I love a bit of data, and I got to thinking on my dog walk this morning – how effective were League One teams last season in the transfer window?
We all see posts on social media, people screaming at the club to ‘do a signing’, getting worried because nobody has come in, but how crucial were signings last season? Did the teams with the most numbers get the best benefit? Or, was there more benefit in those teams that were relatively settled?
Of course, there’s no solid answer because each team’s circumstance is different, but despite that, I’ve crunched some data and come up with the most effective and least effective teams last winter. I’ve used the transfers listed by D3D4 (always a solid resource) and the appearance data from Soccerbase. Because it’s me inputting, there may be some slight variation, but I thought it would be interesting to look at.
I’ve worked out how many players teams bought in, how many they got rid of, and the squad churn in the winter. I’ve noted their league position on the day the window slammed shut and the final day of the season, so we can see how many points they accrued after the season ended. I’ve then worked out their differing positions, to see if there’s any correlation at all between incoming and improved performance. I’ve even worked out points per game before the window closed, and after.
Interested in what I’ve found? You should be, because it underlines how good our own recruitment was in places, undermining those criticising our recruitment team. Read on.
Most Players In
Last window, three teams signed eight players, Fleetwood, Doncaster and Cheltenham. Of those three teams, one was relegated (Doncaster), whilst Fleetwood went from 19th on January 31st, to 20th at the end of the season. The only marginal improvement was for Cheltenham, who climbed from 17th to 15th, not exactly a huge change in fortunes.
The next highest number of signings came for Bolton, us and MK Dons. Bolton climbed from 15th to 9th, us from 18th to 17th and MK Dons from fourth to third. All very minimal uplifts.
Fewest Players In
Cambridge and Wycombe only signed two players at the other end of the scale. Cambridge fell two places, from 12th to 14th, and Wycombe fell a single place, from fifth to sixth.
There were four teams who only signed three players, Sheff Weds (climbed four places), Rotherham (fell one place), Plymouth (stayed seventh) and Ipswich (fell two places). So, at either end of the scale, there was little change in the league table whether teams made lots of signings or very few.
Highest Squad Churn
Squad churn is the combined number of players coming and going from a club, and I’ve done it including loan players in and out. Burton Albion had the highest squad churn, with a total of 15 transfers listed by D3D4. That resulted in them dropping six places, from 10th to 16th, which was the biggest fall of all the teams in the division.
The next highest was Fleetwood, with 14 movements, resulting in a fall of a single place. Remember, Fleetwood stayed up on 40 points last season, which is nothing to be proud of. Two teams saw 12 deals completed, MK Dons, who climbed a single place, and Sunderland who fell two places. Both stayed in the top six.
Lowest Squad Churn
We know Wycombe fell a place, but their squad churn was just two. Cambridge had a churn of three, and they fell two places, whilst Plymouth stayed put in terms of league position on three transfers. Accrington, who climbed a place, had a churn of five, with three in and two out.
Most Effective In Terms of Points
I worked out the points per game before the transfer window, and points per game after to see if there was a correlation between how active a team was and how they performed. The answer is no, not really. For instance, Bolton had the best PPG improvement, 0.7, and signed the second-highest number of players, seven. However, the next biggest improvement was Sheff Weds, 0.6 points per game, and they only brought three in. Wigan, who moved up a single place and improved their PPG, signed six players.
The least effective in terms of points both signed five players – Burton and Wimbledon. After the transfer window, they lost 0.7 and 0.6 PPG, respectively, whilst Fleetwood signed eight players and lost 0.5 PPG.
Little old Lincoln were middle of the road, with seven signings, and zero PPG improvement, climbing a single place. So, despite it looking like a good window, we actually levelled out our season, ensuring much of the same. Odd, isn’t it? If you’d said ‘you’ll be much the same’ at the start of January 2022, we’d have cried relegation, but actually, despite a little bump in terms of squad, what we arrested was a slide in form, not our overall performance.
Does that kinda prove that whatever a team does in this window, it’s not the number of players they sign, nor how quickly they sign them, that matters? Also, there is no such thing as good and bad players, not really. It’s all about horses for courses – one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.
Most Effective In Terms of Goals
Interestingly (depending on whether you’re a nerd like me or not) our window was a success in terms of goal return. Bolton, who definitely had a good window, saw their new signings score a total of 21 goals. Only one team also saw their new recruits hit double figures – us, with 12. That included goals for Morgan Whittaker, John Marquis, Liam Cullen and Brooke Norton-Cuffy, all good players and all chipping in as we perked up after the break.
However, that’s unusual – few teams saw their new players score four more or collectively. In fact, only six clubs saw their new players score more than four – us, Bolton, Fleetwood, Portsmouth, Cheltenham and Oxford. Such was the impact of those goals that only one team either climbed or dropped more than two places.
Appearances Per Signing
Finally, we talk about January being an important window, and in terms of our squad depth, it is, but last year did not see players making a wholesale impact at their new clubs. Only seven clubs saw their new signings collectively make ten or more starts (that’s total starts divided by incoming players). Our new signings averaged 10.6 starts, with Ipswich (16.7) and Bolton (14.6) the teams seeing the biggest impact on their starting XI. Plymouth (2.3), Charlton (2.8), Rotherham (3) and Oxford (4.3) must have wondered why they bothered!
The Best League One Window of January 2022
There’s no doubt that Bolton Wanderers had the best window in League One last season – they climbed six places and saw 21 goals from their new players. Sheff Weds were next, climbing four places, with Doncaster (relegated), Cheltenham, Morecambe and Gillingham (relegated) all climbing two spots.
The worst impact came at Burton, who dropped six places despite signing five players, and relegated Wimbledon and Crewe who both signed five players and dropped three and two spots respectively. What is interesting is only two teams saw a positional swing of six places, meaning that despite all the signings (120 in our division), nobody really affected their season greatly. Oxford fell out of the top four, Sheff Weds replaced them, but it stayed the same other than that.
The top two were still the top two, despite swapping places, and three of the bottom four on January 31st were relegated anyway. Only Morecambe stayed up on the back of their transfer window, and their new signings averaged 13.8 matches, chipping in a single goal.
For those wishing to see the data, it can be found here at Google Sheets. if you use it in articles or anything, I ask you to credit Gary Hutchinson of the Stacey West.