Arsenal have moved into a new phase of Wenger’s tenure, with a fourth generation team emerging over the past two seasons.
The early games of this season have seen an altered Arsenal, seemingly rebalanced following the additions of Cazorla, Podolski and Giroud over the summer.
It is clear that the team and transfer policies have changed since losing Cesc Fabregas, but how does this reflect in the team’s ages?
Much was made of the young team that Arsène assembled, built around a core of players such as Fabregas and Van Persie, who joined the club close to the middle of the last decade. Some might have predicted a successful future for that team, but successive failures led to their dismantlement.
The transfer market strategy for new additions over the last two seasons has not had the same emphasis on youth.
Comparing the line-ups: 2010 vs. 2012
In this light we’ve compared Arsenal’s line-up age versus Manchester City on Sunday, with the team which lined up against City away, just two seasons ago, in October 2010:
|Vito Mannone, 24||Lukasz Fabianski, 25|
|Per Mertesacker, 27||Johan Djourou, 23|
|Laurent Koscielny, 27||Sebastian Squillaci, 30|
|Carl Jenkinson, 20||Bacary Sagna, 27|
|Kieran Gibbs, 22||Gael Clichy, 25|
|Abou Diaby, 26||Alex Song, 23|
|Mikel Arteta, 30||Denilson, 22|
|Aaron Ramsey, 21||Samir Nasri, 23|
|Santi Cazorla, 27||Cesc Fabregas, 23|
|Lukas Podolski, 27||Andrey Arshavin, 29|
|Gervinho, 25||Marouane Chamakh, 26|
|Mean Age: 25.1||Mean Age: 25|
|Modal Age: 27||Modal Age: 23|
The 2012 team has a mean age of 25.1 years. However, just three of the players were younger than 24, and the modal value is 27. This is indicative of the number of more experienced players in the squad.
Meanwhile, the mean age of the 2010 team is similar, at 25 years. However, five of the 11 players were 23 or younger, and the modal value of 23 reflects this. This is indicative of the focus on young players in the squad.
A More Mature Arsenal
In terms of mean age the sides don’t look so different. However, the distribution of age groupings between the two line-ups are rather different, and this has an impact on the mean. In fact the age distribution pattern is almost the reverse for each match, as outlined in the graph below.
In October 2010 Squillaci, 30 and Arshavin, 29 were the two older players who skewed the mean score, which hides the fact that the team had five players either 22 or 23 years old.
Indeed, the Modal value for age is just 23 in 2010, which indicates that Arsenal started with a much younger group of players in general.
In summary, the key group of players within the current Arsenal squad consists of players around 27 years old, meaning that they have several years more experience than the team which started two years prior composed most frequently of players around 23.
In general terms it can be argued that players reach their peak around 28, meaning that this side consists of players closer to realising their full potential, but also with the ability to provide support to a smaller group of younger players existing within the side.
In 2010 Arsenal won by three goals against a Manchester City side which looked more similar to the team which lined up today, though not without it’s own changes.
To emphasize the drastic change that the squad has been through, not one of the players who started the match just 23 months ago played in the game yesterday.
Of those one is away on loan and four have now been sold, two of whom, Clichy and Nasri, went to Manchester City themselves, the other two to Barcelona – Cesc and Song, whilst Denilson is on loan at Sao Paulo.
In fact, only four of the players who started against City in 2012 had been at the club longer than one full season.
A final thought regarding the patterns present here. None of the Arsenal players who started against City in 2010 were British.
Of the line-up yesterday there were three British players, these were also the only three players under 24: Ramsey, Gibbs and Jenkinson (though he has joint Finnish nationality).
This is another indication of the slow shift in selection. Though Wenger has always emphasised developing young players, this is the first time he has been able to bring a large group of talented British players into the first team.
Wilshere, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Walcott can also be included in this group of young UK talent, all under 24 years of age.
Ultimately, this exercise only provides a snapshot of the state of the team, however, the patterns are telling, and describe a group which has undergone a deep transformation. However, the start to the season has been more promising than expected given the summer departures of Van Persie and Song.
The dynamic has changed, but the information paints a picture for the future of the club. The more experienced players brought over the past two summers may well enable the smooth introduction of this core of young talent to sustain the club in the years to come.
How do you think Arsenal’s team has changed? Get involved in the comments.