Does spending on transfers automatically bring success? Arsenal compared to the rest.




By Tony Attwood

So now we know.  A largely reserve side including Matt Turner, Rob Holding, Takehiro Tomiyasu, Kieran Tierney, Fabio Vieira and Leandro Trossard can hold Manchester City to one goal.  Which, when one comes to think of it, is quite amazing, given that Pep Guardiola joined Manchester City in 2016 with the club having won five major trophies in the previous seven seasons and having had with six consecutive years in the top four.

Arteta you might remember joined Arsenal in December 2019, with Arsenal having won just three trophies in the previous seven seasons but having dropped out of the top four for the last two seasons before he came along.  The rebuild Arteta has done has been much greater than that of Guardiola.

So Arsenal are out of both of the domestic cups but still sailing forth in the Europa, and for the last four days of this month we have the rest of the transfer window.  The strength of the Manchester City squad is such that they have only bought one player – for £8m.

As for Arsenal probably the biggest news is that Gabriel Martinelli has agreed a new contract with Arsenal until the summer of 2027, at least according to The Athletic.  Elsewhere we are told that bids for Caicedo at Brighton and Martin Zubimendi at Real Sociedad have been rejected – but that is just what the papers say.  

However whichever way you look at it, everything points to the huge difference between the clubs – Manchester City are there with a complete squad, Arsenal are still building the squad.

So how much are other clubs spending this month in an effort to catch Arsenal in the league or avoid relegation?  Using data from Transfermarkt for the 2022/23 season we get this chart…


Club Expenditure Income Balance Pos
1  10
2  4
3  16
4  13
5  1
6  5
7  17
8  2
9  15
10  9
11  3
12  20
13  11
14  19
15  7
16  6
17  8
18  18
19  12
20  14


The top ten spenders include five teams from the top ten in the league, and five from the lower reaches.  On the other hand, Brighton and Hove are sixth in the league and 16th in the expenditure list.  Fulham are seventh in the league and 15th in the spending rankings.  Brentford are eighth in the league and 17th in terms of spending.  Money does not always equal position.

But perhaps more than anything else we can notice the spending gap between Chelsea and the rest.  Of course, these figures are now a day or so out of date, and they can have changed by the time you read them, but as things stand Chelsea are looking to have a net spend this season of about double everyone else.  It might over time bring them league success, but this season is not going well with them lying 10th.  Indeed in terms of points Chelsea are much closer to the bottom of the league than the top.

In fact in terms of points, every club from sixth place down is closer to the bottom of the league in terms of points, than they are to the top.  So maybe we should be talking now of the Big Five: Arsenal, Manchester City, Newcastle United, Manchester United, and Tottenham Hotspur.

Liverpool and Chelsea are both 21 points from Arsenal at the top of the league.  But they are both only 14 points off the bottom of the league.

Of course, that is not to say that these clubs are about to get relegated, but it does show how far they have sunk, and why Chelsea is currently spending so much money.

West Ham’s spending is also interesting, as they are 16th in the league, just one point above relegation.

Indeed looking at the foot of the table, in realistic terms any of these clubs mentioned could go down; it only takes a poor run of a few games.  And this is why West Ham, being the third biggest spender, is of so much interest.   If spending money can allow a club always to buy its way out of a mess, then West Ham won’t finish in this bottom group.  On the other hand if Leicester (the only club to have made a profit on its transfers so far) survive, that will confirm that while spending is often helpful, it is not always necessary.

7 Replies to “Does spending on transfers automatically bring success? Arsenal compared to the rest.”

  1. Come back to this in five years time and the top half a dozen teams will be Man City, Arsenal, Chelsea, Man Utd Liverpool and almost certainly Newcastle, as long as they keep spending.

    We’ve been here with this so many times, and time and time again it’s the same.

    Saying “On the other hand, Brighton and Hove are sixth in the league and 16th in the expenditure list. Fulham are seventh in the league and 15th in the spending rankings. Brentford are eighth in the league and 17th in terms of spending. Money does not always equal position” is grossly misleading

    Yes if you take seasons in isolation, even a couple sometimes, a big spending club can fall away or fail to deliver, especially if it’s a ‘splurge’ for want of a better word. A relatively low spending team can have a flirtation with the top 6, top 4 even, but history shows that the clubs that spend and spend and then spend some more, win almost everything. Those 3 teams will win nothing. They almost certainly will not qualify for the Champions league, ever. Most likely not qualify for Europe at all, although 5th, 6th or 7th, is a slim possibility. But will they sustain it over time? Not a chance.

    Interlopers, outliers, whatever you want to call them happen, but not very often.

    Plus of course, now there are so many big spenders, some will fail. If every club spent a Billion pounds 3 ‘big spenders’ would still get relegated. Would that mean big spending doesn’t work?

    As I pointed out in a post recently, when there are so many big spenders, if you get other aspects wrong, such as poor managers, you fail, or at least fail in relative terms. That is what happened to Man Utd.

    They now look like returning to at least challenging for the title, which I guarantee would never of happened if they had stopped spending.

    So okay, sometimes spending big isn’t enough, at least not on it’s own, but it must be part of the process if you want to win the PL, Champions league and usually the FA Cup.

    Drawing conclusions on 1 seasons big spending, even 2 or 3 seasons usually, is very misleading. It took Man City at least 4 years of mega spending before finally winning the PL, and they only had 2 other mega spenders to overhaul.

    We now have Man City, Chelsea and Man Utd as continuous mega spenders. Newcastle have now joined their ranks. I take very little notice of where Chelsea are now. Yes we all love a laugh at their expense, but we all know they will return to the top 4 sooner rather than later. They wont if they stop spending though. In fact part of the reason they have fallen away is because they reduced their net spending quite dramatically for 2 or 3 years and have only just reverted to type, because they have to.

    Newcastle now have a chance of doing a Chelsea or Man City, but they are up against 3 established mega spenders, and 2 established very wealthy giants of the game in the shape of Liverpool and Arsenal. Arsenal and Liverpool are not mega spenders in the true sense of the word, as in my estimation a mega spender is a club without a budget. We basically now have 4 of them. Over time, if the mega spenders get it right, both Liverpool and Arsenal may struggle to maintain top 4 status. This transfer window has starkly shown us how if a mega spender wants a player, they get him. No budget, No limit.

    We all know the only reason Newcastle are sitting 3rd is because they have started to spend more money. Not enormous yet but more. We also know that if they want to take ‘that next step’ stopping spending isn’t going to do it. But what might, I say might because they have other mega spenders to contend with, and they need to get other aspects such as the manager right, is spending more money. Then more money. And they may have to do this, as did City, for at least 4 years before winning the title. And even then, if the others keep spending like they do, they still may not win anything, let alone the title, but does that mean spending big doesn’t work?

    Conclusion, yes you can spend big and fail to win the PL, or even a cup, or even qualify for Europe, if you get other aspects spectacularly wrong. But you simply cannot win it without spending mega money. It’s as simple as that.

  2. @Nitram,

    I would add that if you are not a mega spender, the only way to be able to compete is an academy that produces talent and opportunities for said talents to shine, combined with good contract management.

    Talking about good contract management, looks like martinelli signed for af few more years, I believe 2027. So this is done and WELL done. And no hoopla, no drama, no nothing.

    Hope Saka and Saliba will follow suit and Arsenal will have a backbone for its team for the future.

  3. Chris

    “I would add that if you are not a mega spender, the only way to be able to compete is an academy that produces talent and opportunities for said talents to shine”

    Very much so. Exactly like we are doing right now you mean.

    Very tough to keep doing on a consistent basis though, that’s the problem. But if you can produce £50 to £100 Million pound players on a regular basis that will help, and of course save you a lot of money.

    And there is another problem of course, keeping them. We may well keep our current crop, the signature of Martinelli being a good sign, but as Wenger found out, as soon as you start look like a team struggling to keep up with the mega spenders you become vulnerable. The players start looking over the fence and can easily get poached.

    Producing them is one thing. Keeping them is quite another.

    Ashley Cole was the beggining of that process back in the day.

  4. @Nitram,

    and so the world goes…up and down…if the owners are smart, then they’ll keep the basic strategy and it will work. That being said, it makes the 19 CL qualifications in a row the more a record that is going to be hard to beat, if ever. Then again Mr Arteta might still be around when we’ll be old buggers with a cane.

  5. @Nitram

    Newcastle are spending. It’s interesting that their treatment by referees has changed dramatically in the last year. I wonder what they are buying.

  6. They are indeed.

    Personally I don’t even know why this money = success correlation is even questioned.

    Man Utd finally won something under Fergie. Got the World wide marketing right. Spent lots of money. Won tons of trophies.

    Chelsea were crap. Abramovic arrived. Spent lots of money. Won tons of trophies.

    Man City were crap. Mansours arrived. Spent lots of money. Won tons of trophies.

    Liverpool, though not bank rolled to the same degree can hardly be called paupers. Spent lots of money. Won a couple of trophies.

    Arsenal used to win trophies. Then other clubs spent lots of money whilst we spent net zero. We won nothing. We have started spending lots of money and guess what. We win 4 FA Cups and have gradually got ourselves back in the title race.

    Those 5 clubs have won nearly every Title, FA cup and League Cup for over 20 years.

    It is no coincidence.

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