The (not always) obvious link between winning the league and having top players

by Andrew Crawshaw

The league winners in the top 5 European Leagues this last season were

  • Premier League – Manchester City
  • France – Paris St Germain
  • Germany – Bayern Munich
  • Italy – Juventus
  • Spain – Barcelona

The question we look at here is this: is there a correlation with the number of players they each had in the CIES top 100? 

Here is a table listing each “top 100” player the clubs had and the player’s position in the rankings:-

Manchester City PSG Bayern Munich Juventus Barcelona
1 David Silva (2) Edinson Cavani (21) Robert Lewandowski (10) Paulo Dybala (24) Lionel Messi (1)
2 Sergio Agüero (4) Adrien Rabiot (22) James Rodriguez (13) Miralem Pjanić (28) Ivan Rakitić (20)
3 Nicolás Otamendi (5) Dani Alves (24) Mats Hummels (26) Giorgio Chellini (42) Sergio Busquets (23)
4 Luiz Fernandinho (6=) Ángel Di Maria (33=) Niklas Süle (28) Philippe Coutinho (33)
5 Kevin de Brune (8) Kylian Mbappé (37) Arjen Robben (31) Jordi Alba (44)
6 Raheem Sterling (9) Thiago Silva (38) Jérôme Boateng (36) Marc-André ter Stegen (48)
7 Kyle Walker (27) Presnel Kimpembe (56) Arturo Vidal (39) Sergi Roberto (52)
8 Leroy Sané (30) Javi Martinez (41) Luis Suárez (61)
9 Joshua Kimmich (46) Gerard Piqué (68=)
10 Marcio Rafinha (47) Samuel Umtiti (83)
11 David Alaba (71)

Between them, these title winning teams had in their sides 39 of the 100 top ranked players.  But how many did their competitor clubs have?

England France Germany Italy Spain
Man City – 8 PSG – 7 Bayern – 11 Juve – 3 Barca – 10
Man United – 1 Monaco – 0 Shalke – 0 Napoli – 7 Athletico – 1
Tottenham – 7 Lyon – 5 Hoffenheim – 0 Roma – 2 Real – 4
Liverpool – 7 Marseille – 4 Dortmund – 1 Inter – 3 Valencia – 1
Chelsea – 3 Bordeaux – 1 Bayer Leverkusen – 0 Lazio – 2 Villareal – 0
Arsenal – 4 St Etienne – 0 Leipzig – 0 Milan – 2 Real Betis – 0

The only league where there isn’t a direct correlation between the number of top players and winning the league appears to be Italy.  In Germany, Spain and France the title winning club has more players from the top players list than any other team.    

In England it wasn’t so much the number of top 100 players at City that made the difference, rather it was the club having 6 in the top 10.  Manchester United coming second with only one player in the list suggests that somehow they over performed, or that on occasion other factors could come into play.

I have also cross referenced the CIES estimated transfer values for each of the  top players along with player ages and positions.  Here is a summary of the top ranked defensive players by position together with our main players for comparison – it shows just how far behind we have dropped in some departments.

There are only two goalkeepers in the list

Pos Player Club Score Transfer Value €m
48 Marc-André ter Stegen Barcelona 86.12 102.5
82 Jan Oblak Athletico Madrid 84.52 77
Petr Cech Arsenal 64 4.6
David Ospina Arsenal 66 3.4

Full Backs, I have also included our reported target Stephan Lichtsteiner

Pos Player Club Score Transfer Value €m
24 Dani Alves Paris SG 87.66 4.5
27 Kyle Walker Man City 87.6 90.1
44 Jordi Alba Barcelona 86.42 35.8
46 Joshua Kimmich Bayern Munich 86.35 75.3
47 Marcio Rafinha Bayern Munich 86.29 2.8
Sead Kolasinac Arsenal 68 14.6
Hector Bellerin Arsenal 76 52.6
Stephan Lichtsteiner Juventus 73 0

Centre Backs

Pos Player Club Score Transfer Value €m
5 Nicolás Otamendi Man City 90.47 86.4
11 Kalidou Kouibaly Napoli 89.17 70.6
13 James Rodriguez Bayern Munich 88.97 37.2
19 Raúl Abiol Napoli 88.46 16.2
26 Mats Hummels Bayern Munich 87.61 39.5
81 Shkodran Mustafi Arsenal 84.63 57.8
99 Nacho Monreal Arsenal 84.06 16.2
Laurent Koscielney Arsenal 80 25.6
Rob Holding Arsenal 73 18.7
Calum Chambers Arsenal 68 18.5
Sokratis Papastathopoulos Dortmund 73 9.6

Here we are probably not as badly off as some other areas – we do have two players in the top 100 and a number of younger players who should be capable of improvement .

Defensive Midfield

Pos Player Club Score Transfer Value €m
2 David Silva Man City 91.69 51.3
6= Luiz Fernandinho Man City 90.45 37.0
8 Kevin de Brune Man City 90.14 170.6
14 Jorginho Frello Napoli 88.74 44.3
15 Miralem Pjanić Juventus 88.67 52.4
63 Granit Xhaka Arsenal 85.27 69.3
Mohamed Elneny Arsenal 84 11.6
Aaron Ramsey Arsenal 83
Jack Wilshere Arsenal 82 0

Granit makes the top 100 and Mo isn’t far behind in terms of performance, neither is Aaron (a DM in CIES terms).  There is room for improvement from all of them but I would still like to see reinforcement (perhaps one of the following)

Pos Player Club Age Score Transfer Value €m
84 Lucas Biglia Milan 32 84.48 10.4
54 Jean Seri Nice 26 85.62 11.6
41 Javi Martinez Bayern Munich 29 86.65 12.0
39 Arturo Vidal Bayern Munich 31 86.94 14.0
73 Luiz Gustavo Marseille 30 84.98 15.4
90 Diego Demme Leipzig 26 84.29 16.1
66 Mousa Dembélé Spurs 30 85.21 18.5
70 Dani Parejo Valencia 29 85.10 20.6

OK so none of them are exactly spring chickens and actual transfer costs may be different from those shown but a deal for one of them ought to be on the cards.

In the next article we will look at attack minded players and some of the bargains that may be on offer.

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2 Replies to “The (not always) obvious link between winning the league and having top players”

  1. Interesting idea, possibly looks back too much rather than forwards – makes sense that the winning teams would have the best rated players come the end of the season. Would imagine that Chelsea’s players would have gone into the season much better rated, Monaco also, but that didn’t really inform the season ahead?

  2. The data also demonstrates the financial power of the Premier League in that a number of teams have high numbers of highly rated CIES players, notably Liverpool and Spurs. I appreciate both clubs have yet to have any silver-ware to show for it but I believe both of these clubs work to a Sustainability model (am I right about that I wonder?) and both have been doing better than Arsenal in a) building strong squads and b) doing better in the the Premiership.

    That’s the aspect of this interesting analysis undertaken by Andrew that shows how far we have dropped. Somehow we’ve invested in players who we’ve not been able to recoup big profits from on their sale and then replaced them with lesser players, according to the rankings at least.

    I’m hoping the combined talents and contacts of Arsenal’s Fab Four (Ivan, Raul, Sven and Unai) can gradually build up the quality and value of our squad with the relatively scant budgets they’ve reportedly been given. I’m up for being patient too. Been well trained by Arsenal.

    In the meantime, the one fundamental change that hasn’t happened at our Club is its lack of power to seriously invest. On my list of “catalyst for change” would have been The Kreonkes themselves trying to find alternative ways to raise investment income. e.g. Share issues, going into partnership with someone they trust. I get the impression Ivan and the commercial team have done pretty much all they can (?) from a commercial perspective.

    But to be fair, we do need to see how far we can go under the current arrangements and reassess then I guess. And I like the way the Club has structured everything so onwards and upwards. Even a little would be good.

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