Sam Freeman

Storytelling | Theatre | Arts Marketing

Who has been the smartest football team of 2017/18

It occurred to me, and I imagine every football fan who doesn’t support a Manchester-based team this year that the odds have been stacked heavily in the favor of Man Utd and Man City. On a very simple level just by the amount that has been spend on the respective teams.  It got me thinking about the notion of buying success and also what success looks like.

In footballing terms it often feels like Transfer Expenditure = Success – that has a strong element of truth – think of Blackburn during the Walker years or when Chelsea first became a force under Abramovich – but then there’s also places where this isn’t true – Leicester winning the league under Ranieri.

The plaudits will, undoubtedly be out for Pep Guardiola, who has won the league with a team playing stylish football in a team that exudes style and panache. However does he deserve the plaudits over Klopp, or Benitez, or Sean Dyche? In a world where money is so important – after all, how many times have we berated a chairman for not spending – who really has made some smart moves? Who’s over and under achieving?

I took the net spend figures for the season for all the EPL teams to work out who has spent the most. Now obviously this doesn’t take into account historical team spend, wages etc… We would expect newly promoted teams to spend more to raise the quality of the team, after all Huddersfield have not been a EPL team before. What I’m saying is that all you’re about to read is flawed, okay?

So if we assume that the more you spend the better your team should do (which seems reasonable based on internet football forums about how to make a football team better) then the table should read like this…

Team Net Spend (£m)
Man City -£225
Man Utd -£156
Everton -£77
Chelsea -£69
Brighton -£65
Watford -£53
Huddersfield -£51
WBA -£48
Crystal Palace -£45
Leicester -£38
Bournemouth -£34
Tottenham -£20
Newcastle -£20
Stoke -£14
Liverpool -£7
Arsenal £3
Burnley £14
West Ham £16
Swansea £17
Southampton £31

We’d expect City and United at the top of the table and then Southampton and Swansea at the bottom. Curiously you also have Arsenal and Liverpool down the bottom too.

I then ranked all the teams by spend, took the actual league table and put that alongside it. Essentially to see whether our theory of Money = Success is correct. Inevitably it is not.

Spend Position League Position
Team Position Position
Man City 1 1
Man Utd 2 2
Everton 3 8
Chelsea 4 5
Brighton 5 13
Watford 6 12
Huddersfield 7 16
WBA 8 20
Crystal Palace 9 15
Leicester 10 9
Bournemouth 11 11
Tottenham 12 4
Newcastle 13 10
Stoke 14 19
Liverpool 15 3
Arsenal 16 6
Burnley 17 7
West Ham 18 14
Swansea 19 17
Southampton 20 18

Still some familiar names at the top and also the bottom.

So it would seem that we have it Pep has made the most of the extra cash and won the league. So is he the best manager?

I think maybe not. Pep has merely met expectations. Sure he’s won the league, but he’s done it with the biggest budget. What’s interesting are the people who’ve overachieved. The people who have made the cash transform into a higher points total than their budgets should really allow.

Spend Position League Position Difference in positions
Team Position Position Position
Liverpool 15 3 12
Arsenal 16 6 10
Burnley 17 7 10
Tottenham 12 4 8
West Ham 18 14 4
Newcastle 13 10 3
Swansea 19 17 2
Southampton 20 18 2
Leicester 10 9 1
Man City 1 1 0
Man Utd 2 2 0
Bournemouth 11 11 0
Chelsea 4 5 -1
Everton 3 8 -5
Stoke 14 19 -5
Watford 6 12 -6
Crystal Palace 9 15 -6
Brighton 5 13 -8
Huddersfield 7 16 -9
WBA 8 20 -12

So I added in a column to examine the difference between the two. What’s fascinating is that in this flawed chart Klopp is substantially the best manager, closely followed by “recent failure” Arsene Wenger and my favourite manager Sean Dyche.

Now of course this is hugely flawed. Liverpool and Arsenal have a longer history of major investment in the team than Burnley and the same goes for Brighton and Huddersfield so judging based on one season is pointless. Yet, as an indicator, I’d make a strong case for Sean Dyche as manager of the season, maybe even as a manager to turn to to maximise resources.

I’m tired now and as I read more into this the inherent flaws in my logic become ever more apparent.. Tweet me and let me know what you think, this seemed interesting to write at 11pm – the question is should i do more and do them properly? Night x