Trying to find the reasons behind another failed Liverpool Premier League title challenge is nothing new.
But attempting to unearth what made the difference in their titanic tussle with Manchester City this season is breaking fresh ground.
Never before has a team accumulated as many points as the 97 the Reds registered and still fallen short in the quest to be named champions.
Ludicrously, some fingers were pointed at draws at Manchester United and Everton, venues where any positive result is usually considered worthwhile for Liverpool.
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Others, more pertinently, believe City’s 2-1 win at the Etihad in early January ultimately saw the Premier League crown stay with Pep Guardiola’s side.
It’s never about one defining moment, though.
And once the dust settles, the fact is City’s greater quality and strength in depth will once again explain why they have swept beyond everybody in the Premier League.
But just how much has it cost City compared to their rivals to build a squad capable of such dominance?
The problem with many net spend comparisons is that the timescale is often arbitrarily set to fit somebody’s particular argument.
For example, assess net spend over the past 12 months and Tottenham Hotspur’s achievements this season would be regarded as astonishing.
However, that precludes the fact they’d already paid for those players who didn’t come through the youth ranks.
A more accurate way of assessing net spend would be to take a team’s spending from the same window they brought in their longest-serving bought player. That demonstrates how the current squad has been built within a timescale that serves a genuine purpose, highlighting the cost of the evolution of the playing staff.
Using website Transfermarkt for all the transfer figures – ensuring uniformity of source, given cited fees can differ wildly depending on where they are attributed – we have tallied to totals of income and expenditure over the chosen period.
So, how do England’s leading seven clubs compare?
First up, Liverpool. Jordan Henderson, the skipper, is their longest-serving player, having been bought in the summer of 2011.
Since then, the net spend for the Reds has been £300.5million, bolstered significantly by the purchases during the last summer transfer window.
The figure isn’t as high as that of Chelsea over roughly the same period. Their longest-serving player to have appeared this season was Gary Cahill, purchased in January 2012. Tomas Kalas was brought to the club earlier, but hasn’t played for the Londoners this term.
Chelsea have a net spend of £347.7m in the subsequent period to this point.
Manchester United’s longest-serving player for this season was Antonio Valencia, brought to the club in 2009. United have a net spend of £595.6m in the decade since.
Aaron Ramsey was brought to Arsenal in 2008, who have since had a net spend of £266.46m, the majority of which has come in the last five years.
The most remarkable tally is that of Tottenham Hotspur. Their longest-serving player is Danny Rose, who was bought from Leeds United as a youngster way back in 2007. Tottenham’s net spend is £125.5m during the subsequent period.
However, Spurs are in credit over the last eight years, making their progress to the Champions League final all the more impressive.
Everton, meanwhile, had Phil Jagielka as their longest-serving performer this campaign. Jagielka was bought in 2007, after which the Blues have a net spend of £217.5m, of which almost all came in the last five years.
Which leaves Manchester City.
Vincent Kompany, whose goal against Leicester City last week tilted the title towards the Etihad, was the player in this season’s squad who had been at the club the longest.
He was signed in the summer of 2008, just days before the Abu Dhabi Group agreed a takeover of the club. In the subsequent years, City can claim a whopping net spend of £1.08bn.
Even when not including the first three years of that figure – taking it from the window in which Henderson was signed by Liverpool – the total is double the Reds’ during the time their current squad has been built.
What these numbers don’t demonstrate is the silverware picked up in the meantime. Liverpool, for example, can claim just a League Cup during their period, while Chelsea have won the Champions League once and the Premier League title twice.