It’s hard to tire of transfer rumours at the start of a new football season. But equally it’s hard to vary it much from year to year save for guessing the number of zeros in Neymar’s new weekly wage. With deals yet to be done club managers and agents will be ensuring the office fax machines have plenty of paper while their Gmail accounts are spam free and mobile phones are fully charged to ensure that ‘crucial’ signing is completed. The transfer window as presented on Sky Sports News’ Transfer Centre can often be replete with “In & Out” graphics on the presenter’s touch screen. This binary system encasing transfer talk gets great mileage in the media but across a 38 game domestic season fans do not observe the same approach to player appearances.
The graph demonstrates the percentage breakdowns of players who made an appearance in the 38 Premier League games in the 2016/17 season. The results are not too surprising though we do observe as many as 11 who have played in every game – 3 were goal keepers.
La Liga is not that different from the EPL. There is a similar trend of non-binary selection however this leans slightly more so towards an in – out philosophy than the EPL. Over the course a lengthy season with numerous cup games and internationals it’s no surprise that soccer sees blanket utilisation of squad players across the course of the season. Just six players appeared in every La Liga game last season, while 63 were seen in less than 10% of games.
What would be interesting to investigate is at what stage of the season do the players who are at the lower end of these bar charts rack up their appearances? Earlier would suggest they didn’t make the grade as time elapsed while late on in the campaign may represent the chance of a run out in place of an injured mainstay.
In some sports such as basketball, where 5 players per team are on the court at a time we’d expect to see numbers clustered at each end of the graph and practically nobody in the middle. This would demonstrate the binary mind-set where a player is either good enough to be in or he’s not. In the Premier League however, it appears that teams are largely made up of the homme moyen sensuel with Englishmen being the middlemost. This would also support the argument that managers should invest in the higher end of the average range instead of splashing out on one or two ‘big name’ signings.
Of the 540 players to make an appearance last season a third were English with Spanish and French talent being the 2nd and 3rd most represented. At the top 5 clubs only 14% were English. This suggests English players are largely average and are playing for largely average teams. While the Kyle Walkers of this world can command premium price tags, outfits outside the top 4 or 5 have to make do with the run of the mill players, essentially the Greggs Bakers of the Premier League player.