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Too Small A Squad?
Footytubeblog (Blog) 4 years ago
The argument is regularly churned out in the Premier League ‘we don’t have a squad’ from supporters or managers defending the plight of their team. Is it acceptable? Could you actually flip this round and accept that having a trimmed down squad is the way forward?

To see an example of a small squad in working progress look no further than Michael Laudrup’s Swansea. He has a squad of 22 players and no more, and each player feels valued getting game time, but is hungry to secure their starting XI place. This has helped them achieve a semi-final position in the Capital One Cup, and a healthy league position. They were tipped as many people’s favourite to go down with second season syndrome.

Footballers are tough characters to handle at the best of times let alone when they are not playing and the stability of knowing you can get game time is definitely re-assuring. There is risk involved that if you do not get the balance right then you leave the team short for options, but overbuying has this same risk, and surely quality over quantity is the best approach. There is always purchases needed to stop a squad going stale but if you sign 11 players at once surely some of them are unnecessary and get lost in amongst the flurry of other purchases.

Whether the fans like it the risk is worth the reward and clubs are going towards the strategy of using a smaller squad. It helps to create a bond and unify all the players as everyone knows they are a cog in the machine. There is little worse than having a squad which contains players who are simply dead wood, a waste of wages, not going to get game time, and this is what happens when managers just buy in bulk. Roy Keane tried to buy in quantity when he was manager of Sunderland and this was only going to keep him going in one direction, out of the Stadium of Light.
He signed 39 players for a combined total of around £80 million. A lot of Sunderland fans despaired imagining if he used that money productively. When clubs splash out big money the fans expect quality. David Moyes at Everton is a master at keeping his squad ticking over, so that every time a purchase is made there is an awareness of where the player will slot into the set up.

Newcastle are used as an illustration of a squad that needs bulking up for people saying small squads don’t work. The thing is that the Magpies operate a system where they have only 11 “purple” players, those who are prime for the first team, which is undercooking it a little. If there was another midfielder to cover and another striker to provide competition to Ba and Cisse, the small squad would have been able to function well. It is dangerous business trying to maintain a small squad as you can end up not having enough, with financial fair play a rule coming in it will soon become a necessity. Arsene Wenger has constricted himself to utilising a small number of squad players for several years.

A lot of Tottenham fans will argue that AVB needs to plump his squad up too. The success of Spurs getting into the top four at this stage of the season does though show the advantages of a smaller squad. The fact that Tottenham have had less options particularly up front has made them put 100% faith in the ability of Jermain Defoe. Strikers are fickle and feed purely off their confidence to survive, and to know that he is the main man has been of huge benefit to the England international.

The same applies to a back line, if the same two centre backs can start every week. They gain a relationship and understanding of the other player’s movement and can sniff out danger quicker each further game in the side together. Wigan have flourished as a unit by placing trust in the squad they have and keeping it compact and only adding in 1 or 2 players at a time to bed in. They showed the value of this tactic working when they signed Jean Beausejour last January and switched to 3-4-3 it worked wonders and it was such a small tweak. The nature of having consistency at a football club is underrated and Manchester City sometimes struggle by having too many options at their disposal. It may be a nice dilemma to have in some people’s opinion, but it provides a grey area for who is your best partnership, hence why Mancini was confused and picked Balotelli against Manchester United.

There may be a thought from Premier League managers to go panic buying and bring in a large of quantity of players to provide the buzz of a signing to keep the fans at bay this January. It may be wise though to just try the tweaks and seeing that less can be more.

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