Christmas is coming late for Premier League clubs looking to strengthen their roster in the January transfer window. A lot of spending is expected this year, but the winter World Cup makes the January window a little different from most years.
The general trend was towards an increase in expenditures in January. But there are many exceptions. The biggest spending spree in January came in 2018 as Liverpool spent money on Virgil Van Djik, Arsenal brought Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Manchester City added Aymeric Laporte. The pandemic and consequent empty stadiums meant spending in 2021 was the lowest in nine years, but last year saw January spending bounce back to the second-highest ever.
Spending last January may have been due in part to the recovery from the pandemic, and may have also been heavily impacted by Newcastle United. The club’s new owners were willing to spend heavily to secure Newcastle’s Premier League status by bringing in fugitive forward Chris Wood from relegation rivals Burnley alongside Bruno Guimaraes and Kieran Trippier.
Newcastle’s situation this winter could not be more different. Eddie Howe led them from relegation to the Champions League challenge. This was largely due to investment in their defense, which is currently among the strongest in the Premier League.
Newcastle are not in desperate need of reinforcements as they were last winter and still need to keep an eye on financial fair play rules, but as they are competing for a place in Europe they need to attract a higher caliber player. Expect fewer signings from Newcastle, but their signings may have a price tag that reflects their new status as an elite club.
The 2022 Qatar World Cup adds an extra twist to this winter’s transfer window. Head coaches spent the month of December thinking about what kind of players they needed and chatting with club watchers and senior management. This could mean clubs are a little more focused and more deals will be completed early.
Aston Villa, Southampton and Wolverhampton Wanderers brought in new head coaches in November. Southampton brought in Nathan Jones from Luton Town, while Villa and Wolves brought in famous Spaniards Unai Emery and Julen Lopetegui respectively. By January, they would have plenty of time to evaluate their roster and come up with a target list.
The Wolves had a desperate shortage of strikers all season after injury problems from Raul Jimenez, but they tried to solve this by signing Brazilian international Matheus Cunha on loan from Atletico Madrid with an obligation to buy them for $50 million in the summer.
On the flip side, there is no January winter break. Last season, the Premier League took a short winter break at the end of January, which could have helped winter signings adjust to their new environment. Everyone participating this winter will have to run and hit the ground as nearly every midweek slot is full so clubs can make up for fixtures lost in the World Cup schedule.
This year’s relegation fight is one of the tightest ever, with no teams relegated until Christmas and just seven points out of the last ten. This means clubs in the lower half could spend big in January to secure their Premier League status. Nottingham Forest had more time last summer than any of their history before it, but head coach Steve Cooper has already said new signings are needed and Brazilian one-man international Gustavo Scarpa has already joined the club from Palmeiras.
The emergence of league-topping Arsenal and Newcastle this season could force teams like Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United to pull out their checkbooks to increase their chances of reaching next season’s Champions League. Chelsea have a new head coach, Graham Potter, who may also want players with a certain style, and Liverpool has already signed Dutch star Cody Gakpo from PSV Eindhoven for somewhere between $40m and $50m.
This suggests that spending in January will be at least at the same level as last winter, but transfers could come a little earlier than in previous years. However, due to the difficulty of making cross-border deals and some deals being dependent on clubs selling or buying other players first, clubs will still have deadline-day deals even though they have all December to make their transfer plans.