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Liverpool to be most reliant Premier League team on minutes from over-30s
The Reds may look to refresh an ageing squad this summer, following defeat in the Champions League final.
Liverpool players who will be in their 30s at the start of next season contributed almost half the team’s playing time during the 2021-22 campaign, PA news agency analysis reveals.
The beaten Champions League finalists are renowned for their high-energy pressing game, but several first-team regulars are reaching the tail-end of what is normally considered a player’s peak years.
Five of the Reds’ six most-used outfield players last season will be in their 30s when the new campaign kicks off on August 6. The only exception is 23-year-old full-back Trent Alexander-Arnold.
In all, Jurgen Klopp relied on his old guard for 46 per cent of league minutes in the season just gone, the highest share of any Premier League club that avoided relegation.
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola, by contrast, handed just 22 per cent of minutes to players who will be aged 30 or over by next season.
The Premier League average was 30 per cent.
Reds in need of a refresh?
Liverpool played every game they possibly could have in 2021-22, winning two domestic cups, finishing as runners-up in the Champions League and pushing Manchester City all the way in the Premier League.
Despite a difficult season in 2020-21, manager Klopp largely kept faith with players that achieved success over the previous three to four years.
Eight of the starting XI that faced Real Madrid on Saturday also started the 2019 final against Tottenham. Ibrahima Konate for Joel Matip, Thiago Alcantara for Georginio Wijnaldum and Luis Diaz for Roberto Firmino were the only changes compared with three years ago.
Most of this crop of players are in or nearing their 30s.
Liverpool’s forward line in particular is entering a period of transition. Sadio Mane has been linked with a move away, while he, Mohamed Salah and Firmino are all out of contract in June 2023.
The trio accounted for almost two-thirds (64 per cent) of minutes by Liverpool forwards in 2021-22.
With Mane and Firmino turning 30 during the season and Salah’s birthday coming up, only relegated Burnley were more reliant than the Reds on forwards that will be in their 30s come August.
The January signing of 25-year-old Luis Diaz and the recent acquisition of Fulham teenager Fabio Carvalho suggest that Klopp has recognised this, even if Salah could remain ever-present given his excellent injury record.
City at their peak
The Reds’ perennial title rivals Manchester City are showing no signs of slowing down, based on the age profile of their squad.
Unlike Liverpool, who fielded mainly 29 to 32-year-olds last season, City awarded the majority (71 per cent) of their playing time to players aged between 25 and 28.
Joao Cancelo, Rodri, Bernardo Silva, Aymeric Laporte and Ruben Dias – City’s five most-used outfield players – will all be in this range when the new season gets under way.
Although PFA Player of the Year Kevin De Bruyne will soon turn 31, manager Guardiola is likely to be able to keep the core of his title-winning team together for a few years yet.
Arteta puts faith in youth
Arsenal put up a top-four challenge in 2021-22 despite having one of the youngest squads in the Premier League.
Mikel Arteta gave 68 per cent of playing time to players who will be 25 or under when the new season starts, by far the highest percentage in the division.
Aaron Ramsdale (24), Gabriel (24), Bukayo Saka (20), Ben White (24) and Martin Odegaard (23) played the most minutes for the Gunners last season.
Nottingham Forest manager Steve Cooper appears to have a similar philosophy to Arteta. He handed more than a quarter (26 per cent) of minutes in the Championship to players who will be aged 21 or under in August, compared with the Premier League average of just 6 per cent.
Creaking Chelsea defence
Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel’s first priority this summer following the club’s takeover is likely to be rejuvenating an ageing defence.
Already resigned to losing out-of-contract pair Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen, Tuchel’s most-used defenders after Rudiger last season were 37-year-old Thiago Silva, 31-year-old Marcos Alonso and 32-year-old Cesar Azpilicueta.
The German will also hope to have first-choice full-backs Reece James (22) and Ben Chilwell (25) fit and available throughout the next campaign.
End of an era for Burnley
Relegated Burnley could undergo the biggest overhaul of any club, after their six-year stay in the Premier League came to an abrupt end last Sunday.
Only seven of the 23 players who featured for the Clarets in the Premier League will be aged under 30 at the start of next season, and one of those is defender James Tarkowski, whose contract is expiring.
Several other players from the Sean Dyche era are out of contract, including Ben Mee, Jack Cork, Aaron Lennon and Ashley Barnes.