With the January transfer window having slammed shut once more and chairmen up and down the land no doubt breathing a sigh of relief, we’ve analysed every Premier League transfer made in the first month of the year since the winter window was introduced in 2002/03 to work out which teams, managers and players are the busiest and whether being active in January pays off:
Who splashes the cash?
It probably won’t surprise you to learn that, in a division awash with TV money, most clubs spend more than they recoup during the January transfer window. In fact only two current Premier League clubs – West Brom and Swansea – have made a net profit in January during their previous years in the top flight. With the Baggies’ average net return in the paltry hundreds of thousands per year, only Swansea’s average profit of £2.4million per year is worthy of the name.
Sam Allardyce wasted no time after joining Crystal Palace just before the window opened, with his £35million winter splurge sending the Eagles to the top of the spending list. They have now outlaid a net average of £11.3million in January transfer windows while in the top flight: more than any other top-flight club.
While few would be surprised to see Manchester City second with an average net spend of just over £8million, it’s interesting that the remainder of the top five is rounded out by Bournemouth, Burnley and Leicester, suggesting that panic buying by smaller teams is the dominant component of winter spending.
While Allardyce spent big this term, he’s been relatively restrained over the course of his top-flight career. There are five current Premier League managers – excluding those who have only participated in one winter window – who have a higher net January spend than the current Palace boss, with Everton’s Ronald Koeman topping the list. Across his stints at Southampton and now Goodison Park, the Dutchman has racked up an average net outlay of just under £13million, so the young talent at his disposal obviously hasn’t ticked all of his boxes so far.
Only three current Premier League bosses have made a profit in their January transfer window trading to date: Spurs’ Mauricio Pochettino has brought in an average of £5million while Jose Mourinho and Slaven Bilic have recouped almost £6million a year in their winter dealings.
However it is possible that we are entering a new, more financially responsible era for winter spending in the Premier League. Many of the big clubs kept their powder dry, suggesting perhaps that squad management is becoming more sophisticated, and the Premier League collectively made a winter profit for the first time ever. This may have been driven by the influx of cash from Chinese clubs though – Oscar’s transfer from Chelsea alone was sufficient to put the whole league in profit – so it may be a few years before we know for sure.
Does spending money in the winter actually work?
The short answer is yes, as we found out when we studied the 10 top-flight clubs who have been involved in at least 10 January windows. Of those 10 sides, eight of them had a higher net January spend in seasons where their fortunes – measured in points won per game – improved after the window shut.
You’ll find them all listed on the graphic but the most powerful example is Arsenal, who have a net January spend of over £10.5million in seasons when they ended up performing better, but in the seasons where their performances dipped after January they had an average profit of £2.4million. In fact when we look at all current Premier League clubs, their net January spend is almost twice as high – £4.7million to £2.4million – in seasons where they performed better after the winter window closed.
Only two clubs had a higher net January spend in seasons where they went on to earn points at a lower rate: Manchester United and Everton. The Toffees’ record is the strangest: they made an average profit of £1.7million in winter windows that preceded an improvement in form and a £2.4million loss in those where they went on to do worse, so Sunderland are probably right to keep the chequebook out of David Moyes’ reach this season.
Some players move more often than others
Like birds flying south, some players have a habit of upping sticks in the winter and there were two who joined the small cadre of footballers to have made three or more January moves in their Premier League careers.
Patrick Bamford’s transfer to Middlesbrough and Mauro Zarate’s return to England with Watford were each player’s third winter arrival at a Premier League club, although Jermain Defoe and Wayne Bridge hold the record with four moves each since the January transfer window was introduced.