A quick look at playing time in the current top three

Shaun Botterill

We're now 20 games into the season and, for now, a clear top three have emerged. Only two points separate Arsenal from Chelsea in third place, with Manchester City sandwiched in between the London pair. After Chelsea, the gap to Liverpool in fourth stands at four points.

While we can't be sure that this trio are the only clubs in serious contention for the title, they're what we have right now, and we can make some interesting comparisons between the clubs. An Arsenal fan has put together a graph that shows, essentially, how much squad rotation each team is using, and it's definitely worth a look.

Petr Cech aside, the top four Chelsea players in terms of usage are John Terry, Ramires, Eden Hazard and Branislav Ivanovic*, and after that we get more or less constant rotation. City have the same sort of effect, although the mid-season dropping of Joe Hart for Costel Pantilimon confuses the numbers somewhat. But Arsenal are extremely reliant on their core of players -- they don't yet have the squad depth, thanks to a combination of quality and injuries) to rotate as effectively as Arsene Wenger might like.

*That's not to say that those four are over-used; players cope with usage differently and someone playing more doesn't necessarily mean they need to be rested.

You can read the chart almost in terms of the effort teams have put out to achieve the results they have. If you constantly field a first-choice starting eleven to get wins, those wins come at a slightly higher price in terms of player fitness than if you're able to rotate regularly and still get good results. That's a positive sign for Chelsea and City, but less so for Arsenal. That said, this month's transfers could change the picture significantly.

But right now it's an interesting picture.

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