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Stick or twist? Squad retention in Europe’s top five leagues

| 08.08.2022

Squad retention in Europe’s top five leagues: Which clubs have had a summer overhaul?

There has been plenty of transfer activity across Europe’s big five leagues ahead of the new campaign, with some teams set to look quite different on opening day from their typical line-ups last season.

To help you avoid being caught out by squad overhauls, we have been tracking changes to each squad – based on minutes played in 2021-22 – starting with the Premier League.

Which Premier League teams have changed the most?

Nottingham Forest’s first-choice XI will include a number of new signings, with almost half of their minutes from last season accumulated by players who have now left the club. Several key men from their promotion campaign – such as Djed Spence, James Garner and Philip Zinckernagel – were on loan, while others including goalkeeper Brice Samba chose not to renew their contracts.

In all, six of Forest’s most-used 11 players in the Championship have moved on. As a result, manager Steve Cooper has been busy in the transfer market this summer, bringing in players with top-flight experience such as Jesse Lingard and Dean Henderson from Manchester United.

Cooper will have his work cut out getting such a large influx of new players to operate as a team, so they could make an uncertain start to life back in the top flight.

Apart from Forest, every Premier League team has managed to retain at least 80 per cent of their minutes from last season.

However, title contenders Chelsea and Manchester City have seen an unusually high number of first-team departures. The Blues have lost centre-backs Antonio Rüdiger and Andreas Christensen on free transfers, while striker Romelu Lukaku has returned to Inter Milan on loan. City have sold Raheem Sterling (Chelsea), Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko (both Arsenal).

Which Premier League teams have stayed the same?

Tottenham have welcomed lots of new players to White Hart Lane, with Richarlison, Yves Bissouma and Ivan Perišić among the most eye-catching arrivals, but they have also retained almost all of their players from last season.

As it stands, Antonio Conte is able to call upon players who were responsible for more than 96 per cent of minutes in 2021-22.

Meanwhile, manager David Moyes has kept the core of his squad together at West Ham, retaining all of his first-team regulars. The Hammers will be aiming to qualify for Europe for a third successive season.

Who has lost their talisman?

Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel has signed for Nice, ending an 11-year stay at the club. The Danish stopper played in all but one of the Foxes’ Premier League matches last season, although previous comments from boss Brendan Rodgers suggest that Leicester will not rush to find a replacement. Instead, they may rely on their back-up for the past three seasons, Wales international Danny Ward.

At Chelsea, the loss of Rüdiger to Real Madrid leaves a big hole in Thomas Tuchel’s defence – the German centre-half was on the pitch for 89 per cent of Blues’ games last season. Kalidou Koulibaly has arrived from Napoli to fill the gap, but Tuchel is bound to be in the market for another defender before the window snaps shut.

Elsewhere, Forest have replaced Samba – their number one goalkeeper from last season – with Henderson, while Leeds have brought in winger Brenden Aaronson, using some of the funds from Raphinha’s sale to Barcelona.

Liverpool and Everton are both relying on new arrivals to compensate for a big loss in their forward line, with the Merseyside rivals having sold Sadio Mané and Richarlison respectively. In response, Jurgen Klopp has spent big money on Darwin Núñez from Benfica, while Frank Lampard has recently acquired Dwight McNeil from Everton.

How quickly these new attackers gel with their team-mates could be the difference between success and failure, at least during the early part of the campaign.

Where are Europe’s most-changed squads?

The relegation battle in Ligue 1 could be interesting this season as two of the clubs likely to be contesting it have rolled the dice this summer.

Angers have lost almost two-thirds of their playing minutes and eight of their 11 most-used players since last term, making them the most-changed squad in any of the ‘big five’ European leagues by some distance. Meanwhile, Clermont – who narrowly avoided the drop in 17th – have seen almost half of last season’s minutes head out of the door so will also be starting fresh.

Focusing on clubs who finished in the top half of their leagues last season, it looks like fans of Juventus in Italy and Lille in France will have to learn some new names.

Four of Juve’s most-used 11 from last term have departed – notably star defender Matthijs de Ligt to Bayern and striker Paolo Dybala to Roma – while Lille have seen five of theirs leave. The French side’s defence will be almost unrecognisable after Newcastle signed centre-back Sven Botman, with their main goalkeeper and right-back also moving on.

Which European clubs are keeping the faith?

While Barcelona have been busy mortgaging their future to fund a summer trolley dash, many of their rivals have decided to rely on the core of their squad from last season. Champions Real Madrid have signed Aurélien Tchouameni from Monaco and Rudiger from Chelsea, but there have been no significant departures so far.

Upwardly-mobile Betis have also managed to keep hold of their best players, apart from loanee Hector Bellerin returning to Arsenal, as they continue to challenge the established order in La Liga.

It has also been an unusually quiet summer at French giants PSG, with an ageing Angel Di Maria their only notable departure so far. Despite the exit of coach Mauricio Pochettino, there has not been a wholesale shake-up, although the board have provided his replacement with some useful additions to the squad, such as beating Chelsea to Nordi Mukiele’s signature.

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Author

Warren Barner