Clubs in the cluttered lower reaches of the Premier League table may have a busier January when the transfer window opens on New Year’s Day, according to a leading sport finance specialist.
Just past the halfway point of the season, only five points separate 14th-placed Crystal Palace from second-bottom Fulham while even some of those in the top half still have work to do to guarantee their top-flight status.
Palace manager Roy Hodgson has already publicly earmarked Liverpool forward Dominic Solanke as a target as clubs look to strengthen their squads and any early movement could set a precedent for the month.
That is the opinion of Dr Rob Wilson, the principal lecturer in sport finance at Sheffield Hallam University, who told Football Paradise: “I think there will be a higher volume of activity towards the bottom end as opposed to the top six.
“Historically, if one of the big six hasn’t gone out and bought a particularly expensive player – £40-£50million-plus – what we’ve seen is more activity down the bottom end of the table with clubs trying to get away from the relegation battle.
“There are so many down there within two or three points, it’s whoever blinks first.
“If nobody does anything early in the window then you can expect it to be fairly quiet.
“If someone goes for it on New Year’s Day or on January 2 then you will probably see a lot of clubs start scrambling around to try to make sure they keep pace.”
Burnley, Fulham and Huddersfield currently occupy the relegation spots and Wilson would not be taken aback if those three clubs cannot improve their situation.
While Burnley and rock-bottom Huddersfield have similar business models which discourage heavy spending, Fulham’s hands may be tied by Financial Fair Play after laying out around £100m in the summer.
Wilson said: “I think it’s going to be an interesting window. I’ve never known a Premier League so settled.
“It wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if the bottom three that we currently have are the bottom three we end up with.”
Wilson expects a more subdued January than 12 months ago, when the top 20 league clubs spent an estimated £430m, almost double the previous record of £225m for a winter window.
Indeed, clubs who have switched or are about to change managers could be the catalyst in the coming weeks.
Wilson added: “I think what will drive this market is managerial change.
“So clubs that have changed managers – Southampton, for example (who sacked Mark Hughes earlier this month and replaced him with Ralph Hasenhuttl) – might look at bringing a couple of players in because they will tend to look at their situation and think ‘we’re happy with our structure, let’s let this guy bring somebody in’.
“I think we’ll probably see a quieter window in general terms. My gut feeling is that it’s going to be less, based on what clubs spent last summer.”
Stay updated with the latest news, gossip and football stories by following us @Football_P