Do Premier League contenders always need to strengthen?

Every year, a transfer market opens and shuts and, every year, Premier League teams from around England splash money about as if it grows on trees. Since 2015, clubs have reached and exceeded the £1 billion mark in consequent summer windows, with 2017 the standout year, as it holds the record of an eye-watering £1.43 billion. 

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On the face of the numbers, it's tempting to suggest that buying and selling players is a necessary evil that improves teams' chances of promotion and avoiding relegation, as it's a way to strengthen a squad and be competitive. However, it isn't always the case. 

Liverpool Vs. Man City

This year saw the champions, Liverpool, relinquish their crown of title favourites with the bookmakers. Even though the Merseysiders have only lost four PL games in two seasons – the amount City did in 2018/19 alone – their odds lengthened, and the Cityzens were viewed as the heir-apparent. The bookies' odds reflected this fact with City as short as even money. If you're wondering why this was the case, City's desire to enter the transfer market and spend big was a significant factor. With the likes of Ferran Torres, Nathan Ake and Ruben Dias joining Pep Guardiola's side and Liverpool seeming reluctant to pay big for their targets, the odds plummeted in Manchester City's favour.

However, the Premier League betting switched again due to a combination of City's poor start and Liverpool's re-emergence into the market after world-class midfielder Thiago Alcantara's signature was confirmed. Diogo Jota's was added shortly after. The experts don't usually get it wrong, so how they react to Premier League clubs' activity is a useful marker. To them, at least, it seems that keeping up with the Joneses is essential.

Manchester United Vs. Chelsea

Across Manchester, the Premier League's former habitual winners under Sir Alex Ferguson cast envious glances at their two biggest rivals. They want what City and Liverpool have, and it feels as if they've never been farther away from obtaining it. But it's not due to a lack of spending. For example, they topped the spending chart in 2019 with £148m on Maguire, Wan-Bissaka and Daniel James. In the capital, Chelsea splashed out millions on Timo Werner and Ben Chilwell, while Thiago Silva will earn a huge amount in wages for the simple fact that he was a free transfer. Still, both Chelsea and United are way down the pecking order concerning the bookmakers' and pundits' expectations. Neither of them are under 25/1 to challenge Liverpool and Man City, which shows that their activity doesn't count for much on the scale of title contenders.  

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To Spend or Not to Spend?

There's no doubt that the stats highlight the top teams' willingness to spend when the transfer window opens. However, handing out money for the sake of it isn't a healthy strategy. As Manchester City and Liverpool prove, selecting the players that fit into the correct system is part of the reason they are currently thriving. The policies of Chelsea and Manchester United are a lot less effective, and they don't appear to be any closer to Premier League glory as a result.