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By Tony Attwood
Research from Football Observatory has revealed that Arsenal have not, contrary to some reports, put out on average the youngest team in the league this season. That honour, goes to Burnley with an average aged team of 24.57 yrs.
Second comes Chelsea at 24.95 years and third comes Arsenal at 24.96 years. Tottenham Hotspur are fourth at 25.12 years.
The oldest average teams in the league are Fulham with an average age of 29.28 years, and West Ham at 28.80 years. Manchester City come in eighth, at 26.55 years.
However, when the measurement is of the percentage of minutes played by players under 21 years of age, for Arsenal only 4.5% of game time has been played by under 21s. This compares with 12.6% for Manchester City. At the other extreme West Ham have not played any under 21s this season.
Overall on the low side we have Burnley (average age 24.57 years), Chelsea (24.95 years) and Arsenal (24.96 years). The Old Men are Fulham (29.28 years).
But what makes Arsenal different from the rest of the Premier League is the use of players aged 22 to 25, rather than as is sometimes suggested, even younger players. For Arsenal almost three-quarters of the minutes played on the pitch were played by players aged 22 to 25.
This is singularly encouraging for Arsenal given that it is generally accepted that players aged 27 are by and large at their prime. It suggests that Arteta has been buying and nurturing for the future.
The nearest rival to Arsenal in this age group is Chelsea with just on half of their players in that 22-25 group.
Chelsea do however have the biggest users of under 21s with them playing 28% of the minutes played in the league by Chelsea this season. Arsenal are on 4.5% and West Ham United on none.
Where Arsenal streak away from everyone else in the Premier League is in the 22-25 year old age group with 74.6% of the minutes played by these players. This compares with 50.5% for Chelsea and 27.6% for Manchester City.
Indeed if we compare the age groups for clubs selected below we can see exactly what Arteta is doing in terms of his approach to overtaking Manchester City and staying above them. The figures in the final four columns is the percentage of minutes played by players in that age category.
|Club||Average age||21 and under||22-25||26-29||30+|
So let’s consider what these numbers tell us.
The average age of the sides hardly varies. Chelsea and Arsenal have the youngest and Newcastle the oldest average-aged team, but the difference is only two years nine months.
It is with the use of under 21s that Chelsea and to a lesser degree Tottenham H mark themselves out. And this is the category in which Arsenal are at the bottom with only 4.5% of their team in this group.
The 22 to 25 age group is where three-quarters of the Arsenal first teamers are sat – way ahead of every other club. This group is thus the future of Arsenal, but it is noticeable that Manchester City have only just over a quarter of their players in this section, compared to Arsenal’s three quarters.
So we can see the difference between Arsenal and Manchester City. Arsenal are developing this group for the future. For Manchester City they have already moved into the 26 to 29 group, where they are not yet slowing down, but have all the knowledge of ten or more years playing at the top level.
In fact if you want one simple example of how Arsenal are following Manchester City, here it is. Arsenal’s team is swamped by 22 to 25 year olds, all progressing toward their very best years, while the Manchester City team is based on 26 to 29 year olds who are already there.
When it comes to the elderly (well, 30 years and older) Liverpool and Newcastle are basing their playing around such players, with a third or more of the squad based in this age range.
Almost one-third of Liverpool players are in the 30+ age range – which will mean a lot of moving on of players in the next few years, generally for far less than they paid for the players. That also applies to Newcastle, Fulham, Everton, Sheffield United, and Crystal Palace.
Indeed some of the figures give a view of the lives of the clubs of late. Newcastle have hardly any youngsters in their team, as the club previously sat there, an object ready to be sold, and has quickly had to get some success by bringing in the tried and tested. Bringing through their own young players is only now reaching the agenda.
Liverpool on the other hand were a team that reached the dizzying heights between 2018 and 2020 and those players have to mostly not been replaced by youngsters, taking the average age of the side right up.
Certainly, Arteta’s achievement in packing the Arsenal squad full of 22 to 25-year-olds who are able to challenge at very near the top of the league has been a masterstroke. We can only sit and wonder how much more they are going to achieve as they move into the height of their careers in the next three or four years.
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