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The 20th player

In 1984, Liverpool famously used just 15 outfield players in a 66-match season. 12 of those individuals played in over half of those matches, with just 3 fringe players coming in for cover.

Football has unmistakably changed; large squads are now the norm and rotation is an accepted part of the game. However, teams still rely on a ‘core’ group of 10 outfield players competing in over 50% of possible league playing time, while the 15th most-appearing player on average plays about 25% of possible minutes.

Copy of squadutil

But what of the 20th player? What kind of individual do we want in this role? Virtually all teams use at least 20 outfield players in a season, and on average this player features in about 10% of possible minutes – or 9 minutes per game (in Norway this is as low as 6%, and as high as 13% in the English Championship).

Should he be an experienced head, someone the manager can turn to in the game’s final moments? Or a youngster, a player who is not a core player today but must start somewhere?

A quick scan of the data tells us that players like Aaron Ramsey (when aged 17), Daniel Sturridge (20) and Mario Götze (17) have all been the 20th most-appearing player in their careers. Every other young player would have started somewhere near 20th in the pecking order, with a view to rising up the ranks year-by-year.

9 minutes per game may not seem much, but accumulated over a season it can be crucial experience for a young player, and ultimately benefit the club in the long run. It’s not always easy to give an unknown quantity a chance, but the 20th player might be a good place to start.

About Omar Chaudhuri

Omar Chaudhuri has created 128 entries.