by Tony Attwood
On 21 December 2019 Arsenal drew 0-0 with Everton.
The report on Sky Sports was typical, the opening paragraphs of their post-match posting reading,
“New Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti and Arsenal head coach Mikel Arteta looked on from the stands at Goodison Park as their respective new sides played out a dour goalless draw on Saturday lunchtime.
“However, there was little for the new men to get excited about, with Jordan Pickford’s smart reflex stop from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s close-range shot six minutes after half-time the closest either side came to scoring.”
But as ever Sky Sports rather missed the point – although to be fair so did most commentators. But the point, or perhaps one point among many, was the youthfulness of the Arsenal team on that occasion.
The average age of the team was 24.2 years – it turns out that so far this season only one club has ever put out a younger squad (Manchester United against Brighton last November). It compares with clubs like Crystal Palace and Watford who have regularly put out teams with the average age of over 30.
The youngsters in the team that day included Bukayo Saka (18), Smith Rowe (19), Martinelli (18) and Reiss Nelson (20).
Indeed with an average squad age of 25.6 years Arsenal have the youngest squad in the Premier League. (The oldest is Palace with 30 years average age).
Now we all remember the old adage of Alan Hansen “You can’t win anything with kids” (Match of the Day 1995), and of course an average age of 25.6 means the Arsenal team is not made up totally of youngsters (nor indeed baby goats).
But it is interesting to note that at the moment the club does have a younger squad than most, and there is undoubtedly more to come. You might recall that we recently published a list of the top players in the world born after 1 January 2001.
2. Eduardo Camavinga (FRA, 2002, defensive midfielder, Rennes)
3. Mason Greenwood (ENG, 2001, striker, Manchester United)
5. Rodrygo (BRA, 2001, winger, Real Madrid)
6. Gabriel Martinelli (BRA, 2001, striker, Arsenal)
8. Ansu Fati (ESP, 2002, winger, FC Barcelona)
9. Bukayo Saka (ENG, 2001, left-back, Arsenal)
10. William Saliba (FRA, 2001, centre-back, Arsenal)
Not only did we have three players in the top ten, no other club had three players in the top fifty!
These statistics make particularly interesting reading when compared with the other top clubs. In the list below I have taken the top seven clubs by total marketing value, according to Transfer Market.
|Club||Average age||Total market value|
Obviously the top two teams in the league are also the biggest spenders by a long way. And obviously spending on players has a link to league position over the last few seasons (although that is by no means a perfect indicator).
But I wonder if the average age of the squad combined with the number of youngsters coming through at the moment might not be an indicator of things to come. Arsenal’s market value is undoubtedly lower than its true value because of the number of youngsters in the squad.
Youngsters tend to be valued more lowly than you might expect simply because the number of youngers who fail to make the grade despite early promise is very high. This can come about for many reasons but an early serious injury, or lack of a balanced temperament and inability to handle the resultant fame, are among the chief reasons.
Looking at these figures the value of some of Arsenal’s squad did surprise me a little – although I am sure that is just me being out of touch… Figures are from Transfer Market.
|Player||Date of birth / Age||Market value|
|1||Augameyang||Jun 18, 1989 (30)||£50.40m|
|2||Pepe||May 29, 1995 (24)||£46.80m|
|3||Lacazette||May 28, 1991 (28)||£43.20m|
|4||Guendouzi||Apr 14, 1999 (21)||£36.45m|
|5||Torreira||Feb 11, 1996 (24)||£32.40m|
|6||Bellerin||Mar 19, 1995 (25)||£28.80m|
|7||Ceballos||Aug 7, 1996 (23)||£28.80m|
|8||Leno||Mar 4, 1992 (28)||£25.20m|
|9||Marinelli||Jun 18, 2001 (18)||£22.50m|
|10||Xhaka||Sep 27, 1992 (27)||£21.60m|
|11||Tierney||Jun 5, 1997 (22)||£18.00m|
|12||Saka||Sep 5, 2001 (18)||£18.00m|
|13||Ozil||Oct 15, 1988 (31)||£15.75m|
|14||Kolasinac||Jun 20, 1993 (26)||£14.40m|
|15||Willock||Aug 20, 1999 (20)||£14.40m|
|16||Sokratis||Jun 9, 1988 (31)||£13.05m|
|17||Chambers||Jan 20, 1995 (25)||£13.05m|
|18||Maitland Niles||Aug 29, 1997 (22)||£13.05m|
|19||Reiss Nelson||Dec 10, 1999 (20)||£11.25m|
|20||David Luiz||Apr 22, 1987 (33)||£10.80m|
|21||Mustafi||Apr 17, 1992 (28)||£10.8m|
So let’s come back to the question: does having a young squad help?
Yes in the sense that for some of them if not most of them, the best will yet be to come. They can grow and develop with a team they know, and that is always beneficial. Yes also because two of our three stars from the under 21 table are not yet listed.
And yes because players like Holding who have had such a bad time with injuries have now dropped out of the table because of the uncertainty about their ability to recover their earlier form.
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