According to the BBC, close to £1 billion was spent on player acquisition in the just closed transfer window, a new record, up 4% on last year at £870 million. Factor in new salaries and the £1 billion figure may prove a tad conservative, all in.
Some of these players come from other Premier League clubs but a huge number came from abroad. It’s hard to get accurate numbers but something approaching 160 players joined PL clubs and close to a staggering 300 were moved on, being sold, loaned or otherwise released. Getting a handle on exactly how many have joined and left, and how much money has been spent or accrued from sales, is a tricky business as ‘sources’ all suggest slightly different numbers depending upon which flavour you choose to consult. All the numbers in this article should therefore be treated with some caution and are offered up only as rough guides.
Whilst wholesale squad upgrades might be expected from newly promoted sides and last season’s strugglers (looking at you, Sunderland), the sight of Chelsea moving on around 34 players and Liverpool shifting 22 is something of a surprise.
Man U have parted with around 14 but arguably with the greatest single collection of well known names saying farewell (Di Maria, Cleverly, Nani, RvP, Evans, Januzaj, Hernandez), their departure board is ostensibly the more shocking. It’s been reported that to the man, the Manc side that so memorably lost 4-0 at Milton Keynes has now all been shipped out with the exception of De Gea whose registration remains at Man U after this year’s window only thanks, we are led to believe, to Windows ’95 and a corrupt file. First time for everything, so they say.
Eighteen are out of Spurs, mostly sold and 4 on loan, according to the Daily Mirror, at least. Watford brought in around 16 players, Villa 13. A bigger surprise here is how few Newcastle – described by some as a ‘zombie’ club – have brought in, around 5 new players. Most clubs appear to have brought in between 6 and 10 players with Everton and Palace bringing in 6 and 5 respectively.
All well and good, the sheer volume of players – as expertly demonstrated by both Spurs and Liverpool in recent times – is no guarantee of quality. But aside from the headline numbers, in many ways this has been a remarkable summer of transfers – and non-transfers.
At one time this summer, Man United were ‘associated’ with pretty much every player capable of lacing a pair of boots, both in the EPL and further afield. That they ended up with just seven new players was more by accident than design and de farce of De Gea’s ‘transfer’ left them with more than egg on their faces. Whilst failing to reluctantly sell their best player from last season, they plunged in with a highly speculative £57.5 million (according to Monaco) splurge on a 19 year old with zero Premier League experience and few goals anywhere. The two biggest elephants in the red half of Manchester squat firmly on questions surrounding the manager:
Why can’t LvG can’t get on with anyone and why do so few players want to move to Man U?
I just can’t work it out at all. At the time of writing there are no accurate estimates available for the numbers of players in or out of the club that LvG has not, so far, fallen out with.
That Angel di Maria features in the list of the vanquished is surely the single most telling factor in assessing LvG’s man-management performance to date with rumours of player tears at tea-time by no means uncommon. And LvG appears to have left himself short at the front having retained from the old guard only Rooney and a strikingly rebranded Fellaini to perform the scoring honours; given the disastrous goal-keeping situation, this seems a little careless and it means much must ride on the immediate success of young Mr Martial as well as the hope that De Gea can be simultaneously rehabilitated for his final season in the North.
But Man u are by no means alone, at least when it comes to player retention.
Brendan has now jettisoned something like half the players he (or his ‘committee’) has signed since he joined Liverpool a mere three years ago. This season alone 15 have gone on loan and 7 sold. Players on loan are not necessarily a negative but in the context of The ‘Suarez Money’ which, like the ‘Bale Money’ before it, is largely a distant fiscal memory, one has to wonder about Rodgers’ ability to target the players the club actually needs. And the trend, nay stampede, of departing players making their escape from Merseyside is hardly a source of celebration for anyone connected with the club. Yes, Arsenal have player turnover but the big difference lies in the significantly larger amount of cash spent on ‘duds’ by Liverpool in the process.
Chelsea have shipped out a staggering 26 players on loan (Daily Mirror) leaving one to wonder why would anyone bother to sign for Chelsea?
The defending champions have had an appalling start to the season both on and off the pitch and one wonders how much time and energy they must waste dealing with players they don’t really want. Is it simply Jose’s appalling nature that means they require a gigantic pool of players for him to dip in and out of depending on who or what he is blaming for any given setback at any one time.
So who DID have a good window? Man City have done themselves little harm in restricting themselves to around 7 new players but they have spent over £150 million, including daft sums on Sterling (£49 million) and Kevin De Bryne (£51 million). And these are in positions they arguably, and especially in De Bruyne’s case, did not need to fill. Only ten players left the club but Nasri will get his own name plate added to the bench …
And what of Arsenal who have sold six and loaned or released about eleven. It’s still a fair number, but it’s offset by the singular, towering figure of Petr Cech’s arrival in goal. The release of the news of Welbeck’s surgery mere hours after the closure of the window emphasises still further how few viable strikers there appear to be available to buy, and it puts United and City’s excessive expenditures in this area into some kind of perspective.
The point at which demand becomes desperation is moot but few would be surprised at Arsenal’s reticence to join in and, in any case, as the John Stones example (not to mention, supposedly, Karim Benzema’s) clearly demonstrates, sometimes it’s not all about the money. Add in complicating factors such as diminished sell-on values for the more elderly buying opportunities (Cavani) and the fog starts to clear a little when it comes to understanding Arsenal’s absence of action at this end of the pitch.
Swansea have added Andrew Ayew at no cost, without doubt, one of the buys of the summer. Pedro and Begovic are the stand out buys for Chelsea and silly money was not required to acquire either. For Liverpool only Nathaniel Clyne really stands out although there are great hopes resting on the shoulders of Benteke and they will have Sturridge to one day return. James Milner, on a free but presumably with hefty wages was also a decent addition and Gomiz has made a promising start to the season.
Although they bought no-one of great note, Everton seem to have missed a trick in retaining the much sought after John Stones. One admires their principles and determination to hang on to the lad but at what cost?
And it is surely a sign of the monied times that Stoke have managed to bring in players from Barcelona, Real Madrid, Inter Milan, Chelsea and even Liverpool. Get that lot performing and they may spring a surprise or two. Who knows, they may even develop a more palatable style of football, unlikely as that presently seems.
So exactly what can be surmised from this summer’s wheelings and dealings?
For me, the stand out factor was the scarcity of genuine ‘star’ names signed, given the huge sums spent. Yes, plenty of names we know and a few we with whom we will become re-acquainted.
Pedro, Cech and an ageing Schweinsteiger seem to be the exceptions that prove some kind of rule.
Few of us are sufficiently familiar with all the new players joining the league so the jury remains out but, I think, it is safe to assume an overall increase in the playing standard of the league. If there were no easy games last season and last season every game seemed to be ‘must win’ then it’s going to be at least 4% harder this year.
Given that all this may come to pass, Arsenal’s solitary signing of Cech may yet prove to be one of the most significant. He joins Kos, Per, Monreal, Bellerin, and Gabriel in forming what may yet prove to be the meanest defence in the league and certainly our best since the Tony Adams’ era.
The value of conceding ever fewer numbers of goals rises exponentially in a league where the ability of most teams to score more has become a reality. That we have lost Welbeck until Xmas becomes more problematical in the event of injury to Giroud, Theo. Alexis or Campbell. It’s not ideal but it is what it is.
The remaining strikers and the uber attacking nature of our midfield is such that our success in securing Cech may yet outweigh our inability to supplement and strengthen our forward line.
Time will, of course, tell.