How big a squad does a club like Arsenal need? And why is Man U so different?

By Tony Attwood

Arsenal have a first team squad (according to the official Arsenal website) of 27 players.

These are players who are clearly part of the elite group at the club – irrespective of their ages (which is why it is possible to have over the regulation 25).

Now this squad is not the same as those announced on the official League site, where Arsenal’s list of 25 players is actually shown as 21 players without the underage players.

Home grown?
1 Cedric Ricardo Alves Soares
2 Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
3 Calum Chambers HGP
4 Gabriel Dos Santos Magalhães
5 Mohamed Naser Elsayed Elneny
6 Robert Samuel Holding HGP
7 Sead Kolasinac
8 Alexandre Lacazette
9 Bernd Leno
10 Ainsley Maitland-Niles HGP
11 Pablo Mari Villar
12 Edward Keddar Nketiah HGP
13 Martin Odegaard
14 Thomas Teye Partey
15 Nicolas Pepe
16 Aaron Ramsdale HGP
17 Albert-Mboyo Sambi Lokonga
18 Kieran Tierney
19 Takehiro Tomiyasu
20 Benjamin White HGP
21 Granit Xhaka

So we only have 21 players in our first-team squad, out of a possible total of 25, which may seem like a typical bit of Arsenal management mishandling of the situation, which the media love to go on and on about.

But the point is that within the first-team squad we also have a group who are not included because on the qualifying date they were all under 21.

  • Arthur Okonkwo
  • Nuno Tavares
  • Bukayo Saka
  • Emile Smith Rowe
  • Folarin Balogun
  • Gabrielle Martinelli

In addition to this, we have seven potential first-team squad members out on loan.   Which means that all the chatter about who we are going to sign in January really ought to be taking into account the current size of our squad, and the loanees.

But to do that we have to compare ourselves with the rest of the top clubs in the PL.  We have 27 first teamers – but what about the rest?

Liverpool like Arsenal have 27.   Chelsea also have 27.  Manchester City have 26.  Tottenham have 24, and so do West Ham

These numbers come from the clubs’ own websites, and interestingly they all tend to set out their first team squad in the same way – which obviously you can look at through the links provided.

But you may have noticed one club is missing from the list.  Manchester United, and this is because they claim to have 38 members of their first team squad.  (That is not a mistyping on my part – really it is 38!!!!!)

And not only is that totally out of line with the other clubs who are either challenging for a top-four place or who think that they are, even if they aren’t (won’t mention any names here but the initial TH come to mind for some reason), it is really odd because most of these first team members are not being used.  Or at least not much.  For example, they actually include five keepers, when everyone else seems to be quite happy with three.

Now I was pondering this issue when what should pop up on my screen by an article in the Telegraph headlined Man Utd fringe players increasingly frustrated by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s lack of rotation

It begins, “Despite six defeats in past 12 games, including humiliations to Liverpool and Man City, Solskjaer has remained loyal to same players.”   And it continues, “A number of Manchester United’s fringe players feel misled about their playing prospects this season amid growing frustration about Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s reluctance to rotate despite a dire run of results that have left his future hanging in the balance.”

Now it is true of course that Manchester United are playing in one more competition than Arsenal this season,  But then so are Liverpool, Chelsea, West Ham, and indeed, bless them, Tottenham Hots who are in the mighty Europa Conference League.

Of course we shouldn’t laugh at that because it could so easily have been us, but I am rather glad it isn’t because it would have automatically been included in my season ticket, and the tickets for those matches would have been impossible to sell, meaning I either just had to waste it, or make the 180 mile round trip to watch the reserves play against Tiddleytoddly City of lower Andorra.

But anyway Tottenham are doing it, and their results have left them in second place battling it out for a place in the knock out stages in their remaining games against Rennes and Mura – it would be an almighty cockup if they failed to make it through…

P W D L F A GD Pts
Rennes 4 3 1 0 7 4 3 10
Tottenham Hots 4 2 1 1 10 6 4 7
Vitesse Arnhem 4 2 0 2 6 5 1 6
NS Mura 4 0 0 4 2 10 -8 0

But to get back to my point – Manchester United have this enormous squad, while all the other teams each have a first-team squad of a similar, smaller, size.

Now we have already seen that Manchester United are somewhat out of step with the rest of the big boys in the league in terms of putting in the smallest number of tackles but managing to get an insanely higher ratio of yellow cards.

So maybe the manager has built up the squad to cope with the bans that will undoubtedly be heading their way shortly.

Or maybe he saw what Arteta was doing in terms of cutting tackles in recent years and thought, yes we can do that, but didn’t quite get the process right.

Or maybe he simply has no idea what he is doing.   That would seem rather odd, as he’s been in football all his life, but I really do wonder.


4 Replies to “How big a squad does a club like Arsenal need? And why is Man U so different?”

  1. I see Jamie Carragher has apologized for “getting it badly wrong” with his assessment of Aaron Ramsdale back in the summer. The fact is that’s not all he should apologize for. If you go back and look at a lot of the other things he said in the summer, especially regarding Edu, he has a lot of apologizing to do. The criticism he was dishing out all summer was ridiculous.

    But even when he’s supposedly apologizing he cant do it without having yet another dig.

    This is what he said:

    “Since I’ve come into punditry I’ve probably not been the most popular person with Arsenal supporters as they’ve always been really poor,’ he said on Wrighty’s House podcast.

    So we’ve “always been really poor” have we ? Okay, lets go back a bit shall we and see what Carragher had to say on SKY Sports back in 2015, just prior to Liverpool’s FA Cup Semi Final against Aston Villa, you know just for a bit of context. I love a bit of context.

    This is what he said:

    “…..When you finish (Playing) you will want to look back. When you play for a side like Liverpool, Manchester United or Arsenal, or as a manager, then you have to win trophies”.

    “Top four is good for the people above that. For money, more players, but at the end of your time you won’t be judged on how many times you get in the Champions League – it’s how many trophies you’ve won”.

    “If it’s one or another as a player I’d always pick winning the FA Cup.”

    So lets have a look at what Arsenal have done during Carraghers time at SKY Sports that’s so poor shall we ? Well over those 9 years yes it’s true to say we did waste our time getting in that not a trophy trophy top 4 spot. I know terrible. But as we all know we stopped all that nonsense and started doing exactly what Carragher said we should do, and started winning trophies. There’s a thing.

    4 FA Cups to be precise. By some quirk of fate the exact thing Carragher says he would “Always pick”. Would you believe it?

    So Arsenal do EXACTLY what he says he wanted to do. Did what he said he would “always pick”. Attained what he obviously sees as real success. True glory. Achieved what being a footballer is all about, and Won trophies, and more specifically the FA Cup, and yet we’ve been REALLY POOR.

    The guys a complete and utter hypocrite. Frankly he can shove his apology where the sun don’t shine.

    And just to rub salt in the wound he was given space to spout this garbage on our own beloved Ian Wrights podcast.

    Thanks ‘Wrighty’. Same old same old.

  2. Carragher dislike of Arsenal may stem from the time that Henry showed him up at Anfield.

    Similar to Danny Mills after being nutmegged.

  3. John L

    As you suggest, at least there is a reason behind Carraghers obvious dislike of Arsenal, and why he says what he says.

    As to why Wright would allow him to air his distorted, bitter and twisted views on his podcast is a little more difficult to explain.

    I cannot abide Wright at any price. His flamboyant outbursts and proclamations of ‘love’ of Arsenal on our ‘good days’ is utterly fake. True love is shown on the difficult days, and it is on those difficult days that Wright cannot wait to stick the knife in.

    I know a lot of our ex players are shameless in there criticism and ridicule of all thongs Arsenal but Wright is one of the worst.

  4. Perhaps Carragher’s dislike of Arsenal probably stems from the time in January 2002 when he threw a coin into the Highbury crowd during an FA cup match.

    He received a three-match ban, a £40,000 fine and was omitted from the England squad. Arsenal won the game 1-0 with nine men.

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