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Van de Beek, Saul among Premier League's biggest bench riders

Written by 
Published in Soccer
Saturday, 29 January 2022 02:07

With six months of the 2021-22 Premier League season played and clubs enjoying an ersatz, staggered "winter break," this feels like a good time to look back and take stock.

While plenty of big-name players have lit up the league in the opening half of the campaign, many more have had to be content to wait patiently on the sidelines for a rare opportunity to impress. Very patiently.

Here we take a look at those fringe players at the "big six" clubs -- Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur -- who have struggled to establish themselves in the top flight this season, and who are perhaps hoping that the new year will usher in a fresh chance to make it off the bench and into their managers' first-team plans with a little more regularity.

We went through the squads to identify the players who have spent the most time named in the matchday squad but confined to the dugout this term as we approach gameweek 24 of the season (although tell that to Burnley who, having played 18 games, are yet to reach the halfway point of their season).

Firstly, using Transfermarkt data, we sorted every player from each individual club in order of the number of Premier League matchday squads they have been included in this campaign. From those lists, we then filtered out a top five of the players with the most squad inclusions combined with the lowest amount of actual matchday involvement for their teams (factoring in starts, substitute appearances and total number of minutes spent on the pitch).

Of course, there is an element of subjectivity to be taken into consideration, but each of the "big six" clubs has at least one big-name bench rider who has failed to offer any real, sustained impact this season for one reason or another. That said, some have most definitely been more peripheral than others.

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ARSENAL

Biggest bench rider: Nicolas Pepe

Arsenal's record signing has certainly had his moments (he came second in Arsenal's Player of the Season vote last term) but he has again failed to fully justify his hefty transfer fee so far this campaign. The inconsistent winger has made just five starts and nine appearances overall despite being named in all but two of Mikel Arteta's Premier League squads so far. The £72 million man has provided just one assist in the league in 2021-22 and is yet to open his goal-scoring account having played a sliver over 500 minutes of football.

Nuno Tavares

Age: 22
Named in squad: 21
Named in starting XI: 6
Substituted on: 7
Left on the bench: 8
Total mins: 619

Gabriel Martinelli

Age: 20
Named in squad: 21
Named in starting XI: 10
Substituted on: 4
Left on the bench: 7
Total mins: 870

Rob Holding

Age: 26
Named in squad: 20
Named in starting XI: 4
Substituted on: 2
Left on the bench: 14
Total mins: 408

Nicolas Pepe

Age: 26
Named in squad: 19
Named in starting XI: 5
Substituted on: 4
Left on the bench: 10
Total mins: 501

Ainsley Maitland-Niles

Age: 24
Named in squad: 17
Named in starting XI: 2
Substituted on: 6
Left on the bench: 9
Total mins: 263


CHELSEA

Biggest bench rider: Saul Niguez

It should be said that Chelsea's bench-riding rates are actually fairly good on the whole, with most players enjoying a decent amount of game time under Thomas Tuchel's squad-rotation system. However, one player in particular has failed to earn the coach's trust this season, with Saul's surprise loan move is not looking any more logical as the one-time Atletico Madrid stalwart continues to sit idly most of the time on the sidelines at Stamford Bridge.

Hakim Ziyech

Age: 28
Named in squad: 22
Named in starting XI: 9
Substituted on: 4
Left on the bench: 9
Total mins: 788

Callum Hudson-Odoi

Age: 21
Named in squad: 22
Named in starting XI: 11
Substituted on: 4
Left on the bench: 7
Total mins: 966

Kai Havertz

Age: 22
Named in squad: 21
Named in starting XI: 12
Substituted on: 4
Left on the bench: 5
Total mins: 946

Saul Niguez

Age: 27
Named in squad: 20
Named in starting XI: 2
Substituted on: 4
Left on the bench: 14
Total mins: 161

Ross Barkley

Age: 28
Named in squad: 18
Named in starting XI: 1
Substituted on: 4
Left on the bench: 13
Total mins: 151


LIVERPOOL

Biggest bench rider: Ibrahima Konate

The wait goes on for Liverpool's £36m summer signing to fully make his mark at Anfield, with Konate being selected in the matchday squad for every Premier League only to be left on the bench more than half of the time. Indeed, the Frenchman hasn't been introduced as a substitute in a league game once this campaign. However, at 22, time is still certainly on the promising centre-back's side, and he's a worthy addition to the Premier League if only because of his penchant for posting anime gifs on social media.

Konstantinos Tsimikas

Age: 25
Named in squad: 22
Named in starting XI: 6
Substituted on: 3
Left on the bench: 13
Total mins: 578

Ibrahima Konate

Age: 22
Named in squad: 22
Named in starting XI: 7
Substituted on: 0
Left on the bench: 15
Total mins: 630

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

Age: 28
Named in squad: 21
Named in starting XI: 8
Substituted on: 8
Left on the bench: 5
Total mins: 724

Takumi Minamino

Age: 27
Named in squad: 19
Named in starting XI: 0
Substituted on: 8
Left on the bench: 11
Total mins: 86

Joe Gomez

Age: 24
Named in squad: 17
Named in starting XI: 0
Substituted on: 4
Left on the bench: 13
Total mins: 12


MANCHESTER CITY

Biggest bench rider: Fernandinho

As the joint-oldest member of City's senior squad, and club captain since David Silva's departure in 2020, Fernandinho continues to be a constant presence in Pep Guardiola's matchday squads without being as directly utilised as he once was. Indeed, the 36-year-old Brazilian has found his deployment limited in his ninth Premier League campaign, though he remains involved in first-team affairs as valuable, vastly experienced cover.

Fernandinho

Age: 36
Named in squad: 23
Named in starting XI: 5
Substituted on: 7
Left on the bench: 11
Total mins: 514

Nathan Ake

Age: 26
Named in squad: 22
Named in starting XI: 6
Substituted on: 2
Left on the bench: 14
Total mins: 579

Riyad Mahrez

Age: 30
Named in squad: 21
Named in starting XI: 8
Substituted on: 8
Left on the bench: 5
Total mins: 842

Cole Palmer

Age: 19
Named in squad: 18
Named in starting XI: 1
Substituted on: 3
Left on the bench: 14
Total mins: 121

John Stones

Age: 27
Named in squad: 17
Named in starting XI: 5
Substituted on: 2
Left on the bench: 10
Total mins: 501


MANCHESTER UNITED

Biggest bench rider: Donny van de Beek

It's been another wretched season for Van de Beek, who has amassed a little over an hour of Premier League "action" at the halfway stage of the 2021-22 campaign. This is comfortably less than a quarter of the total league minutes (511) he accumulated in the whole of 2020-21 -- which in itself was hardly a vintage year for the Dutch midfielder. Lest we forget that the former Ajax star was nominated for a Ballon d'Or as recently as October 2019, since which point he's made just four league starts for United. Poor Donny.

Donny van de Beek

Age: 24
Named in squad: 22
Named in starting XI: 0
Substituted on: 8
Left on the bench: 14
Total mins of football: 70

Diogo Dalot

Age: 22
Named in squad: 21
Named in starting XI: 7
Substituted on: 5
Left on the bench: 9
Total mins: 728

Jesse Lingard

Age: 29
Named in squad: 18
Named in starting XI: 0
Substituted on: 9
Left on the bench: 9
Total mins: 89

Alex Telles

Age: 29
Named in squad: 14
Named in starting XI: 8
Substituted on: 1
Left on the bench: 5
Total mins: 827

Juan Mata

Age: 33
Named in squad: 13
Named in starting XI: 0
Substituted on: 0
Left on the bench: 13
Total mins: 0


TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR

Biggest bench rider: Dele Alli

Following a dramatic fall from grace during Jose Mourinho's stint as manager, Alli has struggled to claw his way back into the first-team frame at Spurs, though is at the very least making the matchday squad again. The 25-year-old attacking midfielder has found his way into all but one of Spurs' Premier League matchday selections so far this season, though he has only actually played 145 minutes of league football (spread across three appearances) since Antonio Conte took charge in November 2021.

Dele Alli

Age: 25
Named in squad: 19
Named in starting XI: 8
Substituted on: 2
Left on the bench: 9
Total mins: 657

Ben Davies

Age: 28
Named in squad: 19
Named in starting XI: 10
Substituted on: 1
Left on the bench: 8
Total mins: 930

Japhet Tanganga

Age: 22
Named in squad: 18
Named in starting XI: 10
Substituted on: 1
Left on the bench: 7
Total mins: 739

Matt Doherty

Age: 30
Named in squad: 17
Named in starting XI: 1
Substituted on: 5
Left on the bench: 11
Total mins: 232

Harry Winks

Age: 25
Named in squad: 17
Named in starting XI: 6
Substituted on: 3
Left on the bench: 8
Total mins: 526

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