Fulham, Wolverhampton, and Cardiff City have spent a combined $180 million this summer.
Manchester United, Manchester City, and Tottenham have spent a combined $185 million this summer.
The gap is closing. The influx of money from top to bottom across the Premier League table is having an effect, and lower-table teams are able to join the whirlwind at an unprecedented level. The three newly promoted teams in the Premier League have spent this summer at previously unimaginable levels.
So will this have an effect on the bottom of the table? Absolutely, positively it will.
Overhauling a squad following a successful season is always a major risk, but teams are more and more willing to take on that risk when it comes to ensuring Premier League safety, and ensuring the yearly checks continue to flow. Fulham alone has spent $89.5 million this summer, and could end up changing a whopping six members of their EFL Playoff Final starting lineup.
But money isn’t good money unless it’s smart money, and these teams are closing the gap there too. Fulham pulled off a coup when they nabbed passing wizard Jean-Michael Seri from OGC Nice, a player coveted by Champions League teams in England, Italy, and Germany. They paid a pretty penny too, costing them $34.7 million, a Fulham transfer record. Wolves looks to have pulled off a steal by snagging 21-year-old Diogo Jota from Atletico Madrid, with the $16 million looking well worth the damage after leading the team with 18 goals last season in the Championship. They’re set to add to that total with the impending capture of Adama Traore for a reported $23 million, breaking Wolves’ transfer record as well. Cardiff bolstered its mediocre attack by spending $26 million on a pair of English wingers in their prime.
Both Fulham and Wolves also kept their top talent, no easy feat with sharks in the waters. Ryan Sessegnon stayed on at Craven Cottage despite becoming the first lower-division player to be nominated for PFA Young Player of the Year, and 21-year-old Ruben Neves signed a new six-year contract at Wolves this summer after carving the Championship to pieces last campaign. Both players had bigger clubs circling, waiting to strike.
Even smaller clubs in the Premier League not yet considered established are ponying up the cash. Brighton has shelled out $60 million this summer, $53 million of which came on three players. Huddersfield Town, a club that had never sniffed the top division in English soccer before promotion last year, has found $53 million to spend.
With the new standard being wildly shifted, where does that leave clubs like Burnley, Newcastle, and Watford, who have barely spent a dime? Each of these requires a different answer at the more microscopic level, but it all boils down to one result – they will be left behind. With smaller clubs able to splash the cash, the margin for error is getting thinner by the year. It’s harder and harder to find three teams worse than [insert financially strapped club here]. Burnley, for example, has a Europa League campaign to navigate plus a follow-up to their 7th place finish last season, but they have purchased just one player this summer, with manager Sean Dyche vocally protesting increasing player prices.
What about Tottenham, an established upper-tier club that literally hasn’t spent a dime this window? Will they be punished for not improving this summer at all?
That’s more complicated of an answer. The short version is no. Spurs has such a deep team with so few true holes, they can afford to take a summer off. If it becomes a more long-term strategy? Sure, they’ll fall back. But we all know that’s not the case.
Yet for the clubs in peril every waking moment of their Premier League existence, the writing is on the wall is clear: spend or wilt. The newly promoted clubs know long-term investments require short-term movement, and the time is now to keep up with the boat, or sink into the perilous waters below.