Chelsea manager Frank Lampard Photo: VCG
Much was made last week in the opening game of the English Premier League season about the young squads selected by a number of teams.
It was most evident on Sunday where Unai Emery’s Arsenal took on Newcastle United at St James’s Park and the average age of the Gunners side was 25.4 years. Then in the last game of the weekend, Manchester United hosted Chelsea and both teams put out youthful lineups for their season opener.
Manchester United’s average age was 24 years and 227 days with Jesse Lingard the oldest outfield player at 26 years. The oldest player on the pitch was Pedro, with the Chelsea midfielder the only player in the starting lineups aged over 30. Even that had little bearing on the average age of the squad, a sprightly 25 years and 199 days.
In fact 13 of the 20 teams in the Premier League had starting XI’s that were under the age of 27 in their 2019-20 season opener.
Manchester United’s was the youngest, followed by Daniel Farke’s Norwich City (25 years and 3 months) who stuck to the courage of their convictions in taking the passing game that won the Championship last season to Anfield. The German’s side lost to Jurgen Klopp’s team (average age 26 years and 9 months) but won plenty of friends for sticking religiously to their philosophy despite making the leap to the top flight – and playing the Champions of Europe and last season’s runners-up in the league.
Elsewhere, youth was on show at Southampton (25 years and 3 months), Bournemouth (25 years and 4 months) and Leicester City (25 years and 9 months). Even at the champions, who romped to a 5-0 win over West Ham United to ensure that they kept pace with Liverpool, who beat newcomers Norwich the night before, was done with a starting lineup whose average age was 26 years and 3 months.
That was the same as Steve Bruce’s Newcastle United, although the comparisons between the clubs end there. Everton (25.9 years), Tottenham Hotspur (26.3) and Aston Villa (26.3) all came in at under 27 for their average age while West Ham hit it dead on.
Youth is clearly the direction for many managers this season but it is interesting to compare that to the decisions of the boards that employ the men in the dugout.
Frank Lampard might have been making his bow as a Premier League manager but he is not actually that young, whatever the media may make out, and it is a similar story with the man he faced last Sunday, Manchester United’s Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
The new Stamford Bridge boss seems young but he is 41 and only 6 months younger than Jose Mourinho was when he moved to Chelsea back in 2004.
Nowadays the trend is away from younger managers, to the point where of the managers making their debuts in the Premier League this season not one of them is close to troubling the top 10 and barely trouble the top 50 – new boy Lampard coming in at No.43 on the list.
Admittedly some of those on the top 50 are still managing in the Premier League this season – Solskjaer (No.40), Steve Bruce (48), Marco Silva (29), Brendan Rodgers (24) – or were working in last season – Jose Mourinho (47), Jan Siewert (17), Scott Parker (23) and Mark Hughes (39)
Only Siewert and Parker were appointed last campaign with the others enjoying their Premier League debut seasons as long as 15 years ago. Not to mention that both Fulham and Huddersfield Town were relegated with Parker and Siewert in charge and neither will have instilled confidence in backing youth in the dugout to outside observers.
Who are the youngest managers in Premier League history and what happened to them?
Chris Coleman, Fulham – 32 years, 7 months
The recently retired defender succeeded his former Fulham boss Jean Tigana as caretaker manager in April 2003 and was given the Craven Cottage role on a permanent basis the following month after securing their top flight status. After being sacked by Fulham in April 2007, Coleman went to Spanish La Liga side Real Sociedad where he lasted six months before moving to Coventry City. The well-travelled Welshman’s career has also taken in Greek side AEL and a successful spell in charge of his country where he took them to the semifinals of Euro 2016. Since then Coleman had a short spell at Sunderland, where he was unable to keep the Black Cats in the Championship, and then in the Chinese Super League with Hebei China Fortune. “Cookie,” as he is known, saw his time in China come to an end this May, less than a year into the role.
Gianluca Villa, Chelsea – 33 years, 7 months
The former Juventus and Sampdoria striker had been a hit with Chelsea fans after joining the club as a player in 1996, when he signed for Ruud Gullit’s side. When the Dutchman was sacked in February 1998, the Blues turned to their Italian forward as player-manager and he became the first Italian to manage in the Premier League. Vialli stayed on after he hung up his boots but was sacked five games into the 2000-01 season after losing the dressing room.
Andre Villas-Boas, Chelsea – 33 years, 9 months
The Portuguese joined from Porto but the similarities with the “Special One” stopped there. Appointed in June 2011, he was gone by the following March after going against the wishes of chairman Roman Abrahamovic in team selection and falling out of the title race. He has since managed Spurs, Zenit St-Petersurg and Shanghai SIPG. Following a break to race rally cars after walking away from the Chinese Super League, he is back in management at French giants Marseille.