Should LUFC Spend Big?

Will Leeds be guaranteed success if Andrea Radrizzani spends big bucks this summer?

I’ve seen people claiming recently that Andrea Radrizzani has made a rod for his own back by not spending big bucks on new players this season and I wondered whether this holds water.

For this essay I’m using data supplied by and make no comment as to its accuracy but, with no other data to hand, will trust it implicitly. This website produces estimates of values for every player in a club’s squad and so I can get a numerical handle for each squad.

The people who have said Radrizzani should have spent money on better players, and those who are now calling for money to be splashed around freely this summer, are effectively saying that they want to get rid of the lower performing current players, who have a low value on, and spend loads of money on buying new players who are more highly thought of and have a higher value.

The effect of doing this will be to increase the value of the squad and so I can use squad values to compare teams currently in the Championship.

Wolves are way ahead!
There is little doubt about how well Wolves have performed this season and they hold a small lead in the Championship table and are far ahead of Leeds United. The value of Wolves’s squad is also way ahead of Leeds United with Wolves valued at £87million compared to Leeds’s value of almost half that figure, way down at £50million.

So on the face of it people are correct and Leeds should spend and will be guaranteed success.

This hypothesis is further supported by Fulham, Villa and Boro all occupying league places in the play offs and having squads valued at £75million, £79million and £96million.

Is this correct though?
The above analysis is rather simple but does seem to paint a solid picture but if we look into more detail there are some flaws.

The chart below shows the squad values ranked by current league position and, on inspection, it can be seen that clubs fall into three groups by value. I’ve colour coded these groups as Red for highly valued squads, Yellow for mid-range values and Cyan for low valued squads.

A quick look and it is obvious that these three groups have gaps between them, in that the difference between the value of the Red group is much higher than the values of the Yellow group and the same is true for the lower group.

Again, it is pretty obvious that the four clubs with the highest valued squads are at the top of the league and that is as it should be – value represents quality and quality represents success on the field.

However, this is too simplistic to claim as something that ALWAYS happens. One look at the chart and one can see Cardiff sit in second place with a squad of much lower value than three of the Red group. Even Derby and Bristol, both Yellow group by value are holding their own with some of the Red group.

So Lets look in yet more detail
The above chart shows that very highly valued squads have found their way to more or less the top of the league but is this true for every club?

The chart below just shows some of the mid-range and low-end group. It can be seen that Cardiff have the same value of squad as Leeds United but are streets ahead when we look at how many points they have.

Also, there are three clubs with more valued squads (including Sunderland, not shown) than Leeds United who are doing worse than us.

Furthermore, there are four low-value squads that are doing better than us and even another three in our Yellow mid-range group doing much better than us.

What does all this mean?
This brief look for any correlation between spending on players shows two things:

  • If a club spends very big, well in excess of other clubs, then the club will rise towards the top.
  • For clubs who are not spending very big there is no correlation between league points or league position.

With Cardiff, Derby and Bristol all competing for the top play off sector with squad values the same, or lower, than ours then Andrea Radrizzani is justified in saying our squad should be good enough to compete there too.

So must Leeds spend big bucks on players to succeed?
Yes and no.

  • Yes, but only if we can buy a squad with a value greater than every other club in the Championship. This will mean spending over £50million on transfer fees this summer, or
  • No, many clubs with squads of the same value as us, and even some with lower values have all done far better than us this season. They’ve done so by synergy, where manager, coaches, players, injuries, luck, self-belief and all the other aspects of what make football more than just a financial exercise come together to make the whole much better than the individual parts.

What are Radrizzani’s Plans?
Radrizzani has announced his intention to follow the second route, or at least a version of it. It seems the plan is to offload some lower value players this summer and add in some quality. The overall effect may be to leave the squad value the same, at £50million, come next season, but I suspect a smattering of quality will actually raise the squad value.

The squad value may not get to £80million or £90million this summer but I’m hopeful of a good start being made along that path. With other matters away from the players themselves improving, and us being due a slice of good luck for a change, I’m already looking forward to next season.

Mike Thornton 5th April 2018