There might yet be some eye-catching activity in the final hours of the window, but few of the potential major deals have been completed. Tottenham Hotspur have managed to offset the departure of Gareth Bale to Real Madrid with a raft of signings, but it still seems as if there will be a deficit of glamour if the transfer record is broken as a player departs the scene.
Quality players have arrived, and Manchester City have a significantly stronger squad than last season. They completed their business early, signing Fernandinho, Jesus Navas, Alvaro Negredo and Stevan Jovetic, losing only Carlos Tevez amongst their top-ranked players.
Tottenham, too, have been busy recruiters, even if much of the summer has been spent embroiled in the saga of Bale's transfer. Both clubs have technical or sporting directors in place to devise and implement strategy. Other individuals can fulfil these roles at clubs, of course, but the sense has been of the Barclays Premier League's leading sides being thwarted in their ambitions.
It might have been a statement of intent by Manchester United to acknowledge their pursuit of Thiago Alcantara and, more notably, Cesc Fabregas, during their pre-season tour, but it contributed to the notion of a hapless operation after Ed Woodward, the United vice-chairman, flew back in mid-July from the tour to Australia to conduct "major transfer business".
United have yet to make a major signing, having been rebuffed by their two leading targets, and they have also seen bids turned down for Leighton Baines, Marouane Fellaini and the Athletic Bilbao midfielder Ander Herrera, who United valued at £30m. David Moyes, the United manager, has been at pains to stress that the squad can compete to retain the title without any additions. Some at the club will feel that keeping Wayne Rooney at Old Trafford means United are not weakened, but on every level they are one of the leading sides in world football, so the perception that they cannot attract the best players is damaging.
More transfers fail than succeed, but it is the public nature of the various rejections that England's top clubs have suffered that makes this summer so intriguing. Cumulatively, the Premier League is on course to break its record on gross transfer spending this summer, according to Deloitte, and may even break the net transfer spend. Volume and outlay haven't been the issue so much as prestige.
Jose Mourinho made some bold statements about his only major target being Rooney, but several weeks later has now signed Samuel Eto'o on a one-year deal. It is evident Rooney wished to leave Old Trafford, and was open to the move to Stamford Bridge, but the deal could not be completed. This was, in part, because United did not want to sell a player to their title rivals, even though Arsenal had to do the same the previous season when they sold Robin van Persie to United.
That might be a reflection of the relative strengths of the two clubs, or at least their approach to transfers. United have always considered the expensive purchase of established talents as indication of their status in the game; Arsene Wenger is driven by the principles of an economist. He effectively has total control over Arsenal's signing policy, and is implacably opposed to the speculation and profiteering of the transfer market, with the latter quality especially prevalent for homegrown players.
Wenger tends to be a wry observer of the hype that football generates, but the wit seems a little hollow when his team has regressed in recent seasons, from title challengers to celebrating overtaking Tottenham on the final day of last season to finish fourth. Even with substantial transfer funds available, he has failed to secure the top-class talent that would elevate Arsenal again. The club failed to sign Gonzalo Higuain earlier in the summer, with the striker opting to move to Napoli from Real Madrid, then failed in a bid for Luis Suarez of Liverpool. They have since been credited with an interest in Mesut Ozil, Angel di Maria and Karim Benzema, all of Real Madrid, but any deals involving them will have to await the final conclusion of Bale's protracted move.
"They [Real] are very generous," Wenger said. "I don't think that prices are linked with the quality of the players. This summer especially. The prices are just linked with the financial power and the desire of the buyer."
Wenger is right, in a sense, that the transfer market is overblown. Economic theory holds little influence when glory is so closely related to outlay, with the best players commanding the highest fees. For some clubs, it has been a chastening summer.