince him to stay. Make a fair offer of salary and contract terms. The team needs to strengthen with European football upcoming. They were spent at the run in and it cost them 4th (maybe 3rd?). Some reinforcements in January may have helped but management decided not to spend. I’m awaiting this window’s business and looking forward to another entertaining season. This young side can’t help but improve with the experience gained. COYG!!!

  2. apparently Eddie has signs his extended contract. another good piece of business by the club

  3. I ain’t a Madrid fan, and definitely not a LFC fan. But the technical level was quite impressive, especially on the Madrid side.
    They did show steel nerves (especially Kroos and Modric), Courtois was just unbeatable and the rythm at which they were able to play all game was incredible.

    Guess the best club of Europe won again.

  4. @bushido,

    I did read a piece about it and this, if it is true, is a damn piece of good news and excellent contract management.
    The kid is good, needs a couple more years to develop and makes the academy group stronger. A great example and motivation for all other academy players and a player we don’t have to pay any fees for. Excellent business by Arsenal.
    And he’ll force any other central striker to be better just b competing for the position.

  5. The pundits and commentary tonight, which I heard, when Arsenal play I mute the sound, was so biased towards Liverpool, so behind and blind to the the actual quality of Real Madrid as a team of brilliant technical players, so fashioned by the ramshackle elements of the EPL – the media 24/7, PGMO, the EPL is the best league in the world,- the speakers failed to recognise Real Madrid have been composed in every game they played to win the trophy. They beat Chelsea, Man City, Liverpool, without sweating.

    ”The EPL is the best league in the world.” Nonsense. Why the ex-Arsenal players defer to these people is difficult to understand.

  6. @tony, it seems you’re just making up timelines to soothe our egos, lol. Take away the first 2 months, look at only the last 6 games. I guess untold man utd would be taking away the last 9months of the season, untold westham would be doing the same, untold Newcastle would be taking away the first half of the season, untold Everton would be taking away every match other than the one against crystal palace, untold Burnley would be erasing the entire 2nd half of the season, untold Norwich would be deleting the entire season. I’m sure you get my point… Every team can elect to assess themselves based on periods when they were decent, but the table doesn’t do that

  7. @Zedsaunt,

    I watched it on a french channel, so because of Benzema, the ‘fandom’ for LFC was much more muted.
    But I agree with you. The level at which Real played was unbelievable.

    FYI, Kroos was asked by the german Tv commentator in the postgame interview why he thought LFC were able to make Real worry so much (something along this line).
    He told him in no uncertain terms to go f… himself and left the interview after having expressed his total happiness to have a 5th CL (par with Ronaldo) and this in front of his familly including all his kids.
    And that just the question meant to him : you must be from german TV to come asking something negative after such a game and such a result….
    Can’t fault him on that !

  8. @Glenn,

    I have no idea how you can talk about Tony soothing his ego – you don’t know him.
    His excercise is explained, he says why he does it and explains it.
    Visibly you’ve not read the whole story, not understood the exercise and what his conclusions are.
    You are not aware, either, that his idea of a ‘form guide’ of more then a few games during a season has been picked up by quite a few others after he published it.
    Maybe the fantasy-full-of-lies football scribbling you find on other websites is more of your level and you should stick to reading that.
    Sorry, mate, but your comment is just way out of line.

  9. Okay sir. However I personally feel there’s no point making judgement of how good or bad we were based on aspects of the season. The season is 38games d your performance in those 38games is the best assessment of your season

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