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A very interesting interactive squad visualisation published by Roast allows us to dwell on some very insightful trends about the top 6 in the Premier League and their squads.
While most football fans and purists (correctly) argue that football didn’t begin in 1992, as the promoters of the Premier League would have you believe, denying that it changed in that year would have to be the territory of the willfully ignorant. The advent of the Premier League changed British football forever, and the incoming stream of cash to clubs’ coffers saw a similar stream of foreign recruits as well a few short years down the line.
Of course, that has shown us a lot of different perspectives, with different kinds of skill, knowhow and attitudes imported to the British isles through this route. The results have been mixed, to say the least, with the mostly dominant Manchester United boasting a strong English core over the course of their peak years, but almost every other winner being built on a fine blend of the best of British players, and the rest of the world.
Studying the above graphic, and its various iterations will delineate the salient trends we’ve all observed over the last few years. While legends like Solskjaer and Ljungberg from Scandinavia dominated the late 90’s and early noughties, the foreign imports of choice today tend to emerge from the dominant football playing nations like Brazil, Spain, and France.
With specific respect to Chelsea, it’s easy to observe where they shot up from a middling club to one of the top 6. Their league finishes were closer to the top than the bottom of course (their worst season being the inaugural season of the Premier League, in which they finished 11th), but they were seldom considered serious title contenders.
The petro-dollar influx on 2003 changed all of that of course, and along with a drastic rise in the league position, we also witness a drastic rise in the number of foreigners playing for them. The 2002-03 season saw them field 11 different nationalities, but just 2 years on, the title winning campaign of 2004-05 saw 17 different nationalities represented. For perspective, that’s a jump of about 50%!
Interestingly enough, this increase in the number of different nationalities representing Chelsea hasn’t really coincided with a corresponding reduction in the English core of the team, with the England representation hovering around 25% after the turn of the millennium.
Essentially, it means that the Pensioners have pursued a smart strategy since the Abramovich takeover to keep themselves near the top, and ensure their position as one of the most consistent sides in England in the last decade. While they have retained their British core, their markets have grown more concentrated over time. The 17 different nationalities of 2005 have been cut to 10 this season, which large representation from the likes of Spain and Belgium.