Game time for English U21s hits 12-season high in Premier League
Written by Simon Austin — October 18, 2019
GAME TIME for English Under-21s in the Premier League clubs is at its highest level for 12 seasons.
Data from the CIES Football Observatory, commissioned by Alistair Magowan for BBC Sport, shows that domestic U21s have made up 5.01% of minutes played so far this season, which is more than double the figure in Germany (2.28%) and almost double Spain (2.61%). This is the first time since 2007/8 that the Premier League has been ahead of its rivals on this metric.
Playing time given to foreign players has also hit a five-season low, with 59.8% of Premier League minutes going to expats. Wolves have given the most minutes to foreign players (84%), followed by Arsenal (81.3%) and Manchester City (81%). Burnley have given the least (24.1%), followed by Sheffield United (25.1%) and Manchester United (41.2%).
Homegrown players (those who have been at the club for at least three seasons between the ages of 15 and 21) have accounted for 12.23% of total playing time this season - the highest level since 2011/12.
Manchester United are top, with homegrown players making up 37.4% of playing time; Spurs second (29.5%) and Chelsea third (28.9%). United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has fulfilled his promise of putting an emphasis on youth, although overall results have been poor, with the club at risk of going into the relegation zone if they lose to Liverpool this weekend.
Chelsea, who are under a transfer ban, have regularly fielded striker Tammy Abraham, midfielder Mason Mount and defender Fikayo Tomori this season, all of whom came through their Academy.
Bournemouth are bottom for playing time given to homegrown players, having failed to give a single minute to a club-trained player so far. This is perhaps unsurprising when you consider that they have a Category 3 Academy and no real pedigree of producing homegrown talent (these things take time).
Less easy to understand is the fact that Everton are second bottom, having given just 0.3% of playing time to homegrown players this season. The Toffees have won the Under-23 league for two of the last three seasons and regularly state that promoting Academy players is key to their philosophy.
Speaking shortly after being appointed as the club’s new Director of Football last May, Marcel Brands said he wanted a manager who believed in youth.
“I think it also has to be a coach that wants to work with young players,” Brands said. “If we have the philosophy about our Academy we don’t have to choose a coach that only wants to buy players.
“It is also important, maybe not now this summer, but the summers after, that our own Academy plays an important part in that philosophy.”
Marco Silva was appointed a month later, but has hardly played homegrown players. In the summer, full-back Djibril Sidibe arrived on a season-long loan from Monaco, with 22-year-old homegrown player Jonjoe Kenny going on loan to Schalke.
Third bottom for homegrown minutes are Manchester City (0.8% playing time), with only Phil Foden having been selected in the Premier League - for 10 minutes. This is dwarfed by the time given to Mount, 20, by Frank Lampard - a total of 709 minutes.
When Pep Guardiola arrived at Manchester City in July 2016, he also made much of his desire to field homegrown players.
"For me, it is amazing as a coach to see the young players, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17 and growing and growing and imagining and maybe in one year or two years can join us and can play in the first team," the Spaniard said.
"Manchester City needs the people who grow up from the Academy because from that moment, they feel something special about the player."