At just 23, Manchester City have used the least amount of players in the Premier League this season.
At the other end of the table, Nottingham Forest (33), Southampton (32) and Chelsea (32) have used the most.
What this shows is that it is not about the quantity of players in your squad, but the quality.
We have Champions League football next year, and can expect to play 50+ games in 2023/24 – Manchester City will play over 60 this season.
That has lead to many saying “we need to increase how many players we have” and question why we would consider letting the likes of Charlie Patino and Folarin Balogun depart. These thought processes are incorrect.
We compete on 4 fronts next season not by promoting young, raw players to make the squad larger, but by signing players at the top end of the squad.
Manchester City’s squad is small, but filled with quality. That allows Pep Gaurdiola to rest and rotate regularly, ensuring players that are close to the “red zone” do not get over played and pick up an injury.
They rotate between Riyad Mahrez, Phil Foden, Jack Grealish and Bernardo Silva. They have John Stones, Ruben Dias, Aymeric Laporte, Nathen Ake and Manuel Akanji as options at the back.
This means players come in and out of the team, and they suffer very few injuries.
According to Planet Football, up until 16/03/2023, Manchester City players had missed just 49 games through injury this season. Only Brighton (44) had players miss less games.
We were 7th on the table with 79 games missed (the data was taken on the same day as William Saliba’s final game). 9 teams have players that have missed over 100 combined games:
1. Liverpool – 162 games missed through injury
2. Chelsea – 124
3. Newcastle United – 122
4. Nottingham Forest – 120
5. Bournemouth – 116
6. Wolves – 108
7. Manchester United – 106
8. Leeds United – 104
9. Leicester City – 103
We have not suffered due to William Saliba being injured because we do not have enough players. We have 4 central defenders, plus 2 right backs that can play in the middle.
We have suffered because the drop off from Saliba to his cover (Rob Holding) is too great – remember City have close to £300m of central defensive options.
Now I do not expect us to go out and outspend Manchester City. They are state funded which allows them unlimited funds to spend on transfer and, more importantly, wages. But that does not mean we can not improve.
The Patino situation sums up what I am talking about.
Fans call for Patino to stay as we need more players. But personally I would buy Declan Rice.
Rice improves the top end of the team. He would walk into our starting XI in two positions; replacing either Partey or Xhaka.
Patino does not walk into the team. He would not be adequete cover for Xhaka or Partey.
You buy Rice, you then rotate Partey, Xhaka and Declan, which keeps all 3 fitter and playing at a higher level for longer. You keep Patino, he is not of the required level which leads Xhaka and Partey to start every game, over play, and get injured.
“But you can have both” some will cry. Really?
Say we buy Rice, that then gives us: Rice, Xhaka, Partey, Odegaard and Jorginho. With further back up in Mohamed Elneny and Fabio Vieira. Now let’s do a little exercise:
Rodri – 50 games played this season (Rice)
Kevin de Bruyne – 44 (Odegaard)
Ilkay Gundogan – 46 (Partey)
Bernardo Silva – 50 (Xhaka)
Phillips – 17 (Jorginho)
Now considering this season Partey has played more games (36) than any other year since joining, I do not think we can expect him to play 50. So you could probably take 15 off him and give 15 to Jorginho.
So we keep Patino and sign Rice, where does he actually get minutes? Get game time? Because he is not better than any of the 5 Arsenal players mentioned above.
Now yes, some will argue that he could replace Elneny or Vieira in the squad. But realistically, how many minutes will they get next season?
By signing Rice, we would have improved the top end of the squad. And that means we can not give game time to Patino.
I have expanded on this thought process, trying to match up our players to the Manchester City equivalent to further highlight the point:
|Player||Games played||Arsenal equivalent|
|Stefan Ortega||11||Matt Turner|
|Scott Carson||0||Karl Hein|
|Kyle Walker||32||Ben White|
|Rico Lewis||20||Takehiro Tomiyasu|
|John Stones||29||William Saliba|
|Rúben Dias||39||Rob Holding|
|Aymeric Laporte||20||Jakub Kiwior|
|Josh Wilson-Esbrand||2||Reull Walters|
|Nathan Aké||39||Olexsandr Zinchenko|
|João Cancelo / Sergio Gómez||45||Kieran Tierney|
|Rodri||50||Declan Rice ???|
|Kevin De Bruyne||44||Martin Odegaard|
|Bernardo Silva||50||Granit Xhaka|
|İlkay Gündoğan||46||Thomas Partey|
|Cole Palmer||22||Fabio Vieira|
|Máximo Perrone||2||Mohamed Elneny|
|Riyad Mahrez||42||Bukayo Saka|
|Jack Grealish||46||Gabriel Martinelli|
|Phil Foden||41||Leandro Trossard|
|Erling Haaland||47||Gabriel Jesus|
|Julián Álvarez||43||Eddie Nketiah|
As you can see, we already match up fairly well in terms of volume of players. We also have Emile Smith Rowe as additional squad depth.
The difference between us and Manchester City is not quantity of players but quality. And that is why we need to be looking at the top end of the squad, not bringing in youth players to add additional numbers.
Our 2nd choice striker is Eddie Nketiah. Manchester City’s is Julian Alvarez.
Balogun is no better than Nketiah, and whilst integratting him into the squad increases our options from 2 to 3, it does not close the gap from 1 to 2. The drop off from Jesus to Nketiah is larger than from Haaland to Alvarez.
If we are looking at signing a new striker this summer, it has to be someone that is better than Nketiah – and even perhaps better than Jesus – rather than someone who is not as good as either.
And even if you argue that Balogun is better than Nketiah, you would struggle to argue that he is on par with Alvarez. We should perhaps be looking at “better than Jesus” with Gabi becoming 2nd choice striker / wing option, than just looking at “better than Nketiah.”
Declan Rice takes us up a step in quality. Charlie Patino does not.
In defence, whilst some might be tempted to say “promote Reull Walters and use Ben White in the middle”, I would prefer to buy a central defender that is better than Holding, and continue to utilise White on the right.
Walters is just 18. He can go out on loan like Manchester City’s Josh Wilson-Esbrand has this.
Buying a top attacker, a top central midfielder, a top central defender pushing others “down a spot”. It is no longer Xhaka, Partey, Jorginho, Lokonga, Elneny, Patino but Rice, Xhaka, Partey, Jorginho, Lokonga, Elneny, Patino.
You then thin out the squad but selling those at the bottom end (Lokonga, Elneny, Patino).
In summary, this summer is not about increasing the quantity of players in the squad. It is all about increasing the quality.
Expect just 3 or 4 signings, and a lot of fringe and youth outgoings. And do not cry because your hyped up youngster has been sold “without getting a chance”. And certainly do not demand that we sign Rice whilst keep Patino. Pick a side of the fence.
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