Wednesday, June 6, 2012
The cost-effective Premier League table
Norman Hubbard is ESPN's resident anorak. If you have any questions on football facts, statistics or trivia, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org and he'll try to answer as many as possible.
With the season having ended, can you put together a table of how much each Premier League squad cost in transfer fees? It will be interesting to compare it with final league positions, Mike McNally asked
And the 2011-12 Premier League champions are... Swansea City. The Swans are the runaway winners, with a record more than twice as good as anyone else's. Over the 38 games, Brendan Rodgers picked players who had cost the club around £11 million in transfer fees and they earned 47 points, an average of 4.27 points per million. Examine the Swansea squad and there are players who came through the club's youth system such as Joe Allen, free transfers like Mark Gower and Kemy Agustien, and loan players Steven Caulker and Gylfi Sigurdsson, none of whom cost a transfer fee. Plenty of others did but Angel Rangel (£10,000) and Ashley Williams and Leon Britton (£400,000 each) are examples of bargains.
The runners up, another promoted club who overachieved, are Norwich, who finished with the same number of points as Swansea, but whose players cost around £24 million. West Bromwich Albion had the third cheapest squad and come third in our table, a sign of their fine recruitment over several seasons, with a number of players coming in on free transfers (Paul Scharner, Keith Andrews, Steven Reid, Billy Jones, Gareth McAuley) or loan (Ben Foster).
At the other end of the table, Mike, a Liverpool fan, admitted he feared the worst when posing the question. As it is, Liverpool are in the bottom three, their players costing £178 million but earning only 52 points, an average of 0.29 per million spent. Indeed, it serves to illustrate why Liverpool hired Rodgers, whose squad cost £167 million less but only took five fewer points last season.
Predictably, the two teams beneath Liverpool are the division's two biggest spenders, Manchester City and Chelsea. City spent £347 million on the players who brought them 89 points but Chelsea, who paid £326 million and only ended with 64 points, had much the worst point-per-pound ratio. However, if Chelsea and Liverpool look the two great underachievers in the league, they may point out that they still won three trophies between them.
Anyway, the full table is:
A few points to make. Firstly, I don't believe there is a perfect method for calculating such things. What I have done is to add the transfer fee of every player used by the club in their league campaign. Free transfers, players who have come through the youth system and loan players obviously don't add to the total. Sadly, too many fees these days are undisclosed so, as far as is known, the most accurate or most oft-quoted figures have been used. In the case of fees with add-ons, the basic number has been used (for example, Darren Bent is included as an £18 million signing, not £24 million).
To give some practical examples, some players who represented two clubs are counted twice - at the fee each of the respective clubs paid - and they include Raul Meireles, Gary Cahill, Samir Nasri, Mikel Arteta, Luke Young, Anton Ferdinand and Peter Crouch. However, players who did not make an appearance for their parent club over the year, whether because they were injured, ignored or loaned out, such as Emmanuel Adebayor, Roque Santa Cruz, Wayne Bridge, Alberto Aquilani, Heurelho Gomes and Bebe, do not have their fee counted.
In terms of the table, as a previous column on wages-versus-performance explained, the top teams in the table rarely get value for money: far more has to be paid to get a side to the very top.
As in our wages chart, Everton again punch above their weight, but they are overshadowed by Newcastle, who get a top-six finish in the real standings and our alternative league. They would be even higher had Joey Barton and Alan Smith not made two league appearances each: they cost the club almost £12 million and, had Newcastle got the same results without using either, they would have had 1.20 points per million spent. Instead, Fulham are the highest-placed team to average over a point per million.
Meanwhile, the two North London teams appear overachievers, given the greater cost of the Liverpool and Chelsea squads. It is worth pointing out Tottenham benefited from the services of Adebayor, borrowed from City, though their squad cost includes Crouch, who made just one appearance. Likewise, Arsenal's £137 million figure includes Nasri, whose only game was the defeat to Liverpool. Had he not featured, their points per million rating would have been 0.57 and they would have jumped to 12th in our table.
Of the teams to finish in the lower half, the figures suggest relegated Wolves and Blackburn should have done rather better, but Sunderland and Aston Villa stand out as great underachievers. Indeed, Villa, by using players who had cost £91 million, almost had the combined cost of the Swansea, Norwich, West Brom and Wigan squads who took 184 points to their 38. Sunderland's is inflated by £13 million striker Asamoah Gyan and £8 million defender Anton Ferdinand, who both left early in the campaign, and £9 million goalkeeper Craig Gordon, who only featured once, but the Wearsiders would still be expensive for the lower half of the league had none appeared at all.
One thing that regular students of financial spending tend to mention is net spend and, while it is not the topic of this question, it is worth mentioning some clubs' spending is facilitated by sales. Liverpool may argue their group would be cheaper if they still had Fernando Torres, rather than reinvesting the £50 million proceeds of his sale.
Meanwhile, for those wondering how City's points-per-million spent ratio would look if expensive players they did not select were included, if we add Bridge, Santa Cruz and Adebayor, they took 0.22 points per million spent. But factor in Thibaut Courtois and Kevin de Bruyne, and Chelsea's return, at 0.19 points, is even worse.