By Tony Attwood
As is obvious to all, Arsenal are making progress – something that was absolutely not thought to be possible by the media at large when they made their predictions concerning the 2022/23 season, before the start of the campaign.
Indeed the general thought was Arsenal would finish 5th or 6th – behind Tottenham H. (Tottenham are currently 23 points behind Arsenal, but they do have a game in hand, so that’s ok).
But what is not so obvious, not least because the media never mention it, is how Arsenal’s progress compares with that of other teams – especially with Manchester City, who are relevant for being the recent dominant force, and also because Arteta was at Manchester City before coming to Arsenal.
So I thought it might be interesting to compare the two clubs in terms of the size and age of the starting XIs over the recent years.
Now, this is relevant because there is a delicate balance to be had here. On the one hand, mature players have been there and done it, but they also slow down and take longer to recover from injury and so it is tough if a club is trying to rely on them.
But get a balanced and stable squad and the club may well manage to stay in the top four having once got there. Indeed only twice in the last ten seasons has the league winner not finished in the top four the season before.
However, Arsenal may be able to buck this trend for next season because the club this season has a particularly young squad – the youngest in the league in fact. Of course, having a young squad does not mean that the club is bound to win, but can sometimes be helpful.
As for the number of players used in a season, clubs that are not happy with where they have finished in the league tend to use more players because they are looking for a way to push forward. Clubs that are doing well, tend to use fewer players, because of the old adage about not breaking up a winning side.
In fact, Arsenal have been consistently using more players than Manchester City, but have also been consistently reducing the number of players used. At the same time Arteta inherited a young team and has been reducing the age of the team, keeping it quite a lot younger than Manchester City’s team
So how does this compare with the rest of the league? Here are the figures for this season so far in the order of average age of each set of players used. Figures come from TransferMarkt. As we can see Arsenal have gone down their own path, choosing to have a younger starting XI throughout the season while having a small squad size and using a small number of players.
We can see here how Chelsea’s persistent difficulties this season are indeed reflected in the squad size and the number of players being used as they try to find a format that works.
|Club||Squad||Players used||Average age|
|West Ham United||22||25||27.8|
|Brighton & Hove Albion||24||25||26.0|
Older teams can of course be more experienced, but also slightly more prone to injury, and more prone to losing form.
So clearly the manager has been rebuilding the whole image and approach of the team, making it ever younger, rather than as some teams do, buying in older players so the squad benefits from their experience.
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