Manchester City face Southampton this weekend and we won’t see many greater mismatches in the Premier League this season. On the pitch this will be a competitive, potentially fascinating fixture. Off it, there is a chasm between the two sides. The two teams that have conducted themselves financially in polar opposite fashions, and both have enjoyed success over the last few years.
In the red corner, Southampton have become accustomed to losing key players each summer. With a hauntingly long list of their stars departing over the last few seasons. Losing Victor Wanyama and Sadio Mane this summer was hurtful, but it wasn’t quite as destructive as some windows they have suffered.
In the blue corner, Manchester City have largely shown little care for generating revenue through player transfers. On the odd occasion that they have sold a player, it has usually been once any prospect of a future at the Etihad Stadium is completely flung out of the window. Loans followed by sales have often seen City recoup underwhelming fees for players, while their squad continues to swell with highly-paid surplus components.
Financial consideration is perhaps growing for Manchester City, as we saw this summer. The temptation to spend heavily on ‘proven’ stars was resisted for the most part, with significant investment made in players who shan’t reach their ‘peak’ years until around 2020. Pep Guardiola’s project at the club will undoubtedly have some impact on their monetary activities, yet they will not be becoming a model of frugality any time soon.
The graph below comes from a fantastic Swiss Ramble article detailing Arsenal’s current financial position, but it serves to show the vast gap between Manchester City and Southampton when it comes to net spend. They are living in different worlds. Where Manchester City can splash near world record fees on defenders in back-to-back summers, Southampton have had to cope with the losses of almost an entire first choice XI since their return to the Premier League.
Panic could easily have ensued each summer. The loss of Mauricio Pochettino and Ronald Koeman, too, added extra spice to an already bubbling concoction, but there were never any signs that things would head south. Player recruitment has remained shrewd, signing on quality, suitability and potential rather than name and picking managers that evidently understand the plans of the club and fit with the direction they wish to travel in.
Every financial metric gives Southampton no chance at the Etihad this weekend. Southampton, though, are experts at both upsetting the odds and finding means to their desired ends. With so many owners and boards criticised vehemently, Southampton deserve maximum credit. Despite hardly spending a penny in net spend, the Saints are managing to improve their squad year on year. The loss of successful, excellent managers cannot even restrict the progress of Southampton – the recruitment at every level of the club borders on miraculous.