EPL Transfer Heatstroke

I’m adding to the long list of articles reviewing the transfer dealings that have taken place this summer. I don’t have a lot to elaborate on some excellent pieces I read this week, so I’ll provide some links to them first and some charts after.

This one, from @mixedknuts on Stats Bomb is an entertaining and well-reasoned leveller discussing Everton’s reportedly expensive loan signings – reminding us that spending big sums isn’t really a good strategy for teams that are subject to heavy budget constraints.

This, from @altmandaniel throws a cold glass of water in the dreaming fan’s face to say that spending on attack isn’t everything – despite almost every team (except Cardiff?) having generally focused on goalscoring additions to their squads in the transfer window.

And this, from @TheM_L_G on Grantland looks at Spurs’ squad evolution over recent years in light of their recent headline-grabbing dealings.

There are no doubt several other pieces I haven’t read of a similar ilk but these are nice articles because I think they combine fairly well to give us a straightforward education in transfer spending and strategy – particularly useful to refer to when we are observe last-ditch transfer deadline madness where longer-term strategy appears to fly out of the window in favour of impulse.

Anyway, on to the information I put together.

I’ve consolidated some data on transfer spending in the EPL over time and taken a fresh look at spending vs points/goal difference. More than anything I suppose I wanted to put some things into context.

I took everything below from transfermarkt.co.uk if you’re wondering/shocked by the numbers:

EPL Rev vs ExpenditureCurrent season net spend is indeed bigger than any previous season (shown by the bubble sizes above), and we haven’t had the January transfer window yet – this shows how much the EPL has been looking abroad for talent this year and indicates the reluctance of EPL teams to sell to rivals (Suarez, Rooney and Baines are a case in point).

Net Spend Per Season Big 5I suppose this graph shows again how much the EPL does like to subsidise its rival leagues! However, Spain actually eclipsed the EPL net spend once in the last 5yrs (09/10) all thanks to Ronaldo.

As an aside, I don’t buy the English talent drain argument when it come to the national team but this does indicate how much the EPL loves an import.

Net Spend vs Change in Pts EPLNet Spend vs Change in GD EPLFor the 2 charts above, I took the net spend of every club and compared their change in points total, and change in goal difference, against the previous season. 187 results since 2002/03 (excluding newly promoted teams). Others before me have done this and I have done it again – concluding that there’s basically no relationship here between net spend and a team’s resulting points growth.

There are winners and losers yes, and certain examples buck the trend, but in general spending more money won’t buy you happiness (at least immediately anyway)!

Success StoriesWe do have some success stories here, although how much of the change in points totals can be attributed only to transfer dealings is quite contestable. Above I listed teams whose net spend made them £20m+ better off and yet still increased their points total on the year before. Take a bow West Ham? Oh, wait, the following year their points total was down to 35 so perhaps not! Arsenal feature twice thanks to Wengerball.

Disaster StoriesAnd now here are the teams whose net outlay was £20m+ but they still managed to end up more than 10pts worse off than the season before.

The West Ham example above suggests we could put an extra season lag on the changes and see what happens to the relationship – in many of the examples I just published, the teams may well have traded heavily in January thus making the opportunity for dealings to affect performance slightly lower in that season. But adding a season lag doesn’t make a difference, I checked. Take my word for it.

So what I am saying here? I’m reiterating many before me but spending big doesn’t get you big improvement fast. Regime changes, as happened at Chelsea and Manchester City are sort of an exception, but they have enjoyed consistent high spending over numerous years to bring success. I wouldn’t even say that they’re better at picking star players, rather they have a better chance of buying star players simply because they are buying more of them. It’s high time the average EPL club wised up and changed their transfer approach because they’re really not that good at spending money.

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