By Tony Attwood
We have been accepting for some time that Arsenal has the youngest team in the league – but of course much depends on how you measure the youngest team.
So for example, do you take the first team squad, or the average age of all the players who have played for the first team? Or what about the player age multiplied by the number of minutes? Or maybe the average age per game, add those together and divide by 11. Do you include substitutes, no matter how short their appearance on the pitch?
CIES Football Observatory Weekly Post has done it by ranking clubs from 60 leagues worldwide “according to the average age of line-ups fielded during the current or last completed season”.
They make Southampton the youngest team in the Premier League, coming up with an average age of 24.4 years, while Arsenal come in with an average age of 24.43 years putting Arsenal in second place. Leeds come in third.
Interestingly most of the bigger clubs are some way down the list. Here’s the youngest, oldest and traditional big six for the Premier League showing their position from youngest to oldest.
- 1. Southampton 24.4 years.
- 2. Arsenal: 24.43 years
- 9. Manchester United 26.83 years
- 12. Manchester City. 27.44 years
- 16. Tottenham Hotspur. 27.63 years
- 17. Liverpool. 27.76
- 18. Chelsea. 27.83 years
- 20. West Ham United 28.31 years.
Arsenal have the highest percentage of under 21 players (26.7% of the squad), which compares with 0% (yes none at all) in the under 21 categories for Tottenham Hots and West Ham. Looks like I’ll have to stop calling them the Tiny Totts from now on. What shall it be? (And what’s going on – maybe the financial information, at the end of this discussion, gives a clue).
The mean position (10th place) for under 21s is occupied by Aston Villa with 7.3% under 21s.
In terms of the old timers, top of the league is Chelsea with 38.8% over 30 years old. Then comes Newcastle with 38.7%. Liverpool are fourth on 36%, which perhaps explains why they have so many injuries.
If we were to look across the big 5 leagues in Europe, Arsenal come in fourth overall for average team age. Valencia have the lowest average age (23.99 years), followed by VfB Stuffgart at 24.22. then Southampton on 24.40 years and fourth Arsenal, 24.43 years.
The report notes that Atlético Madrid and Tottenham are among the five big-5 league teams that did not yet field U21 footballers. I wonder why Tottenham are shying away from youth.
The number of older players really is interesting in terms of contrast. As noted Arsenal have just 1.4% of their team aged over 30. This compares with Chelsea who have 38.8% and Newcastle on 38.7%. Half the clubs in the Premier League have over 20% of their players aged 30 or more. 11 of the Premier League clubs have under 7.5% of their playing time occupied by players aged under 21. Tottenham and West Ham haven’t used any.
Of course none of us knows how long the youngsters will last or how well the youngsters will do, but to my mind this emphasis on youth does bode well for the future.
And speaking of the future we might take a look at PL2 – the under 21 league
Crystal Palace Academy
Manchester City Academy
Wolverhampton Wanderers Academy
Leicester City Academy
Brighton & Hove Albion Academy
Manchester United Academy
Tottenham Hotspur Academy
Blackburn Rovers Academy
West Ham United Academy
The fact is that despite promoting players who could still play for the under 21s quickly into the first team squad, we are still second in that table.
The table also doesn’t make very good reading for West Ham United who are currently 18th in the Premier League with their first team. It suggests they don’t have too many talented youngsters ready to move up.
Tottenham’s position is also interesting, given their propensity for playing older men in the Premier League – only four teams have older average ages in their squads (West Ham, Fulham, Chelsea and Liverpool.)
It does show that some clubs such as Arsenal have placed their emphasis on youth both in terms of their under 21 side and their Premier League side Tottenham are doing poorly in the under 21 league, and have one of the oldest squads in the PL league.
I wonder if Tottenham haven’t been cutting back on their youth set up, in order to help cope with their debts.
In February 2021 Football.London said, “Tottenham Hotspur possess more debt than any other European club, according to analysis from football finance expert Kieran Maguire, although much of it is a result of long-term borrowing linked to their new stadium…. (the) total debt comes out at about £1.77billion, with Barcelona second on £1.03billion.”
Then in November 2021 Tottenham H posted another £80m losses, which seems rather careless. But I am sure they know what they are doing.
We were critical in the past of the way Arsenal’s finances were being handled (With the emphasis on profit against investment Arsenal finances slip, for example) but perhaps we were a little hasty.
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