Squad usage profiles, Premier League, 2016/17
I want to focus more on the impact of individual players next season but I realised that I didn’t even have a good way of visualising who was on the pitch and when, so I’m road-testing another new graphical template that proved popular for the EFL divisions.
What I’ve done for every club is to plot out their league campaign minute-by-minute and then shade in a bar for each player showing when they were on the pitch. The players’ bars are then laid out next to each other, in descending order of how long each spent on the pitch this season (also shown as a percentage of the club’s total playing minutes), to allow for comparisons.
I’ve also factored in a calculation of what each club’s most-used combination of 11 players was and shaded the minutes that they were on the pitch together using a darker colour. At the top I’ve also included the total number of minutes that they featured alongside each other, which is often surprisingly low.
To make reading across the graphics easier, I’ve drawn vertical lines separating each match and each month, plus horizontal ones between each player’s row and beneath the 11 most-used players.
I’ve shoved all 20 clubs’ graphics below in alphabetical order. Just a few quick observations (and a bit of supplementary information) to give you the idea of what to look for:
- There were five ever-presents this season – Cesar Azpilicueta, Steve Cook, Ben Gibson, Fraser Forster and Ben Foster – all from different clubs and only the last two are goalkeepers. A single late substitution prevented Joel Ward from making it six and a few others (like Nathaniel Clyne and Lukasz Fabianksi) only missed one match.
- Chelsea deployed the same combination of 11 players for just shy of 1,000 minutes this season, which is far more than any other club in the top four English divisions. Nemanja Matic’s absence in early December saw Cesc Fabregas come in to break what would otherwise have been a sequence of eight identical starting line-ups once Conte found a winning formula.
- The next longest-serving combination of 11 players was West Brom‘s far lower 379 minutes racked up over five consecutive matches starting in November after James Morrison displaced Nacer Chadli.
- While Chelsea used a relatively small core of players, but deployed one more in total (24) than both the Baggies and Liverpool, who both used just 23 different players in total. The Reds and Tottenham both gave Premier League starts to just 20 players, which was the joint-lowest in the top flight.
- The 33 different players used by Watford was the division’s highest, although the team with the least-deployed combination of 11 players was Everton, who only managed to keep the same combination of players on the pitch for 133 minutes. Few were able to hold down a regular place in the Toffees’ first team squad this season due to a combination of injuries and tinkering.