Uefa's financial fair play regulations are a more serious hindrance for the big-spending clubs who hope to compete in Europe than for sides in the lower reaches of the top flight
The spending splurge of January 2011 seems a distant memory in the current conservative climate. Two years ago Premier League clubs spent a record £225m but that period of unrestrained and frivolous expenditure during the winter transfer window is unlikely to be repeated in 2013.
In truth, 2011 was something of an aberration. The vast splurge was an £195m increase on the previous year, while last January provided a 70% decrease in total spending compared to a window when Chelsea bought Fernando Torres for £50m, Aston Villa signed Darren Bent for £18m, Edin Dzeko made a £27m switch to Manchester City and, perhaps most remarkably, Liverpool signed Andy Carroll for £35m.
The latter figure was an absurd valuation and has since reinforced the argument that bargains are difficult to come by in January as clubs drive prices up in the knowledge that other teams are often desperate rather than astute at this time. Only £60m was spent in the winter window of 2012, compared to the considerable £490m the following summer.
The landscape has shifted in two years. Three managers have been sacked by Chelsea and Sky Sports will now be setting up camp at Queens Park Rangers' Harlington training ground rather than Spurs Lodge for their daily discourse with Harry Redknapp.
More significantly, Uefa's financial fair play regulations have come into effect. These are a more serious hindrance for the big-spending clubs who hope to compete in the Champions League and Europa League than for the sides in the lower reaches of the top flight. Uefa's desire for a model of self-sustainability means that clubs who fail to break even from the 2013-14 season face sanctions, with expulsion from European competition possible from 2014-15.
Such is Manchester City's fear of falling foul of the regulations that they spent less than £50m during the summer. Many managers would deem that a handsome kitty but considering Sheikh Mansour's previous lavish policy, and the fact that City raised almost £20m from player sales, the Premier League champions appear to be taking FFP seriously. Roberto Mancini is still furious that Robin van Persie slipped through his grasp and instead signed for Manchester United, while City's rebranding of Eastlands to the Etihad Stadium for £150m also raised eyebrows.
Of all the clubs that could dip into the transfer market in January, Chelsea, under the stewardship of their interim manager, Rafael Benítez, are the most likely to do so with the greatest ambition. Daniel Sturridge has almost certainly played his last game for the west London club but the European champions could strengthen with the potential arrival of Newcastle United's Demba Ba. There is also the possibility that Radamel Falcao will join from Atlético Madrid. Chelsea seemed to disregard the introduction of FFP when spending £32m on Eden Hazard and £25m on Oscar last summer; however, the club, bankrolled by Roman Abramovich, received significant income from their successful Champions League campaign.
Arsenal could also feature prominently following the announcement of a new five-year sponsorship deal with Emirates worth £150m. Their chief executive, Ivan Gazidis, said then that there would be money available in January, with more to follow in the summer.
The desire to play in Europe's top club competition could convince Tottenham and Everton to pay over the odds. Yet André Villas-Boas has claimed that Spurs will not be doing any significant business and David Moyes has said that Everton need to keep their best players rather than bring anyone else in.
Brendan Rodgers will soon have added Sturridge to his Anfield ranks and Blackpool's Tom Ince is another target for the Liverpool manager. But given the large sums Liverpool have paid out in recent years, marquee signings at Anfield this January are unlikely.
While overall spending should be down, there is always the chance of a signing that could turn the season around. Bent scored nine goals in 16 games in half a season under Gérard Houllier at Villa and fired the Birmingham club from fourth bottom in January to ninth by May.
Everton's shrewd purchase of Nikica Jelavic this time last year for only £6m is further proof that bargains in January, while rare, can be found. The same can be said of Papiss Cissé at Newcastle and Luis Suárez at Liverpool.
Loan deals for clubs in the bottom half of the Premier League may also be prevalent. Ten years ago Birmingham City loaned the charismatic French attacker Christophe Dugarry from Bordeaux and his inspirational performances steered Steve Bruce's side to safety.
Dugarry was signed in England's first ever January transfer window. Premier League clubs have spent more than £4.4bn in the 10 years since. That figure will rise in the 30 days that follow. However, do not expect any records to be broken this time around.