I’ve been pretty open about how much I loathe transfer rumors. The whole “transfer rumor” industry is at the very least fake and possibly corrupt. Players, agents, clubs, all plant stories in the newspapers for their own advantage: whether it’s to get a better contract, secure a bigger move, or to drive up prices. The vast majority of transfer stories are non-stories.
But there’s no denying that transfers are a huge part of every season and can mean the difference between relegation for some teams and winning the league for others. So, it’s completely sensible that fans are thirsty for transfer news and, in turn, that the vampiric press feed off that thirst.
My strategy is simply to ignore the rumors and wait until actual transfers happen. Once the transfer window closes, we are done dealing with innuendo and supposition and we know exactly what has actually happened. Funny thing about that is, however, that the fans are pretty much spent at that point. They probably don’t want to talk about transfers at all and have usually forgotten about what has happened. Games kick on, and fans register surprise that such and such a player is at X team. The real transfers get lost in the fake news.
According to transfermarkt (we will be using that site for all of the published numbers in this article) the Premier League spent £2.8bn and sold £1.5bn for a net outlay of about £1.3bn. Much of that money is simply moved around between Premier League teams: £901m of this season’s outlay was between two Premier League clubs*. That means that Premier League teams spent about £1.9bn bringing players in from outside the Premier League and only sold £600m worth of players to outside clubs*.
Of that £600m in Premier League sales to outside* clubs, Saudi Arabia bought £253m worth of them. That is 42% of all the outside sales, or a £253m capital injection into the Premier League, more than any other single league.
The big winners in that capital injection were Man City and Liverpool, they received £63m and £61m each from Saudi Arabia. Wolves were third with £55m – which was all on one player, Ruben Neves – and Chelsea were 4th with just £42m in Saudi money. Newcastle United, which are owned by the Public Investment Fund (of Saudi Arabia), “only” received £27m for Allan Saint-Maximin and Man U got a whopping £5m for someone named Telles. Important to note that Man City is owned by Mansour who is from the UAE and that the UAE and Saudi Arabia collaborate on geopolitical aims (such as the war in Yemen) though they have recently (this summer) had some tensions.
This could be a one-off splurge on the part of the Saudi leagues because the product will struggle to compete against top tier leagues, like the English Championship and Bundesliga 2. Most of the players they have purchased are fairly old and no longer at their peak. The league is hilariously under supported and games have very few fans at them with literally zero atmosphere. European players are struggling to adapt to the temperatures. Games are played at night but it is still 40c and reports I’ve read from reliable sources say that players from Europe struggle to make recovery runs and often look extremely gassed if they have to sprint. Imagine Major League Soccer, with about 1/100th of the fan base, with older and more broken players, playing in ungodly temperatures, at night. Real good stuff.
One thing I do wonder about here, though, is what effect this will have on the PIF’s ability to pump money into Newcastle. At this point they have set a precedent of vastly overpaying for crap players. Any time they need to inject capital into Newcastle, they could just buy 43 year old Kieran Trippier for £100m. That’s an exaggeration of course but the point is that unlike any other team in the League, Newcastle have a built-in transfer outlet: any player who isn’t a success can be sold off for top dollar to the League which is run by their owners. It feels like a significant precedent has been set here this season.
As for the transfers (all of them, not just the ones to Saudi Arabia) there are only a few that I’d like to highlight.
Arsenal have moved Tavares to Forrest and Lokonga to Luton on loan this season. I watched Luton today and I feel like Lokonga is either going to change his game completely – become a much more “all action” player, keep his positioning better, play a lot of defense, and act much more quickly in possession – or he will struggle to get playing time. Luton already have a passenger in Ross Barkley, and with the way Rob Edwards was screaming at him I can see why they wanted another midfielder. But Lokonga will need to radically change his game to take the spot from Barkley.
Rob Holding moved to Crystal Palace and I love that move for him. Not just to get him playing time but he’ll be able to play in a Roy Hodgson system which emphasizes simplicity and organization, two things I think he excels at. One more thing about this transfer is that Holding isn’t a bad footballer. His forward passing is nearly as good as White and his defending as well. Don’t be surprised when people are surprised that Holding starts getting a lot of credit for his play.
We already talked about Balogun.
One number that is going to come up and is used as a stick to beat Arteta is that Arsenal spent £200m this summer**. I checked out his profile on transfermarkt and he has purchased £590m worth of players during his tenure at Arsenal. It’s a lot of money and some has been recouped in player sales (though not nearly enough and it doesn’t count all of the payouts we’ve had to do to players who no longer worked out) but there are a number of ways to look at this. You can either see it as a huge waste and a big problem, or a necessary expense and investment to rebuild after Wenger’s (largely) austere years (maybe it’s both, lol).
I’m not hearing anything about Arsenal being insolvent or violating FFP. And most of these purchases are in the right age range (recently, I still won’t forgive the “Over30 FC” era). So, unless it hampers our ability to compete in the future or we see a sudden and unexpected collapse in value for a lot of these players, I’m sanguine. Just expect the Arteta haters to mention his net spend every chance they get. It’s really the only stick left to give him.
Another weird transfer is that Everton sold Alex Iwobi to Fulham. Crazy in my opinion but Sean Dyche probably wouldn’t have used Iwobi in a way that would maximize his ball holding and progressive talents. So, he’s off to Fulham!
For USMNT fans: Tyler Adams is at Bournemouth now, Pulisic is at AC Milan, and Arsenal sold all three of their American players (Balogun, Trusty, and Turner). Pulisic is already off to a good start at AC Milan, which is ANNOYING because I watch Serie A and all that anyone wants to talk about is “will AC Milan win the League this year???”
I’m running out of steam here. I think Scamacca to Atalanta (from West Ham) is possibly interesting. Though, he hasn’t done much at La Dea in two games so far this season.
*Premier League clubs means the twenty 2023/24 Premier League clubs, outside clubs means every single club that is not one of the 20 clubs that are in the Premier League this season. 20 clubs in, all other clubs out. Clear? NO. Leicester is NOT a Premier League club. Jeeze.
**”Talk about net spend, m8