Mine’s Bigger Than Yours – Super Squads

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There was quite a big feature in the Observer today focusing on squad sizes (read it, it’s a very good article), with particular focus on Liverpool who have a massive 62 professionals on their books. Closely following are Arsenal with 59, Man Utd with 51 and Sunderland, Chelsea and Spurs all in the mid-forties. Now big clubs have always had big squads and to be fair a lot of those Liverpool 62 are youth players and reserves but it can’t be a good situation long term. Snapping up young players is nothing new but it seems to have reached the stage of just stockpiling players so other teams can’t have them. The clubs can’t lose – if the players develop to be world/international/Premier League class then they profit from playing them and then selling them on whereas if they don’t make the grade then all they’ve lost is the cost of wages which won’t be high at young age. It’s worth gambling £30K a year on a promising teenager just if it means he’ll be on your books rather than your rivals’.

Those sticker albums are only going to get harder to fill...

Those sticker albums are only going to get harder to fill...

One of the ways Man Utd became so rich was through selling players who didn’t make the grade at Old Trafford but were good enough for lesser teams. The number of guys Fergie would get a million or two for just because they had played once or twice for the United first team was huge. The likes of Chris Casper, Terry Cooke and John Curtis had never done anything whilst at Old Trafford, but Fergie would use his wily ways to persuade some lower league manager that they were worth having. I remember in the 90s when Milan in particular used to buy top players just so no one else could have them. This was back in the days of the three foreigner rule, yet they would buy guys like Papin, Savicevic, Boban (one of my favourite ever players) and Desailly even though they still had Van Basten, Gullit and Rijkaard. Since then, the loosening of European borders has only made it easier for clubs to buy whoever they want from wherever they want.

 

Gullit, Rijkaard, Savicevic, Baresi, Van Basten, Papin, Boban - Awesome

Gullit, Rijkaard, Savicevic, Baresi, Van Basten, Papin, Boban - Awesome

 

Could there be some kind of squad limit introduced? Countries are forced to take just 23 to a World Cup or European Championship so why can’t there be a limit for clubs as well? The big four will know about the 25 man limit for the Champions League (though that doesn’t have to include home grown players who automatically get entered on the B list) so why can’t it be extended to the Premier League? How about using the US roster system? NBA teams are limited to 15 players (3 sets of starting line up), baseball teams have 40 while American football has 53 as a limit. With the latter two it gets a bit complicated as you have pitching/batting and offense/defence specialities but the basketball level seems about right.

You’d have to have the worst injury crisis known to man to get through three different starting line ups in a season.  A cursory glance show Man City have used the most players in the league this season with 32 followed by West Ham with 31 and Chelsea and Sunderland with 30. Villa have used the fewest with just 21. As if to prove our point, Liverpool have used only 24 of their 62 players in the league – not even half. Even accounting for the 14 out on loan, that’s still a lot of unsatisfied guys.

When you factor in the fact that most sides tend to be settled, with at least seven or eight players starting the majority of games, the argument for huge squads doesn’t really stand up. Even factoring in cup competitions doesn’t really change things. Man City haven’t used anyone in three cup competitions who hasn’t played in the league. Even Arsenal, notorious for young, understrength teams in Carling Cup and dead rubber European ties have still used just 33 in total.

The bigger the squad the further the camera.

The bigger the squad the further the camera.

Football is big business now so you don’t imagine the clubs doing anything to make themselves weaker but it would be great if some kind of limit was put in place. A bit more competition between clubs is always healthy and it would mean less young players on the scrapheap too. Somehow I doubt this will happen though and what are the odds that Liverpool increase their squad size this summer instead?

 

T.

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