Why Size Doesn’t Always Matter

Why Size Doesn’t Always Matter
July 7, 2016 Dan Kennett

By Dan Kennett.

As the traditional photos emerged following the start of pre-season training, one thing immediately struck me: we have lots and lots of footballers at Liverpool.

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 13.45.32

And this isn’t even including all the players still on summer holidays or involved at the Euros! The next thing that struck me is that if all these players stay then there are going to be lots and lots of bored, unused, highly paid footballers. This article will try to assess just how big a problem this might be. One important note is that this analysis makes no assessment of player quality, it treats all players as equal bodies to fulfil a schedule.

As we all know, Liverpool aren’t in European competition this season. This is an unusual occurrence and has happened just twice this century (2013/14 and 2011/12). Being in Europe is the biggest factor in how many matches the club will play in a season and the amount of matches you will play is the biggest factor in determining how many players you will need.

Number of matches played in a season:

43 – 2013/14

51 – 2011/12

63 – 2015/16

58-59 – LFC average season with European competition

So how many matches might Liverpool play next season?

The worst case is obviously being knocked out of both domestic cups in the 1st round and playing just 40 games. The best case is similar to 2011/12 and reaching the finals of both domestic cups meaning 51 games

How many players were used in 2013/14 and 2011/12?

In 2013/14 we played 43 matches that season meaning that there were 430 starts for outfield players

Just 15 outfielders made 93% of the starts in all competitions. All made more than 15 starts.

The top 7 players made 56% of the starts (241 in total).

  • Only 4 players made more than 30 starts
  • 6 players made 21-30 starts
  • 5 players made 11-20 starts
  • Another 3 players made 5-10 starts

The full list is:

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 12.53.38

In 2011/12, we reached both domestic cup finals and played 51 matches meaning that there were 510 starts for outfield players

In that year, 17 players made 94% of the starts. All made more than 15 starts.

The top 7 players made 51% of the starts (258 in total).

  • 7 players made more than 30 starts
  • 6 players made 21-30 starts
  • 4 players made 11-20 starts
  • 3 players made 5-10 starts

So compared to 2013/14 there were an extra 2 players who made >=15 starts but overall, the distribution was very similar to 2011/12. For the 7 players who played the most, 2013/14 was 241 starts vs 258 starts in 2011/12.

The full list is:

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 12.54.40

What about last season?

In contrast, last year we played 63 matches, nearly 50% more than in 2013/14.

18 players made 89% of the starts. All played 15 or more matches. Compared to 2013/14 that’s 3 extra players making >=15 starts.

The top 7 players made 48% of the starts (302 in total)

9 players made more than 30 starts

3 players made 21-30 starts

6 players made 11-20 starts

9 players made 5-10 starts

The 7 most used players made 302 starts.

The other huge difference last season was that NINE players made between 5 and 10 starts (Stewart, B.Smith, Flanagan, Gomez, Randall, Ojo, Brannagan, Ings and Teixeira). The last 2 times we haven’t been in Europe, only 3 players have made between 5 and 10 starts.

The full list is:

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 12.56.13

You can clearly see the standout at the top and lower ends in 2015/16 on this chart:

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 12.57.17

The below chart plots all the data in the above tables. The different nature of the 3 seasons and the players used is clear to see:

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 12.57.56

So what does all this mean for this coming season?

According to the official site, Liverpool currently have THIRTY SEVEN first team squad members who have previously started a match for the first team. And this is after 5 players have already left (Enrique, Toure, Rossiter, Sinclair and Teixeira)!

If we go on the best case scenario of 2011/12 (i.e. do well in both domestic cups and play 50 games) then 17 players will make 15+ starts. Based on the current squad, a realistic list of 17 could be those listed in the “Senior Pros” column below:

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 12.58.37

But that still leaves TWENTY ONE other players fighting to make a handful of starts. The above list also has some notable omissions, including some very highly paid senior pros: Skrtel; Benteke; Balotelli; Allen; Lucas and Ibe. A conservative estimate is that those 6 players make a combined £500,000 a week in wages. That’s a cool £25m a year.

Then there a number of low paid “fringe” players who put in some very good performances last season and all made 5-10 starts: Joe Gomez; Kevin Stewart; Sheyi Ojo; Brad Smith and Jon Flanagan. How will their development be continued this season?

Finally there are 9 other players in the squad, aged 18-23, who have started at least one 1st team match: Ilori, Wisdom, Randall, Kent, Williams, Brannagan, Chirivella, Alberto and Canos.


In 2013/14, only 22 players made starts and that included 4 players with just 1 or 2 starts.

In 2011/12, that increased to 24 players making starts with, again, 4 players making just 1 or 2

It’s conceivable that 10 to 12 more players will leave Liverpool before the end of the transfer window, either on permanent deals or on loan deals. After looking at this in detail, I wouldn’t be surprised if as many as 15 players left. And that’s before we even consider what happens when we sign more new players! Finally, if we don’t progress in the domestic cups next season then the problem is going to be exacerbated.