With deadline day fast approaching, we’re taking a look at where the value lies in making late Premier League transfers.
A tighter summer window ending before the new season begins has put more pressure on top-flight clubs to get their house in order.
Despite that, there has been a lack of major activity this year, with Liverpool and West Ham the exceptions, so what should teams be looking for if embarking on a late spending spree?
Does the timing of transfers matter?
As we enter the final week of the newly-shortened summer transfer window, there’s been surprisingly little business done by England’s top clubs. With much less time than usual to bring in new blood, we could see a frenzied trolley dash as managers try to spend their way to success – or survival. We’ve analysed every summer signing made in Premier League transfers over the last decade to measure the impact of doing late deals.
Last minute deals aren’t unusual
While many arrivals are announced at the start of July – over a quarter of all summer signings, in fact – just as many are sealed in the final week of the window, with more being done on deadline day itself than in the entire week leading up to it. The window for Premier League clubs slamming shut on the eve of the season will surely add to the chaos; typically around four in every 10 deals has yet to be completed by August 10, so that’s a lot of extra wheeling and dealing that has to be compressed into the early part of the month.
Does it matter where you sign players from?
We looked at the minutes played by every summer arrival in Premier League transfers over the last decade, filtering out those accumulated before the transfer window closed for fairness. We also looked only at players who were among their club’s three most expensive summer signings, to avoid measuring too many players brought in for cover or as longer-term investments. We then compared those arriving in the final week of the window with those signed earlier to see how they differed.
Those coming from another Premier League club or one of the other major European leagues in the final week of the window have tended to rack up a similar number of minutes to those joining earlier, but it was a different story for those arriving from a less prestigious division. Signings from the EFL or other overseas leagues played far more often when arriving late than their counterparts who were signed earlier, so if a Premier League side picks up a late bargain from a smaller club, then expect them to shine.
However, for goalscorers it pays to stick with what you know. Of the 10 players to reach double figures over the last decade after joining late in the window, seven of them came from one of the ‘big five’ European leagues.
Does player position matter?
Most late signings end up playing more regularly than players in the same position who joined earlier, and this is particularly true for full-backs and goalkeepers, who clearly aren’t affected by not having a full pre-season with their new team-mates. However forwards tend to struggle after making a last-minute move, with the average striker making three fewer starts when moving late in the window compared with those signing earlier.
This is particularly true when signing forwards from a Premier League rival, with late arrivals playing 28% fewer minutes on average than those who moved to another top-flight club earlier in the window. Centre-backs and wingers tend to get the biggest boost when moving between Premier League clubs, while full-backs signed from outside the division play more league football when they move late.
Does player age matter?
A lot of panic buys in Premier League transfers are for players who are already the finished article, but leaving these sorts of deals late is often a bad idea. Players aged 26 to 29 – usually the peak age for a footballer – are the only age group who play fewer minutes on average when they join in the final week of the window. Those aged 21 and under benefit the most from a late move compared to their peers, so expect any emerging stars who switch late to be given plenty of playing time.
Forwards again break the pattern however, with younger players – those aged 25 or under – often struggling when they move late. Almost two thirds of strikers in this age group who racked up at least 1,000 league minutes after moving late failed to score five goals in their first season, compared to only a quarter of those aged 26 or over. Therefore it’s the more experienced attackers you need to watch out for among the deadline day movers.