Why this transfer window is crucial for top flight teams
With the money on offer in the Premier League next year it is make or break time by AtTheMatch
It is not an exaggeration to say that for some Premier League clubs (mostly those floundering around at the bottom admittedly) that this January transfer window is potentially the most important month in their history. Get it right and they and their owners could be made for years to come. Get it wrong and disaster beckons.
This is because next season the new Premier League deal kicks in. Between them, BT Sport and Sky have agreed to pay a gargantuan fee of £5.136 billion for the season’s television rights. That is a staggering £10.2 million per game – a huge amount of money to many of the team’s currently fighting to stay in the division.
One only has to look at Bolton Wanderer’s fate to see what dropping out of the top flight could mean. They were only relegated three seasons ago but were so sure of their future that most players didn’t even have relegation clauses placed in their contract. After a season in the Championship this meant spiralling debts and one by one the players that could get them out of the situation departed, leaving them on a downward spiral that looks likely to end in relegation. Manager Neil Lennon is already fearing more forced departures due to unpaid wages this month.
Aston Villa should take note. When Bolton were relegated they earnt £55 million for finishing bottom. This is the final season that that amount of prize money is on offer. Villa’s squad are on far higher wages than Bolton’s were at the time of their relegation. Expensive flops such as Charles N’Zogbia and Libor Kozak are still on the books and some players from the Martin O’Neill era remain.
This wouldn’t be a problem were they (Gabriel Agbonlahor and Alan Hutton for example) on wages they deserved. Sadly for Villa, they’re not. When they signed their previous contracts the club was pushing, or still attempting to push, for the top 6, which means top half wages. Wages that would cripple Villa in the Championship, particularly with that league’s Financial Fair Play regulators far more strict than their counterparts in the top flight.
If Villa manage to stay in the top flight – which looks extremely unlikely – they will be handed an economic lifeline, even if they were to finish rock bottom next year. The 2016-2017 season sees the club that finishes bottom of the pile pick up a staggering £99 million, which is roughly half a million more than this season’s champions will.
Were Villa to be relegated with that much money (plus parachute payments) they would be well set to bounce back. The same goes for Sunderland. The Black Cats have the eighth highest wage bill in the division, which for a team that routinely struggles at the bottom of the league is ridiculous.
Similarly to Villa they would face mass upheavals if relegation were to strike. Though Sam Allardyce would probably be a better bet than Remi Garde to bring his club back at the first attempt, it would be no dead cert among the battlefield of the Championship where most clubs are equal in resources.
In truth, the television deal is more important to those clubs at the bottom. Of course, the larger clubs will welcome an additional stream of income but for teams such as Newcastle United, Southampton and West Bromwich Albion it could provide the stability needed to embark on building a team.
These clubs are normally in the mid to lower half of the table (last season being an exception for the Saints) and have to sell of their players in order to meet financial fair play regulations. With a new deal this is no longer necessary.
Both the Saints’ and Newcastle’s recruitment policy are heavily tilted towards bringing in players that can be sold on for a profit. In recent years Dejan Lovren, Nathaniel Clyne and Andy Carroll have departed the two clubs for huge fees.
With the additional Premier League money it will be possible for these teams to attract the kind of players that would traditionally play at larger European clubs. Stoke have managed to do this with Xherdan Shaqiri and Bojan Krkic this season – this could soon be a regular occurrence in the Premier League.
The likes of Stoke, Everton and Spurs will be boosted massively by the influx of new money, with their hopes of breaking the stranglehold of the traditional larger clubs far higher. We’ve already seen Chelsea and Liverpool slip down the league this year. They’ll find it far harder to break back in as of next season, with more money inevitably meaning more quality in the league.
As previously mentioned, for the well-established big teams (the likes of Arsenal, Manchester City and Manchester United, despite their recent troubles) the money will make little difference, aside from a boost to the transfer coffers. They already have secure income streams in the form of top class marketing at home and abroad and regular Champions League money.
What is for sure is that the clubs at the bottom of the league need to get this transfer window right. One wrong move from the likes of Bournemouth or Swansea City and they will miss out on the biggest bonanza in the club’s history.
Do they risk splashing out on a big money signing to keep them up? What if they do that and are then relegated, being lumbered with high wages for the rest of his contract? It’s a difficult position to be in, one that could determine a club’s future for the foreseeable future.Click here to stay up to date with AtTheMatch