Stats&Links: Ancelotti’s small squad
Ancelotti’s small squad was discussed previously in this blog. In any case, there are just 23 professional players on Bayern’s depth chart including three goalkeepers and youngsters Fabian Benko and Niklas Dorsch, both without any experience in professional football. In today’s Stats&Links article we take an in-depth look at Bayern’s squad in comparison to the other Bundesliga teams as well as former Bayern-Teams.
In this graphic the minute shares of the eleven players with the most minutes played are depicted over the total amount of players with at least one appearance. This leads to some interesting breakdowns of squad size and use of rotation.
FC Bayern is on the left of the spectrum. Because of the small overall squad size only 21 players have appeared in league matches. Without the injuries to Neuer and Ullreich, this number would probably be even lower. However, every player on the roster, except for youngsters Dorsch and Benko, had an appearance in the Bundesliga.
Early in the season Ancelotti picked out one line-up and tried to play them together as much as possible to get them into shape for the big games. With Neuer, Alaba, Hummels, Thiago and Lewandowski there are five players in Bayern’s squad, who played more than 75 percent of all available Bundesliga minutes. And Martinez, Lahm and Vidal are not far behind this mark.
In comparison to the other league teams, Bayern used player rotation only modestly. Even though only few teams are in funds of so many high-class players outside of the starting eleven. A well-balanced squad with a high level of players normally enables a coach to rotate – especially with additional workload coming from cup games and international matches.
Of course, these statistics are influenced heavily by injuries. The impact of for example Boateng’s long injuries cannot be overlooked. With Boateng healthy Ancelotti probably would have introduced a three-way job split between him, Hummels and Martinez. This would have decreased the minute share of the latter two.
Looking at the other Bundesliga teams Leipzig, Darmstadt and Bremen stick out. The team from Leipzig also has a small squad of players trusted by Hasenhüttel. Furthermore, Leipzig is the only team with the top eleven players taking up more than 80 percent of playing time. In his first Bundesliga season Hasenhüttel rotated only little, but instead tried to play the same starting eleven in most matches – with breath-taking success. However, it remains to be seen whether Leipzig can keep this unique minute share in their squad as they will have an additional load to carry in the Champions League.
No other team used as many players in the current season as Werder Bremen. This is not only a sign of a huge turnover, but also displays the creativity of Coach Nouri – maybe out of necessity. Nouri had to trust in young players from the own ranks in order to turn the tide. By now the new coach has found his group of personnel that ensures success.
Another team with a high turnover in line-ups is Darmstadt. The “Lilien” have the lowest minute share of top-11 players, also because of their manager change from Maier to Frings. With every change of head coaches some players gain the trust of the new coach, who were backup players under the previous manager. This is proven by the fact that most teams with low minute shares of top-11 players had a change at the head coach position at one point of the season.
So does Ancelotti rotate less often than Guardiola? Is rotation the key to winning the Bundesliga and coping with the tremendous burden of mid-week fixtures? What does an historical comparison of Bayern squads look like?
In comparison to the last years Ancelotti’s use of rotation is mean average for Bayern. Guardiola is the king of rotation as three of the four seasons with the lowest minute share of top-11 players have been under his supervision. Of course, Guardiola’s teams were crowned league champion well before the end of the season and he used the last remaining matches to give playing time to otherwise often overlooked players.
However, one cannot deny that since the treble-season the amount of rotation has increased. This can be linked to the improvement of the depth chart beyond the starting eleven. While in prior seasons Braafheid, Ottl and Petersen occupied these spots, Bayern could fall back on first-class replacement in the last years.
Three seasons stick out if you simply look at the minute share of the top11-players: 2006/07, 2009/10 and 2011/12. The latter two ending with finishing as runner-up in the league table and an appearance in both the national cup and the Champions League final. Van Gaal in 2010 and Heynckes in 2012 had formed a starting eleven, able to perform at the highest level.
However, in both seasons Bayern wasn’t able to win the big game, because single players could not be replaced. The necessary depth of the squad was non-existent. In the 2010 Champions League final Franck Ribery was suspended. Of course, it is never easy to replace a player of the likes of Ribery, but let’s just imagine this game with Costa in the starting eleven instead of Altintop.
In the dreadful 2012 Champions League final three starters in Alaba, Badstuber and Gustavo were missing due to a suspension. This led to Tymoschtschuk starting in central defence.
This is where Bayern can and should draw conclusions for next season. Injuries and suspensions always occur at the least favorable time. Talking about depth, the current squad surely is not on the same high level as last seasons or the one prior to that anymore. A few selective improvements, like the already signed Rudy and Süle, will be needed.
However, this path is a narrow one. With an increase in depth an increase in discontent can follow. Already Boateng has been rumoured to have a whinge, because his playing time in big matches was too little. At this point it is on Ancelotti to show his skills as a moderator.
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