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Relegation Battle: Does Spending Big in January Guarantee Survival?

09/02/2014 22:57 GMT | Updated 11/04/2014 10:59 BST

Unless you spent the last month living at the bottom of the sea, you know that this January's transfer window closed on Friday.

The window was unusually quiet for the clubs at the top of the table as only two of the top six teams signed a player on a permanent basis. There was also Arsenal's thoroughly baffling move for the already injured Kim Kallstrom.

The bottom of the table, however, was a veritable riot of activity. Including loans, the teams currently in the relegation zone signed eighteen players between them in an effort to stave off the drop, spending an average of nearly £7million each.

This flurry of signings could be explained in a number of ways, but they generally boil down to the same root cause: desperation.

The fight against relegation this season is almost unprecedentedly tight. The gap between 18th placed West Ham and 11th-placed Stoke is just three points, with the London club actually enjoying a better goal difference than Mark Hughes's side. At this point in the last two seasons, that difference has been nine points, three times bigger than this season.

Will the influx of new players be worth it for the current occupants of the relegation spots, Cardiff, Fulham and West Ham? Or will the sea of new faces disrupt the squad and actually be detrimental to their side's cause?

At this point, it seems pertinent to look at the history and it throws up some fascinating figures.

In the last five seasons, going back to 2008/09, five clubs have escaped relegation after being in the bottom three at the end of the transfer window. It would be very easy to assume that the sides which threw around the most money mid-season would be the ones to make the leap to safety, but that's not necessarily the case.

When looking at the teams who were in the bottom three at the end of the transfer window and the ones who got relegated, the top five teams in terms of January spending all got relegated.

It would be quite easy to assume that those clubs were just too far adrift by January and spent big in the vain hope of escaping the drop, but as it turns out, that doesn't seem to be true either. Of the five teams that went down despite having splashed the cash, four of them were actually clear of the drop-zone when the window closed, but were later dragged down, QPR last season being the exception.

The average January spending for a relegated club in the last five seasons is just over £3million, compared to around £1.7million for the clubs who climbed out of the bottom three. A slight anomaly in the figures is that the big spenders actually sign fewer players than their more frugal counterparts, even though they're spending nearly double the money.

All of this leads to the impression that while signing players isn't fatal to a club's survival hopes, panicked big-money moves are an inferior tactic compared to well thought out bids for players who'll suit the club and be up for the fight.

A prime example of how the big money January signing can go horribly wrong is Christopher Samba. The Congo international defender signed for QPR in January 2013 for around £12 million as Harry Redknapp's side tried to escape the drop-zone. Unfortunately, the imposing centre-back played just 10 games for the club and has since admitted that he wasn't fit at any point during his spell at the club. Rangers finished the season 14 points adrift of safety and Samba left that summer to rejoin his old club, Anzhi Makhachkala.

Despite the example of QPR, this January has seen the most signings from relegation threatened teams with 18 moves during the transfer window, 11 of them permanent, totalling just over £20million. Panic is clearly setting in already as the teams gear up for one of the most titanic relegation battles the Premier League has ever seen.

With just eight points separating Fulham at the bottom of the table and Aston Villa in 10th, the fight at the bottom is going to be as worth watching as the one at the top, with just two points separating Arsenal, City and Chelsea.

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