By Tony Attwood
- Are Arsenal in line for a return to the top four?
- Indexes to recent series on Untold Arsenal can be found on our home page
The response of clubs to their position in the league last season, in terms of purchasing varies – both because of the money available and because of the philosophy of the clubs. Does one spend everything in one big gamble, or somehow try to manage fans’ expectations in the light of constant rumour mongering by the ceaselessly inaccurate media?
Of course we are still only part way through the transfer window, and everything can change, but just as it is often interesting to look at the league table part way through the season (or indeed, as was suggested by most commentators last season, after three matches), so it is quite interesting to have a look at the amount of money changing hands with 35 days left to go.
In this table, the clubs in the Premier League this coming season are not ranked by the number of points they amassed last time around, but by the amount they have spent on transfers this summer, minus the amount received: in short the net spend.
And just by way of some sort of comparison in the final column we have the league position that the clubs ended up in last season. Figures are from the Guardian.
|£ pos||Team||Net spend so far summer 2022||Lge pos 21/22|
|6||West Ham United||-£49.5m||7|
|18||Brighton and Hove||+£13.8m|
Obviously just as a strong run of results can take a team up the league, so a few major purchases or sales can affect each club’s position, and because working something like this out takes a little bit of time, these figures are only up to date as of early yesterday evening. But still, it gives an indication of what is going on.
Arsenal as we know has “done the business early” or words to that effect, and certainly that has made our pre-season more jolly than it might otherwise have been. But the club still has time to do some more buying or selling given that the transfer window doesn’t close until 11pm BST on 1 September.
And already this window is showing signs of being different from the norm, since a fair number of clubs are simply not finding themselves able to conduct the business they would like. Several can’t buy without selling first, and that is biasing the market as the clubs with money are holding on to the last minute to pick up bargains from clubs that are utterly desperate to sell because of their financial position.
But in understanding exactly what is happening, the media as ever doesn’t help much, for as we have seen in our tracking of the transfer stories for Arsenal, 106 players have now been reported as men that the club is buying this summer, and it would seem somewhat unlikely that even 10% of these stories are close to the truth.
It has been debated within Untold that it would be fascinating to see how many players other clubs get tipped to buy each summer – are Arsenal involved in this media nonsense more than other clubs, or did the “big six” get most of the attention, although in equal amounts? Unfortunately, it does take quite a bit of time to gather the data and that would stretch our workload beyond the limits to find out. Maybe someone else will do it.
But we can be fairly certain that Arsenal has spent more than others.
And there is one other table we can produce, and that is the amount received or spent last summer by the premier league clubs. Again figures from the Guardian.
|Position in net spend summer 2021||Club||Net spend Summer 2021|
|6||West Ham United||-£48.5m|
|17||Brighton and Hove||+£15.7m|
What can we conclude from last summer’s spending?
First, it took Arsenal up three places, and that suggests as we have seen elsewhere that it is very expensive to try and rise up the league through buying players (about £42m per league position).
Second, having a net spend of around £20m is not enough to help a club that is threatened from relegation, avoid being relegated. That again fits with the idea that it costs about £42m to go up one place.
Third, although spending over £100m in one summer can take a club up two or three places, it is not guaranteed (see Manchester United).
Fourth, even with all the goodwill of referees and the media, spending £45m in the summer is not enough to guarantee a place in the European positions (see Leicester).
Fifth, actually making money in the transfer window does not mean that relegation always lies ahead (see Brighton).
Finally, having been promoted, smaller clubs are best off not spending money, taking the profits and solidarity payments and accepting they will probably go down – but be solvent – and thus come back up again. (See Norwich).
But perhaps above all, we should note that Arsenal really do have to make it into the Champions League by the end of this season, for it is unlikely that FFP, whatever form it takes by one year’s time, is going to allow the club to spend this much again. And the owners might by then have decided they have spent enough.
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