Proof that West Ham will now win the title, finish 11th, be taken over by Saudi Arabia or be relegated

Matt Stead
Jurgen Klopp speaks with West Ham manager David Moyes
Jurgen Klopp and David Moyes know transfers can take a while

West Ham are the last Premier League team to have made a permanent signing this summer. The last team to do that went down. But they could win the title.

The Hammers have signed Edson Alvarez, with Harry Maguire and James Ward-Prowse also in their sights. But what does the past tell us about the Premier League teams who blink last each summer?

 

2022 – Leicester
“It obviously feels a little strange not to be signing anyone,” said Brendan Rodgers last year as it became increasingly apparent that Leicester were not about to let him bring in Joe Allen and Scott Sinclair.

The Irishman was strangely dissatisfied with the addition of only a back-up keeper – Alex Smithies – to his squad on a free transfer by the fifth game of the season, with Wout Faes boarding the sinking ship on September 1.

After a sustained crack at the glass ceiling they themselves helped install by embarrassing the Premier League elite in 2016, the cost-cutting Foxes were about to fall through the floor.

West Ham do have one advantage over a Leicester side that was ultimately relegated with Dean Smith in charge. The Foxes were hamstrung by a lack of concrete offers for their many desirable assets, as clubs sniffed around Youri Tielemans, James Maddison, Harvey Barnes and a couple of others without acting. Chelsea eventually signed Wesley Fofana but that came in the last gasps of deadline day, combining with Leicester’s spiralling operating bills and subsequent budget tightening to create a recipe for the Championship.

Not that the Hammers have taken advantage of their early Declan Rice windfall

Final position: 18th

 

2021 – Newcastle
Once Manchester City completed the British record signing of Jack Grealish in August 2021, a pre-takeover Newcastle were left as the last team standing still in the transfer market. Steve Bruce had engineered another mid-table finish and was rewarded with a window which almost achieved the impossible in eliciting a modicum of sympathy from the Magpies faithful towards the beleaguered manager.

“I think we need at least three or four but, for me, now, it’s adding that bit of quality to the squad,” Bruce warned at the end of the previous season. Surprisingly for Mike Ashley, it went unheeded. The only first-team addition was not technically an addition at all, but the permanent capture of impressive loanee Joe Willock.

Things changed a little by October, when Definitely Not Saudi Arabia But The Country’s Public Investment Fund waded in, turfed Bruce out, brought Eddie Howe on board and spent the most of any Premier League club the following January, pulling them clear of relegation in the process.

The punchline to a joke of a summer investment drive was impeccable, mind: Santiago Munoz joined on loan from Santos Laguna because Newcastle will never have a bigger cultural impact on the world than they did with the Goal! trilogy.

Final position: 11th

 

2020 – Aston Villa
After the eclectic brilliance of a first summer transfer window back in the Premier League delivered the highs of Tyrone Mings, Ezri Konsa and Douglas Luiz with the low of new Stoke striker Wesley being signed for a club-record fee, Aston Villa could afford to take a more measured approach to squad-building during lockdown.

Keeping their powder dry until the September after barely escaping relegation, the Villans moved for three players who would help form the backbone of a second Premier League coming which has taken time to evolve but is now positively thriving under Unai Emery.

Matty Cash pipped Ollie Watkins and Emi Martinez narrowly to the post and has been a reliable right-back for almost the entirety of the three years since. Villa also supposedly loaned Ross Barkley in that transfer window. Nope. Nice try. Not falling for that one.

Final position: 11th

 

2019 – Liverpool
While Jurgen Klopp and friends are taking their sweet time
 to conduct a rebuild that was already mistakenly delayed, Liverpool have benefited from watching the transfer chaos unfold without getting involved before.

The decision-makers at Anfield were roundly questioned for their response to winning the Champions League in 2019. A trophy which might have opened previously unreachable avenues was instead followed by the signing of two teenagers for the youth ranks – Sepp van den Berg and Harvey Elliott – with back-up keepers Adrian and Andy Lonergan joining too.

Liverpool could afford to look at both extreme ends of the age spectrum after extending the contracts of Mo Salah, Jordan Henderson, Sadio Mane, Joe Gomez, Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold within the previous year, solidifying a spine which agonisingly missed out on the Premier League title by a single point to Manchester City.

There would be no such race the following season, as Liverpool justified their transfer inaction by winning 26 of their first 27 games before a slight lockdown slump cut their lead over runners-up Manchester City to a meagre 18 points.

Final position: 1st

Liverpool celebrate their first Premier League title
Liverpool celebrate their first Premier League title

 

2018 – Spurs
The side Liverpool conquered in that Champions League final
in Madrid had no ordinary right to be there after taking a similarly passive market route towards glory.

Spurs do not even technically fit the description of being the last Premier League club to make a signing, having navigated the entire summer of 2018 without actually making one at all.

A mixture of rising stadium costs – a cheese room isn’t going to build itself – and some intense Daniel Levying meant Mauricio Pochettino’s call to “be brave” and “take risks” was ignored. Or completely adhered to, depending on which way you cut it.

There were plenty of Like A New Signings. Lucas Moura had joined in January and was armed with a proper pre-season. The contract extension card was played with reckless abandon as Harry Kane, Erik Lamela, Heung-min Son, Dele Alli, Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld and even Pochettino himself were tied down to new deals during the 2018/19 campaign. Moussa Sissoko was kept from the prying grasp of Europe’s elite.

Some rumours had more substance than others. Jack Grealish was a definite Spurs target but a reluctance to stump up an extra £7m saw him stay at Villa Park. Anthony Martial was another on a shortlist which went untouched.

Not to be deterred, Tottenham simply went from a distant third, 23 points off the Premier League summit, to a faraway fourth, 27 points behind champions Manchester City. But they did dump Pep Guardiola’s side out of Europe in a ludicrous continental run only Liverpool could stop.

Final position: 4th