Mailbag! Man Utd, Leicester, relegation fights and more!
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Hi, and welcome to another mailbag! Thanks for the questions, which were superb as usual. The first answer here is free, but if you want to read the rest, now is a great time with the special offer still running! Right now, you can get the newsletter for £4 (about $5.10/€4.70) a month, or £40 for a full year. This is the last time it will be so cheap, as the “normal” price will be raised to £6 when the sale ends, so get in while it’s still cheap!
Now onto the questions…
“Do you think clubs with more limited resources recruit better because they really have to target getting the player to fit their needs? Whereas some of the more resource rich clubs just throw money at good players with little idea of how they'll fit (aside from the obvious moneybags I'm thinking of West Ham who seem to recruit well when the player's cheap and terribly when they're expensive)”
It’s hard to put a number on whether teams with limited resources really are recruiting better because it’s apples and oranges. But the Swiss Ramble recently did an extensive look at which Premier League clubs got the most points per money spent this season. He sliced it a lot of different ways and ended up with a ranking that put Brentford first, followed by Brighton. Chelsea were dead last.
I think we’d all instinctively think that’s a pretty reasonable ranking. More interestingly, Man City only came tenth. That’s a club everyone, myself included, is praising for doing all the right things with their massive resources. And they can only turn it into average value for money. I think that tells us it really is very hard to recruit well at a high budget.
I tend to think the biggest advantage smaller clubs have here is the pool of players available. Let’s say West Ham and Man City both wanted to sign a left back. How many left backs on the planet are good enough to play for West Ham? 20? 50? 100? I have no idea. But I know it’s a lot more than the number of left backs Man City could sign. Let’s look at Transfermarkt’s most valuable left backs (I’m not saying I agree with the list, but it’s an easy place to start). Here are the top ten:
They just sold Zinchenko a year ago, so he’s out. Then I’d say Davies, Mendes and Balde definitely aren’t for sale. Add to that Robertson, Chilwell and Shaw, who might be for sale to others, but not Man City. That leaves Hernández, Cucurella and Dimarco. Cucurella just had a very poor season at Chelsea that made people question whether he’s good enough for the highest level. Then there’s Hernández and Dimarco, who are both fine players, but more conventional attacking full backs than Guardiola has used in a long time. Maybe they could find a suitable player somewhere, but it mightn’t be one who comes as a guaranteed top player. The risk of failure is then increased. At least that’s what I’ve always put it down to.
As for your suggestion that richer clubs are more scattergun in their approach, I’m not sure I agree. Of the Premier League’s “rich seven”, I’d say Man City, Arsenal, Newcastle and Liverpool are all locked into recruitment around a specific manager’s needs, and have been for a little while now. Man Utd, Tottenham and Chelsea have been less specific on their needs. Does that seem like an unreasonable split? If anything, I’d think richer teams can be clearer on what they want, as they’re more likely to be locked into long-term manager projects. I’m not convinced of this one, I’m afraid.
Ayo Laiye asks…
If you were [Erik ten Hag], what 2 signings will you absolutely prioritize?
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