It is absolute nonsense to say Arteta does not rotate



By Tony Attwood

Every time I see a bold statement about football with no supporting evidence I check the data, simply because most of the time these bold statements are simply made up by journalists who can’t be arsed to do proper research.   In recent years we have had

But the one that really has annoyed me is the claim going around the newspapers that Arteta does not rotate.  Take for example “Mikel Arteta does not rotate and exhausted Arsenal are paying price” in the Telegraph

This is an important item to comment on because it clearly suggests that the reason for Arsenal’s recent defeats is easy to see, and Arteta is less competent as a manager that the Telegraph’s junior writer.  Arsenal, it is suggested, would do well either to get rid of Arteta and employ the Telegraph scribbler.

However there is a tell-tale sign that this is gibberish since the writer Sam Dean gives no evidence of this non-rotation.  It is simply asserted.   Others, also not moved to do the research just copy the notion.

So here is the investigation that others refuse to contemplate for fear that it will spoil their headline and the constant Arsenal knocking they indulge in..

As there is no agreement of what rotation actually looks like other than moving players around more than Arteta does, I’m doing the analysis, so others can use it or ignore it.  And to make this as simple as possible I am only going to consider appearances in the Premier League matches where each club is playing the same number of games.

Arsenal have three players who have started 30+ games in the Premier League this season (Saliba, Rice and Saka) and seven players who have started between 20 and 29 league games.

Liverpool have one player who has started 30+ games and six who have started between 20 and 29 games.

Manchester City have no players who have started 30+ league games this season but have 11 players who have started 20 to 29 games.

Tottenham Hotspur have one player who has played 30+ games this season and nine players who have played between 20 and 29 league games.

So based on players starting 30+ games, yes Arsenal are rotating less, but the difference is small.   When it comes to players starting 20-29 Manchester are way ahead and Tottenham some way ahead of Arsenal.

To get a perspective we can add the figures together to see (again just for league games) which teams have the most players playing 20+ games this season…

  • Manchester City: 11
  • Arsenal: 10
  • Tottenham: 10
  • Liverpool: 7

And it is on the basis of figures like these that commentators are claiming that Arteta won’t rotate and that is why Arsenal are no longer top.

So those who say rotation is the problem, are saying that the reason Arsenal are second in the Premier League rather than first is simply because Saliba Rice and Saka have played four games between the three of them than they should have done.  For Saliba is on 32 games, Rice is on 31, Saka on 30 – and from that the conclusion is drawn and ceaselessly repeated that “Arteta won’t rotate”.

To take a broader view the number of players playing 20+ league games this season for the top clubs is Manchester City 11, Arsenal 10, Tottenham 10, Liverpool 7.

In essence, the number of players playing 20-plus games or any other level of games in the season has very little if anything to do with the success or otherwise of a team.   The reality is that the differences are tiny and one journalist saw that measured one way Arsenal were marginally ahead of the others and so ran the story, and others saw it as a neat way to attack Arsenal.

But it is a story actually with two problems.   First, the difference between the clubs is tiny, and second, there is no evidence anywhere that Arsenal would have been better if they had rested some players.

Of course, one could argue that Arsenal might have beaten Aston Villa, Liverpool, West Ham and Fulham in December 2023 if Saliba, Rice and Saka had had a couple of games off earlier in the season, but I find that hard to believe.

I find it easier to believe that in the 11-game run with just one draw and 10 wins in the league, earlier this year, if Saliba, Rice and Saka had been dropped occasionally we would not have won so many.

Of course we don’t know, but the fact is that

a) none of the people who complain that the Arsenal manager doesn’t rotate enough give numbers that reveal just how close the top clubs are to each other in terms of rotation.

b) the media fails to mention that while Arsenal have nine players who have played 20 games plus in the league this season, Manchester City have 10 such players.(Rodri, Foden, Dias, Ederson, Haaland, Walker, Akanji, Alverez, Silva, Gvardiol, and Ake).

In reality, this is just a journalistic con-trick which some supporters pick on because they like to bash Arteta.   There is no clear definition of what “rotation” is, and that is what journalists love – arguing about something without defining it.

Arsenal’s problem as we have clearly shown, is in finding the psychological nous to get out of a run of defeats or draws quickly, rather than let it drift on.  Nothing else.  On that basis, we could argue that Arsenal need a new psychologist, but that is about it.

You might also be interested in “Manchester City and Arsenal, a comparison of dips”

4 Replies to “It is absolute nonsense to say Arteta does not rotate”

  1. So from recent articles it would appear Arsenals recent
    Fade and last Seasons are NOT because
    Arsenal don’t rotate because others don’t.
    Arsenal needing a striker because we spread goals around.
    The issue I have with this is that the
    A) most Used players are Arsenals most influential. That influence ha significantly declined if late
    B) against the better sides we have clearly demonstrated a lack of threat
    So I am interested to know what it is that has seen Arsenal falter again.
    Clearly you think it is not Arteta tinkering or tactics as you are clearly a firm fan. ( despite his Willianesque devotion to an obviously inept defensive option in Zinchenko)
    I find it odd that when teams are successful it’s all praise the manager, when the team is not it is don’t blame the manager,

  2. I have written a few times about where I see the problem – it is that over recent season Arsenal don’t just lose one game, they lose and draw a sequence and have difficulty getting out of this sequence. That suggests a psychological problem which needs to be overcome.

  3. Al m, we have seen the difference against Bayern with Zinchenko…. oops… he didn’t play…. I think it would have been better if had played him because in my eyes he is more influential for us when we go forward. I would also note that in the first leg Zinchenko also didn’t start and so wasn’t to blame for us going 1-2 behind.
    And I don’t say this because I think I know better, but it is just my personal feeling. Which might be wrong.

  4. Regarding rotation , an interesting list shown on Sky yesterday showed the minutes played by outfield players at the top three clubs.
    There were ten players shown Arsenal had numbers 1 to 3 Saliba ( 2970 ) , Rice and Odegaard . Then came Van Dyke , these were followed by Gabriel , Saka and White. The last three were Alvarez , Foden and Rodr ( 2490 ).

    So that’s 6 out of 10 for us and all in the top 7. Tiredness could be a problem albeit the cup exploits are not included it does lean to showing that Saliba has played 5 games more than Rodri.

    Towards the end of of yesterday’s game some players looked dead on their feet and it worries me that our trip to Tottenham will be following their 15 days rest from their last game.

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