7 days of deals, 4 types of clubs
The overlapping of the final weeks of the transfer window and the opening weeks of the season can create an awkward environment within football clubs. Some would prefer to focus on extracting the best out of their existing squad, while others are drawn into player trading by the opportunities it seemingly provides.
As long as the window exists, we will have four different types of clubs leading up to deadline day (visualised in the chart below):
- Overachieved and active (top right): good early-season results, with three or more players also bought or loaned in during the final week of the window.
- Overachieved and inactive (bottom right): good early-season results, with little incoming transfer activity during the final week.
- Underachieved and inactive (bottom left): below-par early-season results, but very few, if any players brought into the club during the final week.
- Underachieved and active (top left): below-par early-season results coupled with a number of players bought or loaned in during the final week.
Each point represents a Premier League or Championship club’s incoming transfer activity during the final week of the transfer window, plotted against the level of over/underachievement in results at time of deadline day (calculated by looking at at actual results against the pre-match bookmakers’ odds). For example, this season Nottingham Forest have collected 13 points from 5 games when the bookmakers expected them to have just 8 points. This is an overachievement of a point per game, and a reflection of a promising start.
Not all clubs in the chart would have necessarily reacted to their results. Some deals take many weeks to close, and occasional opportunism during this period should not be seen as a bad trait. For those that did react though, it’s important to remember that these early season results generally have a very weak relationship with a club’s final points tally in May. Clubs should look to more meaningful signals, such as the underlying performance of a team, which can be measured and has been shown to be a strong forecast of the long-term results pattern.
One club that has historically not bought players in the final week of the window is Manchester United. In Sir Alex Ferguson’s last three seasons at the club, they did not bring in a single new face during this period, irrespective of how results had gone.
Circumstances have since changed, and the arrivals of Radamel Falcao, Angel Di Maria and Daley Blind in the final 7 days of this summer’s window have come in a period where results have been below expectation.
It is 150 days until the winter transfer window closes. It’s difficult to know exactly what to expect before the January sales arrive, but it’s worth asking ahead of time: what type of club do we want to be in the last week of the window?