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.
“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.
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.
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.
“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.”