If the Premier League’s record January transfer expenditure of £430m raised eyebrows when the window closed on Wednesday, a number of the exchanged players have already gone some way to justifying the outlay.
Arsenal new-boy Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored 37 minutes into his debut as the Gunners crushed Everton 5-1 on Saturday, just three days after he touched down in London from Borussia Dortmund.
It was an immediate return on a £56m investment after Arsenal made Aubameyang their most expensive player – indeed, they were one of six teams to break their spending records on a single player during the window.
In a sign of the rapidly inflating prices Premier League clubs are paying for players, Liverpool, Manchester City, Swansea City, Southampton and Brighton joined Arsenal in breaking their transfer records last month, while Tottenham and Huddersfield all set new heights for January deals.
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The spending spree meant that in total Premier League clubs spent almost double their previous record January window spending of £225m, set in 2011 when Chelsea made headlines with a £50m deadline-day swoop for Fernando Torres, then of Liverpool.
Aubameyang’s arrival on deadline day made up a sizeable chunk of a record £150m Premier League splurge in the final 24 hours of the window — £20m more than the division collectively spent in the entire month in 2014, £30m more than the total spend a year before that, and just £75m less than clubs forked out across 31 days last year.
Arsenal’s creatively coiffured new signing was also typical of the kind of player Premier League clubs were most willing to spend money on this January.
Centre-forwards were in high demand this window, with £157m spent on traditional strikers — just over a third of the entire £430m. Aubameyang was the priciest, but Chelsea’s £18m capture of Olivier Giroud, Everton’s £27m man Cenk Tosun, Southampton’s club record £19m spent on Guido Carrillo and West Ham’s £10m punt on Preston’s Jordan Hughill all illustrated the trend.
Other clubs joined the goalscorer rush by snapping up players more commonly known as wingers rather than traditional No9s. A further £70m was spent on forwards deployed on the flanks such as Everton’s £20m deal for Theo Walcott, Tottenham’s £23m on Lucas Moura and Swansea’s club-record £18m on Andre Ayew. Meanwhile Manchester United and Arsenal traded Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Alexis Sanchez without money trading hands.
League of nations
Aubameyang, a Gabon international, was unsurprisingly not representative of the most common nationality among players signed by Premier League clubs, which remained English.
Yet at just seven, English players represented only 17 per cent of the 41 signed by teams in the division during the window. Combined they amounted to just £61m worth of transfer fees — an average of £8.7m per player and barely enough for a single Gabonese goalscorer.
What World Cup?
What Aubameyang is more indicative of is the tendency, whether conscious or unconscious, towards players who will not be featuring in Russia at the World Cup this summer.
The winter window is often characterised as an opportunity for out-of-favour players hoping to be picked for their country at the tournament getting the chance to move, but in reality 43 per cent of those signed for a fee were not from nations that qualified for the World Cup.
That contrasts with the overall league trend, according to Opta data, which found that only 29 per cent of Premier League players come from countries not participating at the World Cup.
In keeping with its international outlook, Premier League clubs were more likely to send money abroad this January too.
Arsenal’s deal for Aubameyang made the German Bundesliga £56m richer and contributed to the £260m that clubs spent overseas — 61 per cent of the league’s total.
The £150m exchanged between Premier League clubs was a new high but, at 35 per cent of total expenditure, represented a smaller slice than in most years. Just five per cent of the Premier League’s wealth was spent on players from the Football League.
That is in stark contrast to the first January transfer window in 2003, when expenditure abroad and to the lower divisions was evenly split at 14 per cent while 78 per cent was exchanged between top tier teams.