Stop complaining, money can’t buy the Premier League

George K Roar Pro

By George K, George K is a Roar Pro


18 Have your say

    This transfer window will go down as the biggest yet in recent memory not only because of Neymar’s record £200 million ($340 million) deal to PSG but also because Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea and even Everton to some extent have spent record numbers in trying to achieve their goals.

    No doubt this will lead many to believe that money is ruining football and that it is only a matter of time before clubs continuously ‘buy’ the league year after. However, I would argue that no club has actually bought the league. Sure, some clubs are richer than others – this fact is never going to change – but it ultimately does not result in short or long-term success.

    A common argument for money ruining the league can be seen with the two Manchester sides.

    Manchester City is often accused of throwing money at the league in order to secure a title, and while this is somewhat true with Manuel Pellegrini’s final season, in which he spent £169 million on record singings for Raheem Sterling, Nicolas Otamendi and Kevin De Bruyne, City only barely scrapped Champions League football going through on goal difference alone.

    In Pep Guardiola’s first season he spent a total of £212 million on players with a certain expected level of class, such as John Stones and Gabriel Jesus. However, despite a strong start, Pep’s men often struggled at the back, finishing only marginally better in third place.

    With the amount of money spent over two years City fans and bookmakers alike would suggest that City were shoe-ins for the title, and yet this was not the case.

    (Image: AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

    By no means am I suggesting football clubs stop spending full stop – Sterling currently is a success under Guardiola, picking up the player of the month award for August and his recent performances – but what I am suggesting is the following.

    City – and by extension other cash-filled clubs – cannot hope to create success in the short term through spending alone. Sterling’s recent performances under City suggest that there is at least an adjustment period of typically a year for new signings to settle in and show their worth.

    Therefore, teams cannot buy the league as they have to typically sacrifice a season rebuilding after a summer blow-out, giving other clubs a chance to challenge while the ‘big clubs’ are licking their wounds to recover. Next season? Perhaps a different story should a club not resort to panicking about a lack of short-term success and spending heaps in the pursuit of short-term gains.

    The biggest problem in the Premier League is not the ridiculous amounts of money that clubs spend; rather, it is the short-term mindset that plagues board-room discussions and interferes with the mentality of those in charge.

    Case in point: Manchester United since the legendary Sir Alex have spent £500 million on transfers in pursuit of former glory. Casting aside David Moyes, I wish to focus purely on Louis Van Gaal’s two-year stint with the club.

    In his first season Van Gaal smashed signing records with Angel Di Maria (£59.7 million) as well as generated hype through the loan deal of Radamel Falcao. When these players failed to adjust in the short term of one season they were displaced and moved on, with the manager spending further on Memphis Depay, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Morgan Schneiderlin.

    As you can see, when these players do not work out in the short term they are sold and quickly replaced, which contributes to stupid amounts of money being spent. Players are not given the time that we typically expect for new transfers to adjust to the club due to the risky financial investment in them. This creates a never-ending loop of spending big to secure talent, being upset when said talent doesn’t work immediately and then selling to make way for more rapid spending.

    (Image: Nick Potts/ PA via AP)

    However, again I want to stress that this isn’t about not spending at all, because it is risky. When spending this money clubs shouldn’t expect results overnight. The absurd amount of money – at the time, at least – spent on Anthony Martial at United (€50 million) is now considered to be a success, with the star player contributing to United’s recent resurgence up front.

    Even Paul Pogba, one of the most expensive players in the world, was considered to be underwhelming for most of his debut season. In the short term his season was also considered to be underwhelming; however, after the adjustment period he is proving to be an effective midfielder, excelling particularly in United’s demolition of Swansea.

    Hence it is not feasible to suggest that teams are ‘buying the league’, as this restructure often takes time – time that other clubs that do not have insane amounts of money can use to their advantage. In the 2015-16 season, when everyone underperformed in the league, we saw typically fifth or sixth-placed Tottenham Hotspur push for third and taking advantage of their success to score second last season.

    I fully believe that because of this restructuring process clubs that do not spend as much should be able to snowball while the larger clubs are spending heaps in order to recover from disappointing seasons.

    Yes, I am aware of Chelsea’s £120 million expenditure to win the title, and I understand that this ends up shooting my entire argument in the foot but hear me out – this was a victory that, first, is very unlikely to happen and, second, was based on the talent of the manager rather than the money.

    With the exception of Antonio Conte and the anomaly that was Claudio Raneri, it is very rare to see managers win the title in their first season in charge.

    Looking at past winners of the EPL, we see Chelsea, United and City for the past 14 years. I ask: how much of this is based on money?

    (Image: AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu)

    Manchester United were blessed with one of the greatest managers of all time in Sir Alex Ferguson. Chelsea were equipped with equally capable managers in Carlo Ancelotti, Jose Mourinho and more recently Antonio Conte. Manchester City had proven managers in Roberto Mancini and Manuel Pellegrini.

    All of these managers had well-established reputations and technical prowess before coming over to their respective clubs. Yes, I understand that the allure of money in some cases might convince managers to leave their previous clubs in order to win the league in England, but as we have seen with managers like Louis Van Gaal, money alone is not enough to win the league.

    However, capable managers take time to develop, and in this modern era of football that pursues instant success, coaches end up stressing themselves out, buying proven players for large amounts of money and ultimately dooming themselves to a cycle of spending with limited results.

    In summary, money alone does make it easier to win the league. I’ll admit it, but it is by no means critical. I understand that this is not the easiest side to argue and that this contention can be easily rebutted, but I do believe that money in the league is not something we should be scared of.

    We should not be crying heresy whenever a club blows their budget, because at the end of the day, once the money is spent, the expectations become higher, the timeline for success shorter and the skills of those in charge become tested.

    Do I believe that money can buy the title? No. The richest clubs in the EPL are nowhere near dominating the league – even locally Melbourne City still haven’t won a final despite having the richest squad. In other leagues? Perhaps, but even then there will always be anomalies breaking through the stronghold of the rich.

    It is time to look at things with a critical eye, and money alone does not win the title.

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    The Crowd Says (18)

    • September 17th 2017 @ 2:33am
      Geoff said | September 17th 2017 @ 2:33am | ! Report

      Chelsea are the shining example of buying the league.

      Nobodies for most of Premier League history and then all of a sudden, rich guys buy the club, sink in billions and they become a powerhouse.

      Money sure as hell bought them the League.

      • Roar Pro

        September 17th 2017 @ 6:52am
        George K said | September 17th 2017 @ 6:52am | ! Report

        That maybe so,

        Chelsea definitely have invested far more than other clubs and yes the money invested have definitely bought the premier league success however are they dominating the league? Are they consistently wining?

        Money may help out with the short term success as we have seen with clubs like Chelsea but in the premier league money is not the optimum indicator of success.

        Chelsea are still a side that must fight out for the title, we have seen them lose to Burnley, finish 10th – this is hardly an indicator of a club that has a monopoly on the league.

        In France, Spain and Germany? Yes, money is a problem and perhaps the reason why the premier league is competitive as it is is because the money is distributed evenly. Even in France we do see the occasional upset against PSG but I do understand your point.

        Look, I get it -this article was doomed from the moment I decided to hit send, this isn’t the easiest side to argue and as I said, fairly easy to rebut, however I still believe that to win the league it takes more than money,

      • Roar Pro

        September 17th 2017 @ 12:03pm
        David McDaniel said | September 17th 2017 @ 12:03pm | ! Report

        I disagree, it did not buy them the league. Abramovichs arrival meant they could buy a better class of player and compete at higher levels but since he arrived in 2003 we have only won the PL 5 times. Surely if we were buying it we would have won in 2004 and a lot more titles?

        • Roar Pro

          September 17th 2017 @ 12:06pm
          George K said | September 17th 2017 @ 12:06pm | ! Report

          This is the point I’m trying to make,

          Yes money makes it easier to compete but there is no indication that spending heaps creates a monopoly.

          Further, spending loads of money puts pressure on those in charge to succeed, which in turn causes them to spend more money due to a lack of immediate gain.

        • September 17th 2017 @ 2:01pm
          Mark said | September 17th 2017 @ 2:01pm | ! Report

          It did

        • September 17th 2017 @ 2:03pm
          Mark said | September 17th 2017 @ 2:03pm | ! Report

          I suggest you read Paul Tomkins analysis

          It clearly and irrefutably shows that money has bought the league

          And quite frankly to suggest just because Chelsea have only won the league 5 times means they haven’t bought the league is idiotic – you aren’t the only team buying the league and you have gone through periods of idiocy

          • Roar Pro

            September 17th 2017 @ 2:25pm
            David McDaniel said | September 17th 2017 @ 2:25pm | ! Report

            So by your logic every team that wins the league has bought it?

    • September 17th 2017 @ 2:00pm
      Mark said | September 17th 2017 @ 2:00pm | ! Report

      Paul Tomkins analysis irrefutable disproves the premise of this article

      • Roar Pro

        September 17th 2017 @ 3:24pm
        George K said | September 17th 2017 @ 3:24pm | ! Report

        Hi Mark,

        Could you please provide a link?

        Also I’m curious to hear whether you think this article is flawed it’s entirety and why, I would like to improve my writing so any helpful criticism would be useful.

        Thanks ?

    • September 17th 2017 @ 4:10pm
      Trevor M said | September 17th 2017 @ 4:10pm | ! Report

      Money in this brand of football might not guarantee you a title, but it’s largely a prerequisite. Look at many of the European leagues and you will see the same names near the top relentlessly, year after year.

      Contrast this to Australian football leagues with salary caps or drafts. The leagues are far more even and consequently far more interesting.

      • Roar Pro

        September 17th 2017 @ 7:41pm
        George K said | September 17th 2017 @ 7:41pm | ! Report

        Yeah, I’ll admit this article was a hard sell :/

        It seems money is too great of an influence even in a league where every club supposedly has money..

      • Roar Guru

        September 18th 2017 @ 9:02am
        JamesH said | September 18th 2017 @ 9:02am | ! Report

        Spot on. The problem isn’t about money buying specific teams the title, it’s about pricing out all but half a dozen teams. The Foxes’ win was an anomaly. Everyone outside of the big clubs is really just along for the ride or a shot at playing in the Europa League.

    • September 17th 2017 @ 4:28pm
      The Auteur said | September 17th 2017 @ 4:28pm | ! Report

      The monopoly pre-Abramovic was Man United and Arsenal winning the title with Blackburn as an outlier.

      Now Chelsea, Man City, Spurs, Man United and to a lesser extent Liverpool and Arsenal can win the league.

      It wasn’t too long ago that Newcastle could guarantee themselves European football every single season. Now they struggle to even stay in the PL.

      • Roar Pro

        September 17th 2017 @ 7:39pm
        George K said | September 17th 2017 @ 7:39pm | ! Report

        I would argue the United monopoly was a mix of both managerial success and money but I can see where you coming from.

        With enough time the smaller clubs should be able to bank in on premier league cash and hopefully invest it well to push a top 6 to become a top 7.

        Ultimately, yes it is sad that money is becoming too large of an influence and it seems any outlying opinion is difficult to say convincingly.

    • Roar Guru

      September 18th 2017 @ 1:09pm
      Chris Kettlewell said | September 18th 2017 @ 1:09pm | ! Report

      I think there are a lot of issues with this article. Obviously you can’t just spend half a billion dollars in the off season and have that guarantee you the title the following season. But you need to spend lots of money generally to have a chance to compete. You might have the odd aberration like Leicester City, but generally they’ll be one-off aberrations and won’t be able to keep it up.

      The big thing that you miss is that all teams need to keep bringing in new talent to try to improve their teams. The teams without the money to spend still do it, they just buy players for 5m instead of 50m. Still causing the same amount of disruption, but just without the same level of quality in the long run.

      Since the Premier League came into being in 1992-93, 25 seasons, Blackburn won it once, the third ever one, Leicester City won it the season before last, and the other 23 have been shared by only 4 teams! And Arsenal’s last title was in 2004 before Chelsea started the trend of rich owners pumping in lots of money. Since then other than the Leicester City aberration, Chelsea, Man U and Man City are the only teams to have won the league.

      Surprise, surprise, they happen to be the three richest clubs in the competition.

    • September 18th 2017 @ 1:27pm
      Gavin R said | September 18th 2017 @ 1:27pm | ! Report

      Money spent is pretty relevant to a teams success. There are going to be teams who go against this; leicster, but generally speaking, the more you spend (though spending and investing well are two very different things) the more you increase your chances. To think otherwise is naive.

      • September 18th 2017 @ 7:47pm
        shirtpants said | September 18th 2017 @ 7:47pm | ! Report

        To further this point, consider the following;
        2016/17 – Chelsea won with second most expensive squad.
        2015/16 – Leicester won with 4 of the top 5 coming from 4 of the top 5 most expensive squads
        2014/15 – Chelsea won with most expensive squad
        2013/14 – City won with third most expensive squad
        2012/13 – United won with second most expensive
        2011/12 – City won with second most expensive squad
        2010/11 – United won with second most expensive squad
        2009/10 – Chelsea won with most expensive squad

        All this based on estimated player market value but I’m sure you get the idea.

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