Christmas comes late for Premier League clubs looking to bolster their squad in the January transfer window. Lots of spending is expected this year, but the winter World Cup makes the January window a bit different from most years.
The general trend has been for spending in January to increase. But there are plenty of exceptions. The biggest January spending spree came in 2018 as Liverpool splurged on Virgil Van Djik, Arsenal brought in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and Manchester City added Aymeric Laporte. The pandemic and the resulting empty stadiums meant spending in 2021 was the lowest in nine years, but last year saw January spending bounce back to the second-highest levels ever.
Last January’s spending might have partly been driven by the rebound from the pandemic, and was also massively influenced by Newcastle United. The club’s new owners were willing to spend big to guarantee Newcastle’s Premier League status, bringing in the likes of Bruno Guimaraes and Kieran Trippier as well as poaching striker Chris Wood from relegation rivals Burnley.
Newcastle’s situation this winter couldn’t be any more different. Eddie Howe has taken them from a relegation fight to a battle for the Champions League. That was largely due to an investment in their defense, which is now among the most solid in the Premier League.
Newcastle aren’t in desperate need of reinforcements like last winter, and they still need to keep one eye on financial fair play rules, but as they are competing for a European spot, they should be able to attract a higher caliber of player. Expect fewer signings from Newcastle, but the ones they do make might well 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 have had all of December to consider what type of players they need and have chats with the club scouts and upper management. This could mean that clubs are a bit more focused and that more deals will be completed early.
Aston Villa, Southampton and Wolverhampton Wanderers all brought in new head coaches in November. Southampton brought in Nathan Jones from Luton Town, while Villa and Wolves brought in big-name Spaniards Unai Emery and Julen Lopetegui, respectively. They would have had plenty of time to assess their squads and draw up a list of targets before January.
Wolves have been desperately short of a striker all season following Raul Jimenez’s injury problems, but they have already looked to resolve that by signing Brazilian international Matheus Cunha on loan from Atletico Madrid with an obligation to buy for $50 million in the summer.
On the flip side, there’s no January winter break. Last season, the Premier League took a short winter break at the end of January, which would have helped winter signings adjust to their new surroundings. Anyone who joins this winter will have to hit the ground running as almost every midweek slot is full so that clubs can make up for the fixtures lost to the World Cup schedule.
This year’s relegation battle is one of the tightest ever, with no teams cut adrift by Christmas, and only seven points separating the bottom ten. This means clubs in the bottom half could spend big in January in an attempt to secure their Premier League status. Nottingham Forest spent more last summer than in their whole previous history before that, but head coach Steve Cooper has already said new signings are needed, and one-cap Brazilian international Gustavo Scarpa has already joined the club from Palmeiras.
At the top of the league, the emergence of Arsenal and Newcastle this season might force the likes of Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United to get their checkbooks out to improve their chances of reaching next season’s Champions League. Chelsea have a new head coach, Graham Potter, who also might want players of a certain style, and Liverpool have already signed Netherlands ace Cody Gakpo from PSV Eindhoven for somewhere around $40 million to $50 million.
This suggests that spending this January will be at least in the same level as last winter, but that transfers could come slightly earlier than previous years. However, given the difficulty getting deals over the line, and that some deals rely on clubs selling or buying other players first, there will still be deadline day deals despite clubs having all of December to make their transfer plans.