Is Arsenal on the brink of trouble with such a tiny squad?

By Tony Attwood

It is a story that has often been pushed around: Arsenal are in trouble because they have such a small squad.   

Give me Sport for example on 1 February this year led with the headline Arsenal’s squad depth is seriously concerning, continuing with the sarcastic note that “Perhaps the only saving grace for the Gunners is the fact that their small squad will not be overexerted in the remainder of the 2021/22.”  

And, of course, even when the size of the squad is not being questioned, their quality can be as when Jamie Redknapp labelled Arsenal ‘a team full of kidders’

Football.London had been pursuing this point also claiming, “Once again Arsenal will be unable to name a full 25-man Premier League squad for the second half of the season.”   That was on 2 February as, they said, “Mikel Arteta was only able to name a 21-man squad in the summer as he utilised the full allocation of 17 overseas players, but he couldn’t name eight homegrown players with Hector Bellerin and Reiss Nelson being loaned out.”

That was all part of the daily story of Arsenal incompetence, and it conveniently forgot that of course Martinelli, Saka and Smith Rowe are not counted as part of the 25 man list because they are not old enough to be counted.  And if Arsenal now filled up its homegrown player list with new players bought in to make up the 25, then as Martinelli, Saka and Smith Rowe all come of age, other players brought in just for the sake of numbers, would then have to leave again.

That in turn would not do any good to Arsenal’s reputation in the field of recruiting young players and would mean that the likes of Folarin Balogun, Omar Rekik, Charlie Patino, Omari Hutchinson and Salah-Eddine Oulad would start wondering if they will ever get a chance.   As it is they look at Martinelli, Smith Rowe and Saka and know that if you are good enough, you play.  

But behind the issue the mindless media has raised, there is an interesting (but, as ever, left unmentioned) point.  Which is that is not a case of absolute numbers but of comparison.  Are Arsenal the real outsiders in terms of how many players we have in the squad, or are we just like other teams?

The implication from the media is always the former – Arsenal are the one useless club.  But the reality is generally the latter and fortunately in this case, we do have available to us Football Observatory who once again come to the rescue with data rather than petulant and mindless gibberish.

From their tables, we can see that Arsenal have put out 27 different players this season in the league games.   The largest number in the League is 32 players used by Everton.   And if Football.London and the rest want to put up Everton as a representative of how player management should be done, good luck to them.    Here’s the league table in the lower reaches…

Team P W D L F A GD Pts
15 Leeds United 24 5 8 11 29 50 -21 23
16 Everton 23 6 4 13 28 40 -12 22
17 Newcastle United 24 4 10 10 26 45 -19 22
18 Watford 24 5 3 16 24 43 -19 18
19 Burnley 22 2 11 9 20 29 -9 17
20 Norwich City 25 4 5 16 15 53 -38 17

And at the top of the table of clubs using the most players are, Watford, Aston Villa, Newcastle United, Leeds United.  So, far from Arsenal being dumb by not having and using enough players, the clubs that do use the most players are near the foot of the table.  

Arsenal have in fact fielded 27 players this season – the same as Liverpool.  Just two more than Manchester City, who seem to know a little bit about how to win the league.  

So the story is total, absolute, tripe, because it contains no comparisons.  And this is the eternal problem of the football media in England.  It picks a story and says “shock horror” but gives no information to allow the readership to draw a conclusion.

The fact is that the number of players fielded by a team is dependent on injuries, and the form of the team, as well as adjustments made when a new player joins the squad.  

Arsenal have been engaged in this to some degree, as Martin Odegaard (recently called by the Telegraph “Arsenal’s new leader” in a piece in which they suggest he is “justifying his lofty expectations”) has become a central player in the team and thus requires that the roles of Saka, Smith Rowe and Martinelli to be are adjusted around him.

In fact it is that issue, of fitting those four glorious young players into the team together that leads to thoughts that Martinelli might be moved upfront ahead of the Saka, Odegaard, Smith Rowe midfield.  But that debate is perhaps for another occasion.

16 Replies to “Is Arsenal on the brink of trouble with such a tiny squad?”

  1. Tony,

    I would classify this story about 21 players as typical ‘Lawrencing’.
    Perfect example of saying only the part of the truth that fits one’s agenda and not give comparisons.
    Could figure in this season’s “Amy Lawrencing” trophy, don’t you think ?

  2. I think Newcastle had to cut Isaac Hayden, Ciaran Clark and Jamal Lewis from their Premier League squads at the beginning of February. I think all 3 qualify as “homegrown”.

    Rio Ferdinand is at it again in the Metro. He says that that fourth place will go to Man. Utd, Spurs or Arsenal. In the next sentence, he states that West Ham will finish above Arsenal! In his eagerness to promote his agenda, he has managed to make two conflicting statements.

    I thought Foot and Mouth was a disease, but it turns out to be simply a side-effect of proximity.

  3. English media and the way they analyse the game, most of them just don’t like Arsenal, they’ll rather see us failing jsut so they can write-up something but thank God we keep disappointing them.

  4. That’s how they’ve been changing mouth for the past few weeks now,they are just some confused lots,I hope they continue cos we don’t want that favorite tag on us,let the pressure continue to be on Utd and Spursy.

  5. Arsenal have 21players in their squad. In other words 18 senior outfield players ( I include the likes of Saka, Martinelli, &ESR ) Man City have either 21or 22 dependent on if you count Cole Palmer. The vast difference between the two squads is Pep has a significant number of experienced players who have seen it all and indeed done it all in a variety of positions

    Over the years there have been various articles posted on Untold almost laughing at other clubs who couldn’t name 25 players aged over 21 in their squads. So it’s a bit odd now almost applauding something that was ridiculed in the past.

    The average number of non COVID absentees in the PL is around 4. In a blink of an eye through injury or illness you could see that 18 down to challenging levels and whilst of course their is the option to draw on young inexperienced players that would add extra issues in terms of selection issues.

    None of us will know if the gamble to reduce the Arsenal squad or come to that the City squad to the numbers currently available but if either suffer anything like the numbers currently unavailable at the l8,Es of Leicester or Burnley then there could be trouble ahead

  6. SkySports website is reporting that MPs want sanctions imposed on Abramovich and Arsenal shareholder Alisher Usmanov. Do you want to tell them, or shall we just keep quiet?

  7. seismic

    I didn’t think they the government could get involved.

    “An exclusive from The Times on Friday, reports that the UK government have made ‘supportive noises’ regarding the Saudi PIF Newcastle United takeover.

    Martyn Ziegler is Chief Sports Reporter at The Times and he says that they have seen a leaked letter from the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

    He reports that the letter: ‘spells out the government’s support for efforts by Saudi’s public investment fund (PIF), the country’s sovereign wealth fund which is overseen by the Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman and which aims to take an 80 per cent stake in Newcastle.’

    The newspaper states that the letter from the government department was in response to a campaign group which had called for the Newcastle United takeover to be blocked.

    Martyn Ziegler reports that: ‘The letter spells out concerns about human rights and the death penalty in Saudi Arabia but says “over recent years, we have seen an improvement in social and economic rights”. There are numerous commercial ties between the countries and this week the Saudi deputy defence minister thanked the UK for sending British military defence systems.’

    However, the letter also says that the government cannot be involved in the Premier League’s owner and director approval process.”


    Well either they can or they cant. It seems when it suits:


    From The Mag:

  8. The government shouldn’t need to get involved with the director and approval process if the FA (and the Premier League) possessed a shred of decency. If it turns out that they have been “exerting pressure” to get the Saudi deal through, could it be that FIFA rules concerning state-involvement in football clubs have been broken? Whether FIFA have the guts, or indeed the inclination to enforce those rules is a completely different matter, especially after seeing FIFA/Infantino’s claims that only 3 workers have died during the stadium construction in Qatar.

    As far as sanctions are concerned, I think the government can do whatever it wants, and FIFA can eat my shorts.

    While we’re on the subject of Newcastle, it seems to me that they are suffering less at the hands of PGMOL since the PIF takeover.

  9. seismic

    “While we’re on the subject of Newcastle, it seems to me that they are suffering less at the hands of PGMOL since the PIF takeover.”

    I hadn’t noticed, but then again I haven’t really seen them much, or even looked that closely when I have.

    It would be very interesting to look at some of the stats Untold delve into, both pre and post take over.

    % rates of tackles to fouls to cards ?

    Total numbers of fouls and cards ?

    Penalties for and against?

    I think the players are pretty much the same, although of course the manager has changed. But it would be interesting to see if the way they are refereed has changed at all.

    As I say, I hadn’t really noticed anything obvious. Would be interesting to see though.

  10. The Daily Mirror have admitted it.

    One of their contributors is “Chris Doyle – Sports Agenda Writer”. I kid you not.

    The “Writer” part is questionable. I can’t understand what he is talking about.

  11. Kevin Campbell has finally said something useful on footballinsider247, claiming that there is a Premier League agenda.

    laughable decisions

    Keith Hackett is of the opinion that Lacazette’s goal (which was ruled out by VAR), should have been allowed, and that we should have been awarded 2 penalties.

    The PL/PGMOL/media have been rumbled.

  12. In 1997-1998 (Wenger’s first double season) we used 27 players across the entirety of our League and FA Cup campaigns (46 matches). We have 15 matches to go, and 26 players named on the Premier League website.

    Maybe this could be re-phrased as – “Is PGMOL on the brink of trouble with such a tiny squad?”

    They seem to be over-playing their jokers.

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