By 90Min
November 13, 2018

Just 5.3% of all Premier League minutes played so far this season* have gone to players aged 21 or under, with clubs in the rest of Europe's top five leagues (La Liga, Bundesliga, Serie A, Ligue 1) generally handing more chances to young players.

Nearly three times as much game time has gone to emerging talents in Germany, with under-21 stars getting 14.7% of the total minutes played by every player in the Bundesliga this season. That number for Ligue 1 is 14.4%, while it is 9.7% in Serie A and 6.1% in La Liga.

These numbers are part of the latest research by the CIES Football Observatory, and cover players born on or after 1st January 1997 in domestic league matches until 8th November 2018.

In the Bundesliga, Lukas Muhl, Santiago Ascacibar and Arne Maier have all played 100% of their team's minutes. The same can be said of Emil Audero, Gianluigi Donnarumma and Nikola Milenkovic in Serie A, and of Jules Kounde and Paul Bernardoni in Ligue 1.

Where the Premier League at least ranks higher than La Liga in this respect is that Wolves midfielder Ruben Neves has played 100% of minutes this season. No club in Spain's top flight has given so much opportunity to a young player - Igor Zubeldia at 97% is the most used.

James Baylis - AMA/GettyImages

Wolves' ever-present Portuguese midfielder has made the step up from the Championship look almost effortless since helping the Molineux club to promotion last season. He played another full game as Wolves held Arsenal to a 1-1 draw at the weekend.

But no other Premier League player aged 21 or under has played more than 90% of their team's minutes in league games this season. Aaron Wan-Bissaka of Crystal Palace is the next most used Premier League youngster after Neves on 89%.

Joe Gomez has played 85% of Premier League minutes for Liverpool and the Reds deserve credit because homegrown talent Trent Alexander-Arnold has played 82%. Both feature in the top five for the league as a whole (TAA is joint fifth) alongside Ryan Sessegnon and Issa Diop.

Michael Regan/GettyImages

Richarlison has played 76% of Everton's Premier League minutes, which arguably would have been more but for a red card and suspension earlier this season. David Brooks has played 74% of Premier League minutes for Bournemouth.

There is a sharp drop in the remainder of the top 10, though. The ninth most used under-21 player, Declan Rice, has played 68% of Premier League minutes for West Ham, while Timothy Fosu-Mensah sneaks into the top 10 despite only being on the pitch 51% of the time for Fulham.

The 10th most used young talent in both the Bundesliga or Serie A, for example, has played 77%. In Ligue 1, meanwhile, the top 10 list does not drop below 83%.

Soccrates Images/GettyImages

Picture: Youri Tielemans has played 83% of Ligue 1 minutes for Monaco

A number of factors may be in play. One argument would be that Premier League clubs are not producing enough young talents - it also says plenty that the only youngster on 100% of minutes was bought for £15.8m from Porto.

Another is that Premier League clubs simply aren't as patient or as willing to take a risk on young players as their European counterparts. That says a lot about the results-driven nature of football in England's top flight, where even a few poor results can put managers under pressure.

Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford, who recently celebrated his 21st birthday is an interesting omission from the top 10. The England international had only played 41% of his team's Premier League minutes this season prior to the cutoff date.


10 Most Used U-21 Players in the Premier League This Season:

Player Club Born % of Minutes Played
Ruben Neves Wolverhampton Wanderers 1997 100%
Aaron Wan-Bissaka Crystal Palace 1997 89%
Joe Gomez Liverpool 1997 85%
Ryan Sessegnon Fulham 2000 84%
Issa Diop West Ham United 1997 82%
Trent Alexander-Arnold Liverpool 1998 82%
Richarlison Everton 1997 76%
David Brooks Bournemouth 1997 74%
Declan Rice West Ham United 1999 68%
Timothy Fosu-Mensah Fulham 1998 51%

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