Fulham’s 2018 spending shouldn’t be a model to follow | Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
A question as old as time itself – or more accurately 1992 – rears its head annually during this late summer period.
You’ll likely have heard it debated in the pub. The teams that have just been promoted to the Premier League are going about their transfer dealings in different ways. Firstly, one side will argue the only possible way to stay up is to splash the cash on a host of new players.
The other will counter that that’s a ridiculous approach. ‘You can’t just assemble a new side as soon as you go up – what about unity, synergy and team spirit? You should keep the squad almost entirely unchanged.’
It’s a debate typically had over a few pints and often lacks nuance. You’re either on one side or the other, perhaps there’s a happy medium? Here, 90min dives into the archives to see which strategy has fared best following promotion to the top tier.
Alfie Mawson was supposed to bring stability to Fulham’s defence | Alex Burstow/Getty Images
First up it’s Fulham who spent a whopping £101m on their return to the Premier League in 2018. They lumped out £20m on three separate players, bringing Jean Michaël Seri, André Zambo Anguissa and Aleksandar Mitrovic to Craven Cottage.
But the optimism caused by their spending spree didn’t last very long, as the Cottagers would win just one of their first 12 games. The team looked completely disjointed after their summer makeover and never managed to put together a string of coherent performances.
New midfielders Seri and Anguissa failed to make an impact in the Premier League and, with 81 goals conceded, Fulham may have been better served sorting out their defence.
£100m spent only to sit in the relegation zone for the whole campaign, hardly a good advert for heavy spending.
Hit or Miss? MISS
Traore has proven to be a success at Wolves | James Williamson – AMA/Getty Images
It’s often forgotten that alongside Fulham, Wolves spent big after returning to the top flight. It’s probable this is because, unlike the London club, their spending was actually worth it.
Their recruitment in the summer of 2018 featured the likes of Diogo Jota, Adama Traoré and Raúl Jiménez. While they didn’t come cheap, Wolves vindicated their heavy investment by finishing seventh in their first season back in the Premier League.
It seems their spending had a vision and some coherency, unlike certain others.
Hit or Miss? HIT
Mings has fared well, plenty of their other signings haven’t however | Pool/Getty Images
Villa weren’t messing about when they returned to the top flight, spending a staggering £133m.
Unfortunately, their heavy investment bore a far closer resemblance to Fulham’s than Wolves’. With a total of 12 players brought in, it could be argued that only two – Tyrone Mings and Douglas Luiz – have been successful.
It was so nearly a catastrophic failure for the Villans but on the last day of the season, they managed to cling to Premier League survival.
An expensive gamble but one that just about paid off.
Hit or Miss? JURY’S STILL OUT
Pukki was unable to recreate his Championship form | Pool/Getty Images
What a romantic vision. Almost no spending, keeping faith in the same squad that got them promoted, Norwich dared to dream that their young squad could stand tall against all around them, sending a statement to the footballing world that spirit and unity were perhaps more important than just a load of cash.
Except it didn’t quite work out like that.
Norwich quickly became the Premier League whipping boys finishing rock bottom of the table and well out of their depth. Nice try though, we applaud the sentiment.
Hit or Miss? MISS
Neil Warnock’s side spent light, and nearly stayed up | Cardiff City FC/Getty Images
Cardiff resisted following the heavy spending route of their fellow promotees, their £27m expenditure just a fraction of that spent by both Wolves and Fulham.
Their approach nearly paid off but the Bluebirds finished in 18th, agonisingly close to safety. They did, however, finish eight points higher than heavy spenders Fulham.
If you’re going to get relegated you may as well do it the £73m cheaper way – giving Cardiff the moral victory at least.
Hit or Miss? MISS
Callum Wilson has only just left the club | Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Although Bournemouth brought in a fair few new faces, they kept the core of their team largely the same and recruited on the cheap spending just £28m as they prepared for their debut Premier League campaign.
Although they invested in a bit more firepower in January, their approach proved to be a success. Most people’s favourites to return straight back to the Championship, the Cherries stayed up not only that season but for four more years. Even by the time they were eventually relegated, some of their Championship winning squad still remained.
A great example that you don’t need to break the bank to keep yourself in the Premier League.
Hit or Miss? HIT
So which approach is better? Well on this analysis, the big spending approach just about wins – but frankly neither approach has a particularly good track record.
Spending is required, that much appears to be evident, but throwing a load of new faces together and hoping they’ll gel straight away? Wishful thinking. Unity and cohesion remain a significant tool when it comes to surviving, you only need to look at Brighton, Sheffield United and Burnley for evidence of that.
There’s a happy medium to be found somewhere – over to you Leeds, Fulham and West Bromwich Albion to find it.