How much do EPL clubs spend in January?

By Stowe Gregory
Wilfried Zaha
Image of Zaha Courtesy of “” –

The Transfer Deadline Day is near. This week the prices may rise as high as a last minute swoop for Fernando Torres (Liverpool to Chelsea, 2010) or as Arsene Wenger says, drop to a much more affordable asking price.

Yes, it’s the January transfer window. Love it or loath it, the 31st of the year’s first month does provide the modern day football fan with some excitement. Negotiations reach their inevitable conclusion after several weeks of discussion between clubs, players and agents as the media attempt to detect the latest piece of news before anyone else.

But who tends to panic buy, or get forced into changes within their squad at the season’s mid-point. Here is a look at the Premier League‘s January transfer window spending table in the last decade.

Premier League Jan Spending
Table showing the Premier League’s January Transfer Spending

There is little surprise that Chelsea have spent the most during this month since 2003. The arrival of Roman Abramovich meant a fearless transfer policy with most notably the £50m Fernando Torres purchase in 2011. That move in fact was more by itself than 16 other teams in the league have spent in the last 10 years. Stamford Bridge has seen 10 different managers take the helm since 2003 – a persistent change in staff inevitably means a constant change in players too. Most recently Chelsea have brought in Demba Ba; a more sensible fee than we are used to, with it just around £7.5m. Also, the new Blue generation is coming through, with a deal agreed for Fluminense‘s young Brazilian right back, Wallace.

In the last 10 years, Chelsea have signed up 84 different players (including both windows & free transfers). Astonishing. They are, in terms of trophies, the most successful club in England in the past decade. But despite the astonishing amount spent in January and in total, they have still have a lower average position than Manchester United.

They are perhaps one of the more unexpected results in this table. Sir Alex Ferguson‘s side tend to stay away from January transfers. He prefers to get the new acquisitions settled in and sealed in the summer, and usually as early as possible. Just look recently at, David De Gea, Phil Jones, Javier Hernandez and Ashley Young. There are exceptions, but on the whole Ferguson gets his transfers done, so he can develop the team during the club’s preseason tours. He has stated many times that the players he desires and of true quality are rarely available in January, unless you really break the bank. Their only addition this time around has been Wilfried Zaha, for an initial £10m. Which, although has a questionable price tag, is a more long term view – and he won’t even be joining the club until the calm and patient time in the summer, where he and the club can begin again as one.

Similarly, Arsenal‘s fairly reasonable £36m shows that just because you can succeed during the window, doesn’t necessarily mean you will win out come the end of the season. However, many will agree that a few additions could well save their season this time around. But it emphasizes Wenger and Ferguson’s similarities during January, to not spend extortionate amounts.

The high spending figures from Manchester City was anticipated. Since the Skeikh Mansour family arrived in 2007, Man City have spent £438.3m on 30 different players. Nearly all of that £109m spent during this window is since their take-over of the club.

Aston Villa’s lofty ranking within January’s spenders comes down to the rise they had before this dramatic and desperate current decline. Darren Bent cost the club an initial £18m in January 2011 from Sunderland. However, it is more of a combination of additions, rather than the high priced individuals. Although the likes of Jean Makoun for £5m is presumably a deal owner Randy Lerner will regret.

Newcastle are an example of a club forced into January signings. With Mathieu Debuchy arriving for £5m along with Moussa Sissoko, Yanga-Mbiwa, Massadio Haidara and Yoan Gouffran. They’re in a fragile position in 16th, with just 23 points. But the new additions will most likely now save the Magpies from the relegation threat. It is unusual for a club to be so active in January, but shows the possible benefits of the window.

Norwich, Reading, West Brom and Swansea have played few seasons in the Premier League, with the Welsh club only in their 2nd season now. Albeit, so have QPR, yet the London club have payed out more money than the likes of Stoke and only £3m less that Everton. That may come down to their relegation panic, but it certainly signifies who is able to spend, who over spends and who doesn’t feel this window is rewarding for spending.

Arsene Wenger said recently, he feels clubs should be limited to just two transfers in January. The table shows that those who do have large funds, are really able to pay above the expected cost. It is a window that is consistently questioned and slandered; and you’d have to possibly say, is it necessary?

The question is really, should we have transfer windows at all?

I completely see the point that for smaller clubs the restrictions are a hindrance.  But if we had a year round transfer availability then would we not see clubs such as Chelsea and City constantly able to cover any weaknesses with world class talent? Maybe if there was specific spending rules, or limits it would work. But it does allow clubs to build a solid team currently, and work with what is there. Just look at Everton; they have spent just £14m in the past decade, but have more often than not had impressive and overachieving seasons – whilst consistently affirming themselves as one of the League’s most together and stronger sides.

Nevertheless, the Premier League’s spending is extremely high, and this season’s quality will argue that the money is unjustified.

By Stowe Gregory @stowegregory

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