Ageing or stable? A look at Burnley's squad age, additions and contractual situations

Last season, only Crystal Palace had an older average age in the Premier League than Burnley.

Monday, 21st June 2021, 12:13 pm
Updated Monday, 21st June 2021, 12:16 pm
Phil Bardsley is Burnley's oldest player at 35

The Eagles used 24 players at an average age of 28.8, with the Clarets next in line, using 25 at 28.4.

Aston Villa were the youngest, using 24 players at an average age of 25.

However, Burnley s squad is more 'sustainable' than you might imagine based on the CIES Football Observatory's study, which has looked at three elements: players’ age, the length of their stay at their current club and the duration of their contracts.

Across Europe's big five leagues, consisting of 98 clubs, Burnley ranked 33rd in terms of percentage of minutes played by "old" players - a threshold of 33 years of age for goalkeepers, 32 for defenders, 31 for midfielders and 30 for forwards.

The highest percentage was recorded for the newly promoted Spaniards of Huesca (39.6%), followed by two teams who played each other in the last 16 of the Champions League: Lazio (38.7%) and title holders Bayern Munich (36.4%).

Five Italian clubs are ranked in the top 10, while there are only German and English teams in the bottom 10 positions.

Among the squads best built to last from the point of view of age, are notably Manchester City and Liverpool.

However, when they turned to group stability - ranking teams according to the the amount of domestic league minutes played by footballers recruited after July 2020, Burnley were at the very bottom of the pile at just 2.1%.

At the other extreme, 65.2% of Fulham’s minutes were played by new recruits.

Similar to the relegated Cottagers, the three other most unstable clubs had relatively poor results - Elche, who finished a place and two points above the drop in La Liga, OGC Nice, who were ninth in Ligue 1, and Crotone, relegated from Serie A.

While cases such as those of RC Lens and Union Berlin show that it is possible to perform well with a fair number of new players, the lack of stability stemming from a short-term squad management strategy usually has a negative impact on the pitch.

At the other extreme, joining Burnley among clubs where new recruits played the lowest amount of minutes, they mainly found teams in the top half of the rankings in their respective championships. Among these notably are three clubs who finished second in their league: Real Madrid, Manchester United and RB Leipzig.

Next up was contractual policy, ranking teams according to the percentage of domestic league minutes played by players whose contracts expired by June 2022 at the latest or on loan from other clubs.

The highest value was measured for the Spaniards from Eibar, where almost nine-tenths of minutes were played by players with short-term contracts.

The five teams least dependent on players whose contract is almost at an end are English. The lowest percentage overall was measured for Aston Villa (6.9%), with the other clubs whose contractual policy is most orientated to the long term are among the best (and wealthiest) in England: the two Manchester clubs, City and United, as well as the two from Liverpool, Liverpool and Everton.

Burnley came in at 28th overall, at 49.9%, with only West Brom and Palace having a higher percentage.

So overall, according to these criteria, Manchester United currently has the most sustainable squad among the 98 big-5 league clubs, with Burnley 23rd, in between Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich.

Ranked just behind Manchester United, despite having far fewer financial resources, the Basque clubs Real Sociedad and Athletic Club constitute perfect examples of sustainable squad management. Conversely, Genoa is a perfect example of short-term planning.