Youth Integration Part 2: The Premier League
Note: Part 1 is about Chelsea compared to other European Champions (Barca, Bayern, Juventus, and PSG). Part 2 is about Chelsea compared to other BPL teams (United, Spurs, Arsenal, and Liverpool). The only differences between the two will be the teams compared to Chelsea and the conclusion at the end.
This is part two, so I ask you to go check out part 1. Though the data itself can be read in any order, my analysis for this part will have been colored by what I discovered in part 1. For ease of comparison, I’m going to re-include the Thesis, Rules, and Chelsea’s data.
It is impossible for more than one or two youth players to be integrated into a team per year, regardless of the team. I have written this thesis before I have gone into the data. I will write a short paragraph following each team’s data describing the trends and bringing up any mitigating factors (such as managerial change). The teams I have chosen have similar ambitions as Chelsea (to compete for every available trophy every season) or are known for good youth integration.
- Players must be under 23 or 23 at the time of their debut for their parent club to be counted
- Only appearances for the parent club will be counted
- Players who already have 50 or more career appearances (not counting while on loan from the clubs I'm researching) will not be counted (e.g. Hazard had well over this when he came to Chelsea, Kenedy and Miazga did not)
- A player must have at least 5 starts OR play a total of 600 minutes within one season to be considered as "integrated" (and thus on my list). In the following season, they must have at least 10 starts OR 1200 minutes played, their third season and every season after they must have 15 starts OR 1800 minutes played to be counted
- My data will begin during the 2011/2012 season, so any youth player that had their debut before that will not be counted.
- My data for the current season will obviously be incomplete, so players that are borderline will be left out, but if I think it is relevant I will remark on it.
2011/2012: Oriol Romeu (14 Starts, 1532’)
2014/2015: Thibaut Courtois (39 starts, 3505’)
2015/2016: Kenedy (7 starts, 844’), Ruben Loftus-Cheek (7 starts, 651’), Thibaut Courtois (28 starts, 2470’)
The turbulent years from AVB to the end of Rafa seems to have really hurt bringing youth through, with only Romeu making the cut (and his injury taking him out of the equation). Jose’s first two years are also rather sparse even if you include T-Bo. T-Bo is obviously an outlier, both due to the nature of his position and because he’s a world class player that happened to meet my criteria. This season, however, has been very successful for youth development. Is that due to Guus? Is that due to how bad our season has been? Probably both, but it’s hard to say we haven’t used our youth this season. The other side of the outliers is Traore, who I was surprised had played as little as he has this season (2 starts, 379’). He’d either have to start 3 of our 4 remaining games to meet my criteria or play another 221 minutes out of 360 minutes remaining. With yet another managerial change on the horizon, it is hard to tell if our sudden uptick in youth will continue.
2011/2012: Tom Carroll (6 starts, 572’)
2012/2013: Steven Caulker (26 starts, 2370’)
2013/2014: Nabil Bentaleb (14 starts, 1360’), Zeki Fryers (10 starts, 1011’), Harry Kane (8 starts, 796’)
2014/2015: Nabil Bentaleb (33 starts, 2912’), Eric Dier (32 starts, 2930’), Harry Kane (39 starts, 3680’), Ryan Mason (32 starts, 2609’)
2015/2016: Tom Carroll (12 starts, 1149’), Eric Dier (47 starts, 4089’), Harry Kane (41 starts, 3757’), Ryan Mason (12 starts, 1163’)
Like Bayern, a lot of recognizable names (Townsend, Rose, Walker) had their debut before 2011/2012, so they weren’t eligible for my data. Moving on from that, did you realize Harry Kane played for Tottenham for the first time in 2011? Cause I didn’t. I was under the impression he didn’t get a look until 2013/2014 under AVB. And Tom Carroll is the first player that had enough starts/minutes to be integrated, failed to maintain it, and then came back and did it again. Also, most of these players? Still at Tottenham. Even the ones who were integrated then loaned out stayed. So those three points seem to show that more than anything else, Spurs keep faith in their youth players. Being loaned out from the Spurs is not the end of their Spurs career. Almost all of these players spent time on loan after their Spurs debut. Even with as many managers as they have had over these last five seasons, they still find a way to put youth into the squad or give them chances to develop elsewhere. Which brings me to Pochenttino. This guy. Even if you take out Kane and Bentaleb, he’s giving youth chances. He’s maintaining the faith in youth that Spurs have had going back to at least 2011/2012. This could be because Spurs don’t have the finances to buy big name players and thus have to look inward. It could be that Daniel Levy has cast some spell on the youth convincing them to stay until they are needed. But regardless, Spurs are doing something very right for their youth.
2011/2012: Tom Cleverley (9 starts, 761’), Phil Jones (34 starts, 2986’)
2012/2013: Tom Cleverley (28 starts, 2262’), Phil Jones (20 starts, 1787’)
2013/2014: Tom Cleverley (25 starts, 2195’), Adnan Januzaj (19 starts, 2089’), Phil Jones (36 starts, 3099’)
2014/2015: Phil Jones (23 starts, 2013’), Patrick McNair (14 starts, 1206’)
2015/2016: Cameron Borthwick-Jackson (8 starts, 800’), Jesse Lingard (29 starts, 2703’), Marcus Rashford (14 starts, 1181’), Guillermo Varela (10 starts, 896’)
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, most of the household names of youth success come before 2011/2012. That being said, SAF did put faith into some youth while maintaining the ones he was already using. David Moyes continued with this, and even brought in Januzaj to add to the chorus. LVG (who had somewhat of a legacy if you remember from the Bayern section) did the same, though Cleverley’s loan to Aston VIlla and then sale to Everton obviously ended his contribution. And on the surface, it appears that this season has been fantastic for United youth. But a large part of this is due to injuries to a large amount of players. That being said, to put faith in youth such as Rashford over playing Fellaini as a "striker" (LVG’s opinion, not mine) is credit worthy. What’s probably most notably for the youth here is that they aren’t just squeaking by with a few starts, they are blowing far past that. Within their first integrated season, almost all of them are where I set the limit for their third season. So if anything, United are very good at insuring that the youth are blooded, and then remain bloody. Maybe that’s why they’re red?
2011/2012: Francis Coquelin (13 starts, 1101’), Emmanuel Frimpong (9 starts, 713’), Carl Jenkinson (9 starts, 861’), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (15 starts, 1308’)
2012/2013: Francis Coquelin (11 starts, 933’), Carl Jenkinson (21 starts, 1841’), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (17 starts, 1570’)
2013/2014: Serge Gnabry (11 starts, 778’)
2014/2015: Hector Bellerin (25 starts, 2252’), Calum Chambers (28 starts, 2597’), Francis Coquelin (26 starts, 2265’), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (23 starts, 2128’), Yaya Sanogo (5 starts, 352’)
2015/2016: Hector Bellerin (42 starts, 3768’), Joel Campbell (20 starts, 1611’), Francis Coquelin (27 starts, 2186’), Alex Iwobi (13 starts, 1064’), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (17 starts, 1527’)
Notice how Arsenal are fourth on this list? I promise that was unintentional. They are just destined for it. Fourever and always. Anyways, how did the only team with the same manager for the last five seasons do? Well, if you can say nothing else nice about Arsenal, you can say they are consistent. Pretty much the same youth for all of these five seasons, many on there multiple times. Except for 2013/2014. That season saw Coquellin loaned out, Jenkinson unable to get to where he should have been after two good seasons, and Oxlade-Chamberlain injured for long stretches of the season. But, our favorite (terms and conditions may apply) voyeur brought them (not counting Jenkinson) back into the fold the following season. So Arsenal do use their youth, the same youth, for long periods of time. Maybe this is because Wenger believes clubs should be built on their own foundations, rather than on the backs of others. Another notable trend is that almost all of these kids are actually academy products, with very few bought from other clubs. This is almost the exact opposite of every other team I’ve researched up to this point. So there is truth behind the myth of Arsenal youth, though how much that comes down to Wenger is debatable.
2012/2013: Fabio Borini (10 starts, 954’), Raheem Sterling (27 starts, 2213’), Suso (12 starts, 913’), Andre Wisdom (19 starts, 1538’)
2013/2014: Jon Flanagan (24 starts, 2004’), Raheem Sterling (27 starts, 2534’)
2014/2015: Emre Can (34 starts, 3137’), Jordon Ibe (9 starts, 617’), Raheem Sterling (49 starts, 4518’)
2015/2016: Emre Can (43 starts, 3945’), Joe Gomex (7 starts, 618’), Jordon Ibe (18 starts, 1952’), Connor Randall (6 starts, 482’), Brad Smith (7 starts, 688’), Kevin Stewart (8 starts, 774’), Joao Carlos Teixeira (5 starts, 432’)
Liverpool is the first BPL team not named Chelsea to have a season where no youth were integrated. This was Dalglish’s sole season in charge of Liverpool (in the new millennium). Brendan Rogers certainly changed the fortune of the youth though, which given his background in youth development shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. Flanagan’s injury derailed him for the 2014/2015 season, leaving Emre Can and Raheem Sterling as the most notable successes. Can, of course, came from Bayern’s youth academy, but couldn’t quite make it there. He seems to have found a place in Liverpool, but he was close to 50+ career appearances before then. Sterling should be a success for Liverpool, but with his move to City, it’s difficult to say whether Liverpool can be ok with that. And with this injury ravaged season, Liverpool have pulled youth from all corners to try to field a squad. Luckily for Liverpool, Klopp seems to have no reservations about that, and once they get up to Klopp’s speed, I’m sure the youth will be integral to Liverpool for however long Klopp stays. What I’ll say is notable is that Liverpool haven’t really regressed because of their use of youth this season, which is what leads me to believe that they’ll continue to play a role.
I’ll start with acknowledging that confining this study to five years does eliminate some interesting data (such as Muller, Kroos, Sergi Roberto among many others). These players are notable, so I ask you to leave in the comments anything I may have missed due to my rules, and I may see how they fared. This could include going back another five years of data, looking at notable players such as Pogba and why they were or were not successful.
Whereas Chelsea were pretty much on par with other European champions’ youth integration, we look rather poor compared to our league rivals. The best I can figure as to a reason why this is would be how much focus is placed on Europe in addition to the league. I’d say that Chelsea, Bayern, PSG, Barca, and Juventus all put as much emphasis on European trophies as they do league trophies. For Chelsea, it’s because we’ve won it in the last five seasons, Barca and Bayern are favorites every year, and PSG and Juventus really have little challenge for their championships. The other Premier League teams simply don’t have that same focus it seems. United have been in transition. Arsenal are also-rans and get terrible draws. And then there is Spurs and Liverpool. So maybe when we and the other champions field strong lineups in Europe, our English rivals rotate and focus on the league.
It could also simply be the club’s philosophy to back youth, as you can see with Arsenal and Spurs. Wenger has practically built Arsenal on youth, and they are able to keep pumping new youth out when they don’t have to worry about the manager being sacked. I’d argue that for the Spurs, it comes down to good business. Spurs can’t go out and buy a star player; they have to develop their own. And the one’s they develop have a good chance of getting into the squad. This makes hiring a manager that favors giving youth chances like Pochettino looks like a masterstroke by the Spurs. Also, they not only give their youth chances as a matter of policy, they back them. A loan is not an end to a career at Spurs or Arsenal, it is just a delay. Injury isn’t even an end, it’s just another delay. Whereas we decided to cut our losses after some players got injured or didn’t make it right away, our rivals maintain faith and benefit from it.
One last reason that I believe that our league rivals bring so many youth players into their squads is injuries. No other league seems to have as many injury troubles as the Premier League does. Arsenal, United, and Liverpool all had periods where they backed their youth during injuries of senior players. United and Liverpool this season are great examples. Rashford went from his debut to United to practically pushing his way into the starting eleven because of Rooney’s injury. Klopp has fielded youth like it’s nobody’s business during injuries this season. Our rivals take chances when players are injured that we simply haven’t.
And the sad thing is, these are reasons to worry. If our league rivals keep giving youth opportunities, and we keep loaning them out or benching them, what happens? They get their heads turned. They decide that they won’t get a chance at Chelsea, and they go to rival teams to be successful. An example for United would be Pogba, who I probably don’t need to speak to much about. Our own example? Kevin De Bruyne. And the situation isn’t unheard of elsewhere. Many Bayern and Barca players that didn’t make it are now spread throughout their rivals with varying degrees of success. So if youth see they have no pathway to the first team, they go elsewhere. And there are bound to be great players among those. So look at our academy. We have one of the most successful academies in the world. Now look at how many are making it at Chelsea. Few, and that’s troublesome.
If the European champions merely proved that you can integrate more than one or two players per year, our rivals blew it out of the water. It is possible to integrate plenty of youth per season. But, that must be kept in context. The teams that have integrated a great deal of youth did so during injury crisis. And generally the seasons in which large amounts of youth are brought in are poor seasons for the clubs. So whereas they did in fact bring many youth into the squad, it was rarely entirely their choice.
So I believe the full context of this study has led me to a few conclusions. We need to find games for our youth every season, maybe two or three players each with at least a handful of starts. And we need to keep faith in others with promise. We need to create a pathway to the first team, a clear pathway so that everyone one of our youth players believe they can make it at Chelsea and that they don’t feel like a loan is the end. But one very, very important thing to remember is that we won’t see all of our youth make it. We won’t see a lineup with five academy players starting in a FA cup final for us anytime soon. We’re going to see a lot more players like Lukaku and De Bruyne who make it big elsewhere. And that’s ok. So long as we can get some through, we will have succeeded at youth integration.
And remember, keep the blue flag flying high.
All stats are taken from transfermarkt.co.uk
I would like to give a special thanks to Erland_Johnsen, Chronus Ess, simongabriel, Nevil, and Haz Mat for helping me determine the parameters/sources/basis of my experiment. Also, everyone that read part 1 and left comments. Thank you for reading!