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By Tony Attwood
We have known for quite a long time that Arsenal has the youngest team in the Premier League, a fact which becomes all the more significant when it is remembered that Arsenal are fourth in the premier league.
But more point has been given to that statistic with the additional data provided by the recent CIES Football Observatory Weekly Post which “ranks 60 leagues worldwide according to the percentage of minutes played since the 1st of January 2021 by footballers that did not yet celebrate their 21st birthday at matches played.”
More information on clubs from 31 top divisions of UEFA member associations is available in the CIES Football Observatory Demographic Atlas which reveals that Arsenal have fielded 27 players in 28 games this season with an average age of 24.9 years. This compares with other clubs near the top of the league as shown below…
|1||Manchester City||29||18||50||70||27.3 yrs|
|5||Tottenham Hotspur||29||36||11||51||26.9 yrs|
|6||Manchester United||29||40||8||50||27.6 yrs|
|7||West Ham United||30||39||10||48||28.4 yrs|
Obviously just having a young team isn’t enough – they have to be talented too, but younger players do have that extra general benefit of quicker recovery from injury, as well as the possibility of retaining their talents as footballers for longer.
And given that it is often suggested that players reach their physical peak around 27 we might feel that a lot of the current Arsenal team have several years of development and improvement still ahead of them, before they come to rely more and more on experience to get them through the games.
Of course, those figures above are for the youngest team through the season but of course. But on occasion, it got even younger than that. For example, in the game against Burnley (not one that will linger in the memory for long of course) Arsenal put out the youngest team seen anywhere in the Premier League this season, at 23.8 years.
That team was
Gabriel Holding White Tierney
Lokonga Ødegaard Smith Rowe
Saka Lacazette Martinelli
The old men of the squad were Rob Holding at 26 and Lacazette at 30. Martinelli and Saka were both 20 at the time. On the bench, Arsenal had four 18-year-olds… Charlie Patino, Sala Oulad M’Hand, Omari Hutchinson and Mika Biereth.
In fact, when one measures the average age of a team across all the Premier League matches of the season, the 18 youngest teams put were all Arsenal teams. The only team to challenge Arsenal in terms of youth were Norwich City who once (but only once) put out a team with an average age of 23.7 years.
At the other end of the scale, we have the old men of Burnley who have twice put out a team with an average age of 30.9 years, followed by Watford. In fact the 25 oldest teams put out in Premier League matches this season all come from Burnley and Watford. Now given their position in the league, and given that of Arsenal, that probably suggests that the old adage should be “you can’t win anything with old men” rather than “you can’t win things with kids”.
After that at the top end of the old men league occupying the next 25 positions for old age we have
- Wolverhampton: 2 games (average age 29.2 years)
- Chelsea: 2 games (average age 29.1 years and 29.0 years)
- Burnley, West Ham, Liverpool (average age 29.0 years)
The oldest Manchester City team (seen just once) had an average age of 28.8 years. Overall the average age of teams in the Premier League this season is 26.9 years.
Of course, that old adage that “you don’t win things with kids” probably still applies to some degree, and having a few older heads on the park (such as Lacazette) undoubtedly helps keep things cool when matters might otherwise get heated.
But what these figures show is just how much of the current Arsenal team, a team that has risen from the foot of the league after three matches to fourth in the league after 28, have long playing careers still to come.
Indeed just in the short while that we have been watching the likes of Martinelli, Smith Rowe and Saka they have all developed considerably. As indeed has Ødegaard, now given a chance to flourish beyond the ceaseless demands of Real Madrid.
As they say, the future looks rather promising – although we might note that Liverpool have one of the oldest teams in the league – where the average age is 27.2. Which makes me think of this: do those managers who like to move around from club to club, do so, when they see the team they have carefully built over the years gradually gets old?