Three players too many
Covid will put pressure on expenditure this summer, so it helps to have evidence to weigh up different cost-cutting measures. One obvious way to do this is by reducing the size of a club’s senior squad – the question is by how much?
In the big 5 European leagues this season, there were a total of 307 outfield players aged 23 or older who played less than 270 league minutes this season, or an average of over 3 players per club (a useful benchmark if you want to check the number at your own club – we’ve looked at all players who were at the club at least half the season).
These are players who will tend to be more expensive by virtue of their age, but are not materially contributing on the field. The average player in this group added just 86 minutes in other competitions, meaning they were not especially useful as a rotation option either.
There are of course intangible benefits to some players who don’t play. They may be good at keeping training standards high, or can help support younger members of the squad. But we should ask ourselves if these benefits outweigh the costs. Would an academy player yearning for his chance not also maintain intensity in training sessions? Could mentoring and leadership roles not come from within the coaching or club leadership teams? And if an injury crisis does hit, we can take confidence from the fact that young players often surprise us.
Trimming a senior squad by three players could just be for the benefit of our club’s bottom line, or it could be turned into a variable cost – a bonus (for staff or players) scaled on both team and individual performance, to reflect the uncertainties of next season. While squad depth may be reassuring for head coaches, any club that has ever gained a competitive edge has had to do so by at least taking a small step into the unknown. A smaller squad may just be that.