By Dylan Axsom
West Campus Associate Editor
Tulsa is the sixth best market in the United States for the Premier League, according to the Washington Post. That being said, soccer is still not the most popular sport in Oklahoma, meaning there is plenty of room for learning.
Per WorldSoccerTalk.com, viewership in the U.S. during the 2016/17 season for the number one league in England, known as Barclay’s Premier League (BPL), English Premier League (EPL), or simply the Premier League (PL), averaged well above 400,000 viewers for the top seven most-watched teams. NBC Sports, Fox Sports, and local channels televise matches, so the matches are hard to miss for morning sports viewers.
With the summer transfer window closed, this article will give a rundown of how trading and buying players works in the Premier League, as well as how some of the most prominent transfers will affect the league this season.
Player transfers in the BPL and other European soccer leagues are much different than trading players in the NBA, MLB or NFL.
Here in the U.S., most players in professional sports are drafted, contracted, and then play for a team until they are traded for draft picks or other players, or simply retire. Trading in the U.S. is viewed more so as a business than it is in the BPL.
In the BPL, players start in youth academies, where they sign a contract for two or three years. The players compete with other youth academies and improve and showcase their skills as one would do in high school or college in the U.S. If a player is deemed talented enough by the head coach, or manager of the senior squad, he can be given a spot on the senior roster.
After making his way through the youth academy to the senior team, other teams may gain interest in adding him to their squad. There are three ways to go about signing a player, all but one of which must be done within the two transfer windows. Transfer windows are the times of the year that players can be bought and sold. There is a pre-season window, which lasts July 1 – Aug. 31, running a few weeks into the start of the season. A second window is open mid-season and runs Jan. 1 – Jan. 31. Starting next season, the pre-season window for purchasing will close on the Thursday before games get underway.
The most popular option for expanding a roster is to sign players during a transfer window, while they are still in a contract. These transfers are the most popular because the buying teams get the players fast and process involves a lot of money. A couple of recent cases are seen with Paul Pogba, who transferred from the Italian club Juventus to Manchester United for a then-current world record fee of £89 million ($151 million), and Neymar Jr., who transferred from Barcelona to French club PSG, breaking Pogba’s record with a €222 million ($263 million) fee.
The second option is that a team waits for the player’s contract to expire and sign him as a free agent right away. This is an unlikely option, as there are no transfer fees paid to the club selling, so the selling team usually tries to extend the contract or sell the player before the contract runs out. Transfer fees are what are charged when a player is bought out of his contract, similar to what sometimes happens in U.S. sports.
The third option is that a player may go on loan to another club. What this means is that a player will continue to be contracted with his original team, but can go to another team for part of the season, a whole season, and sometimes even two seasons. Teams usually loan to free up wages (known as cap-room in the U.S.), or just get rid of a player quickly. Often, a loan agreement will allow the team loaning to purchase the involved player after the loan spell ends.
With this knowledge now in mind, let us take a look at the most prominent transfers from a few of the popular teams in the league, and what it will mean for them.
Arsenal: The Gunners have had quite a disappointing season thus far, and the summer transfers have reflected that. Arsenal offloaded 20 players this window, including one of its better midfielders Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and took on only two additions.
But there are positives. One being that one of these two players is Alexandre Lacazette, a pacey and accurate striker from French club Lyon. He has looked dangerous so far and Arsenal finally filled the position that has needed work for the past few seasons.
The other positive (or not, depending how it is viewed), is that the club held on to Alexis Sanchez, the quick and witty winger. Despite Sanchez being openly unhappy at Arsenal and multiple attempts from Manchester City to sign him, the Gunners will keep him at least until the mid-season window.
Chelsea: The reigning league champions may have had a scary first game, but ended up with a rather pleasant summer. Chelsea offloaded much unused baggage in this window by seeing over 30 players leave the club.
“The [squad] numbers will be tested.”
Club captain Gary Cahill expressed doubts about the team’s roster depth this year, saying, “the [squad] numbers will be tested,” but the additions the club has made since have somewhat eased minds. The Blues brought on several key signings including striker Alvaro Morata from Real Madrid and midfielders Danny Drinkwater and Tiemoue Bakayoko from Leicester City and AS Monaco, respectively.
The biggest loss to the club this window was Nemanja Matic, a holding midfield player, to Manchester United. Many criticized and questioned the move of selling a top player to a rival, but it looks as if Chelsea might be okay.
Liverpool: The Reds have had a rather uneventful summer, only bringing on four new players, two of which are key.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (spoken about earlier) was one of these signings. He will play a big role in launching the fast counterattacks that Liverpool has showcased already.
The other signing is Mohamad Salah, an Egyptian attacking midfielder from Italian side Roma. He has already proved critical this season, scoring seven goals in 11 games for the Reds, and his passing has been top notch.
One interesting element to Liverpool’s summer window is the resistance to selling Philippe Coutinho. Coutinho, the 25-year-old Brazilian midfielder, has come into his own within the last few years at Liverpool and has become a target for top European clubs.
Barcelona has been the most prominent, offering up multiple bids for the Brazilian.
“We are not selling Coutinho.”
With a past of Liverpool selling star players such as Luis Suarez and Raheem Sterling, manager Jurgen Klopp stated that, “I am manager now, and we are not selling Coutinho.”
Manchester City: The Noisy Neighbors have certainly been heard this window while offloading several defenders and signing a couple new ones.
City has let go of longtime defenders Gael Clichy, Pablo Zabaleta, and Bacary Sagna. Though aging, these three are still quality players and have made welcome editions to other squads.
With the loss of three defenders, manager Pep Guardiola brought on two more: former Tottenham Spur Kyle Walker at wing-back, as well as Real Madrid’s Danilo.
Aside from these signings, City is still searching for an answer in the goal-keeping department. The club released Willy Caballero and signed Ederson Moraes from Portuguese side Benfica.
Manchester United: While not the busiest window around the league, United’s was most certainly the most impactful. Manager Jose Mourinho had no hesitation in signing four top players when first coming to the club last season, and this transfer window has been no different.
The 2016/17 season saw midfielder Paul Pogba, striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, winger Henrikh Mkhitaryan, and defender Eric Bailly join Manchester United as part of Mourinho’s rebuilding plan.
The most recent summer window has seen the club bring in Nemanja Matic (spoken of earlier), center-back Victor Lindelof, and striker Romelu Lukaku.
Ibrahimovic also re-signed with the club after being released in the summer due to an injury that would last past his contract expiry.
United did have one significant loss in the veteran Wayne Rooney. Rooney moved back to his boyhood club Everton, an emotional but beneficial move for the Red Devils.
While re-signing Ibrahimovic and adding Lindelof and Lukaku were crucial for this season, the addition of Matic stands above the rest.
Last season, Paul Pogba was dogged by his world-record price tag as well as his role on the pitch. He was limited to a defensive midfield role, one at which he certainly did not excel. Pogba normally plays higher up on the field as an attacking midfielder, where he can be much more creative and effective.
This year, gaining the high-quality defensive mindset of Matic will allow Pogba to play his preferred position, making his relationship with the team’s forwards even more dangerous.