Points win pounds as City prove shrewd market movers
Cast an eye around the Premier League's bottom half and you will find the receipts of financial folly held by its strugglers. Almost every club in danger of the drop has made an expensive mistake in the transfer market, a horrible clanger.
For a seemingly doomed Cardiff, it was the 7 million pound flop Andreas Cornelius. Up a place find Fulham, who signed up Kostas Mitroglou for the princely sum of 11 million pounds, while at Norwich there was an 8 million pound cheque written for Ricky van Wolfswinkel. Sunderland have their sins too. Jozy Altidore somehow cost a shade under 7 million pounds.
All four of those attacking players were signed to make a difference, yet the only imprint left by any of them has been on the balance sheets of their respective clubs.
Hull City have not been without their splurges to keep up with the Joneses. After breaking a four-year transfer record to sign Tom Huddlestone for just over 5 million pounds last summer, they were at it again in January to bring in Nikica Jelavic and Shane Long. All that money ensures City cannot be seen as survivors on a shoestring, but importantly, they have been the ones to find telling returns on their hefty investments.
Jelavic and Long, in particular, feel like a snip. Eyebrows were raised around the Premier League when gambles were taken on the pair, but their eight goals have almost certainly delivered another season in the top flight.
In the games where Jelavic and Long have found the net, there has been a point against Spurs and vital wins over relegation rivals Sunderland, Cardiff and West Brom. Ten points, in other words. The 11th was no less important on Saturday. Just when the Tigers were fearing a tumble back into trouble at 2-0 at Fulham, up stepped the attacking duo.
The impact of Jelavic and Long has been immense. In their 13 starts together, there have been four goals apiece. Despite joining with 25 games of the season already gone, they are locked in their own little battle to be the club’s top goal scorer in the Premier League. Already they stand out from the crowd.
Excitement comes when contemplating where a full season at the KC Stadium could take the club. The Tigers have always had defensive resilience throughout Steve Bruce’s time, but the lack of a consistent goal threat has been a worry. Project the achievements of Long and Jelavic over the course of a season and City have two players who will aim for double figures in 2014-15.
Those targets, it is now safe to assume, will be set in the Premier League. A 37th point of the season ensures neither Cardiff nor Fulham can catch the Tigers, and though Norwich and Sunderland could yet reel them in, a point at Aston Villa this weekend would end the uncertainty. The onus must instead be on finishing the season as high as possible. This, after all, is a club that has never been lower than 14th since mid-September. To scrape over the line would not do a bright season justice.
There are financial implications too. With each rung up the ladder worth roughly 1 million pounds, there is money to be made in the final three games of the season. An FA Cup run all the way to the final has banked enough to pay for Long, and a climb up to 12th would almost cover the cost of Jelavic for a side that budgeted to be 17th.
Not only have the January arrivals kept City in the Premier League, but the repayments on their investment may soon be complete.