Has January transfer window become useless for EPL title contenders?

We’ve gone past the halfway point of the January transfer window, and that sound you are hearing is crickets on the transfer wire. What was once a crazy flurry of wheeling and dealing has seeming ground to a halt this year.

That’s especially the case for the teams fighting at the top of the English Premier League, and it has us wondering if the secondary window has become utterly useless to those teams at the top.

It’s an interesting situation given the fact that the top four teams are separated by just five points and the top three are just one point different from each other.

Perhaps this season is a big time anomaly, as you’ve got one current big spender in the title race in Manchester City. Behind them is one of, if not the youngest team in the EPL — Tottenham Hotspur — and then you’ve got the thrifty spenders in Arsenal and the low-budget wonders of Leicester City.

Spurs took to spending money on young international talent and even a young English prodigy or two over the last two summer transfer windows. It leaves little room on a squad that is already pretty established, and with a plus-20 goal differential it is hard to see many holes that need immediate plugging.

Their North London rivals, Arsenal, aren’t afraid to spend money, but have been known to be thrifty unless it is a must-have player. Still, the Gunners have arguably made the biggest splash of any team in the EPL with a £5 million move for Mohamed Elneny of FC Basel.

Elneny, an Egyptian international, is more of a need than an extra thanks to injuries to holding midfielders Santi Cazorla and Francis Coquelin. In that case, the transfer window is there to help buoy a club in desperate need of help and squad depth.

At 23 years old Elneny is also at a great age to make a long-term impact at the club.

However, Arsenal wouldn’t have likely made that move without injury to Cazorla or Coquelin — especially with links to Southampton’s own holding midfielder Victor Wanyama, a long-standing target for the upcoming offseason.

Then there’s the curious case of Leicester City, who find themselves tied on points at the top of the table in what has easily been the craziest story of the EPL season so far. Not much has gone wrong for the Foxes, but this is a team short on squad depth and bolstering that depth in the January transfer window means one thing for the small club — it either goes for broke or literally goes broke.

Leicester have chose to not take on too much financial water so far in the transfer window, making a move within England for Birmingham City midfielder Demarai Gray. It was a small move,but a powerful one for the club looking to not stretch a small squad while also looking to compete in multiple competitions.

With Leicester also struggling to find scoring options outside of Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy, Gray is a nice attacking option to bring in to the squad for the stretch run. It certainly can’t hurt a team that hasn’t had anyone outside of Mahrez or Vardy score more than 4 goals this season.

At 19 years old, this is also a move that could have great long-term benefits for the Foxes.

Outside of a Manchester United player being recalled from loan and rival City taking on a player from the mighty A-League in Australia, you’re looking at the extent of the moves made to date by the top contenders in the EPL.

Is it a sign that these clubs are just that strong? Considering the week-to-week yo-yo that happens amongst the top six teams that certainly isn’t the case.

Is it a change in strategy, with the big clubs unwilling to make big time moves in January anymore? Not having partners like Barcelona and Real Madrid to do the dance with thanks to upcoming transfer bans doesn’t help either.

Those big clubs have to make sure their future squads are protected and that they have the players they need locked down in contracts. Neither can afford to swap out a player and potentially ruin chemistry and title aspirations while under said transfer ban.

However, the likely story is that smaller clubs are just as likely to see a bigger payday ahead of them in the summer transfer window.

With crazy EPL television rights money coming, holding on to bigger players looking for a move to the big-money league for a few more months means plenty of extra millions to clubs that can frankly use the money.

This isn’t just a small sample size either, as a quick look at the 2015 January transfer window yields next to nothing of consequence for anyone in the title hunt that season either.

Outside of a Manchester City move to secure Wilfred Bony from Swansea City, not a single move in that transfer window has given us a major player for any of the title contenders.

Arsenal decided to stash Polish youngster Krystian Bielik and what has turned in to a good move this season — Gabriel — was an afterthought most of last season (appearing in just 8 matches for the Gunners).

Chelsea added Juan Cuadrado from Fiorentina, however he has been out on loan all season to Italian champions Juventus and that move hasn’t paid dividends for either side of the deal.

Gone are the days of teams willing to part with big investments so quickly, and for teams looking to find that extra edge at the top of the table, the well has seemingly dried up.

It’s almost as if the January transfer window has become completely useless in making the difference between winning and losing the EPL title.

About Andrew Coppens

Andy is a contributor to The Comeback as well as Publisher of Big Ten site talking10. He also is a member of the FWAA and has been covering college sports since 2011. Andy is an avid soccer fan and runs the Celtic FC site The Celtic Bhoys. If he's not writing about sports, you can find him enjoying them in front of the TV with a good beer!