The already daft 2022/23 fixture list is hitting its daftest point of all with cup commitments and the return of European football making for a heady brew. Manchester United, for instance, have played 16 games in the first two months of 2023.
Sympathy for a club of their standing will inevitably be in short supply, but it’s an absurd workload. And as the following totting up of players who’ve already played over 2,000 minutes of club football this season shows, their top players are already among the top flight’s busiest…
20) Nottingham Forest – 2
Brennan Johnson 2339, Rem0 Freuler 2059
You don’t buy 427 new players to flog them past the 2000-minute barrier as quickly as possible.
19) Bournemouth – 2
Adam Smith 2136, Jefferson Lerma 2109
It’s a crap squad, but at least it won’t be a knackered one.
18) Leeds – 2
Illan Meslier 2340, Robin Koch 2053
Not sure it’s really talked about enough that Leeds really do ask an awful lot of a goalkeeper who is still only 22.
17) Crystal Palace – 2
Marc Guehi 2340, Vicente Guaita 2250
Had he not been suspended for the 3-0 defeat against Fulham, Guehi would have a perfect score having played every minute of Palace’s other 25 games this season. He’s three bookings away from another suspension, which appears to be the only way he’ll get a rest this season. Strangely, given Guehi’s undroppability (a word we’ve just shamelessly made up), Palace’s only other 2000-minuter is their keeper while nobody else is close.
16) Brentford – 3
David Raya 2160, Rico Henry 2034, Ben Mee 2020
Ivan Toney is close.
15) Wolves – 3
Max Kilman 2520, Ruben Neves 2457, Jose Sa 2430
Odd because it feels like Wolves always play the same team.
14) Southampton – 3
James Ward-Prowse 2730, Gavin Bazunu 2610, Mohammed Salisu 2356
Frankly a surprise to learn any player other than Ward-Prowse has played any minutes at all for the Saints this season. Twenty-year-old keeper Gavin Bazunu’s massive workload could charitably be described as a learning curve.
13) Aston Villa – 4
Ezri Konsa 2121, Ollie Watkins 2068, Emiliano Martinez 2015, Tyrone Mings 2011.
Unai Emery has finally worked out who he can trust.
12) Chelsea – 4
Thiago Silva 2287, Kai Havertz 2199, Mason Mount 2145, Kepa 2025
Mad numbers for a Champions League club, and a reminder of just how daftly vast Chelsea’s playing resources are. Jorginho is currently still seventh on their minutes list and might not drop that far that quickly given all the assorted newcomers there are around the place. And of course, if you’ve got a massive squad that condemns few players to a relentless schedule, make sure one of the ones who is playing week in, midweek out is actual timelord Thiago Silva. Fair enough, too: he’s as good as ever.
11) Brighton – 4
Pascal Gross 2222, Solly March 2221, Lewis Dunk 2220, Moises Caicedo 2046
Didn’t expect to find ourselves gripped by the epic three-way tussle for top spot in the Brighton’s Busiest Player competition, but it’s now our everything. Pipe down, Arsenal and Man City. Nobody cares.
10) Leicester – 4
Danny Ward 2340, Harvey Barnes 2320, Tomothy Castagne 2284, Youri Tielemans 2190.
If James Maddison had been fit enough to make this list, you suspect they would have had a safely mid-table season. Wout Faes is on the verge.
9) Everton – 5
Alex Iwobi 2302, James Tarkowski 2276, Jordan Pickford 2160, Vitaliy Mykolenko 2131, Conor Coady 2061
Everton’s problem – haha, like Everton have just one – is not that they have several players at or near 2000 minutes but the identity of those who are nowhere near. Specifically Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who is yet to reach 800 minutes, and Andros Townsend who hasn’t kicked a ball this season due to injury.
8) West Ham – 6
Jarrod Bowen 2621, Declan Rice 2456, Tomas Soucek 2200, Vladimir Coufal 2110, Lukasz Fabianski 2123, Vladimir Coufal 2110
Only Manchester United have been busier than the Hammers, who are already 35 games into their season thanks to Europa Conference commitments, so only six 2000-minuters isn’t so bad.
7) Fulham – 6
Andreas Pereira 2300, Joao Palhinha 2299, Tim Ream 2248, Harrison Reed 2083, Bobby De Cordova-Reid 2074, Bernd Leno 2070
Fulham have played the least amount of football of anyone this season, having successfully managed to be the only Premier League team to get knocked out in round two of the Carabao. No great surprise among the core group to have racked up 2000 minutes regardless, though.
6) Liverpool – 6
Mohamed Salah 2963, Alisson 2880, Trent Alexander-Arnold 2451, Virgil van Dijk 2385, Andy Robertson 2246, Fabinho 2223.
Liverpool have certainly looked to capitalise on Salah’s lack of World Cup activity by making him play pretty much all the other football. He got a night off in the Carabao against Derby back in September but has played some part in all Liverpool’s other 35 games this season, starting 33 of them. Joe Gomez is close to the 2000-minute club, but he probably shouldn’t be.
5) Manchester City – 8
Rodri 2950, Ederson 2790, Erling Haaland 2565, Ilkay Gundogan 2417, Kevin De Bruyne 2417, Bernardo Silva 2283, Manuel Akanji 2138, Jack Grealish 2093.
What’s key here is the quality of the players not on this list: Nathan Ake, Riyad Mahrez, Phil Foden, Ruben Dias, Aymeric Laporte, Kyle Walker…
4) Arsenal – 8
Gabriel Margalhaes 2743, Granit Xhaka 2530, Bukayo Saka 2484, William Saliba 2433, Gabriel Martinelli 2349, Aaron Ramsdale 2340, Martin Odegaard 2197, Ben White 2071.
Overall it’s not bad for Premier League table-toppers and Europa contenders. For all the talk of Arsenal’s lack of squad depth they are not exactly smashing the same starting XI to bits over and over again. Their players also had, relatively speaking, a quiet World Cup.
3) Tottenham – 8
Harry Kane 3017, Eric Dier 2802, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg 2723, Heung-min Son 2477, Hugo Lloris 2430, Rodrigo Bentancur 2127, Ivan Perisic 2105, Ben Davies 2008.
That is an awful lot of football from Kane in what is already a record-breaking season, having thus far failed to pick up his customary ankle injury. He’s just about the only key Spurs player who hasn’t been injured at some point, with Rodrigo Bentancur a certainty not to add to his 2127, and Hugo Lloris set for a lengthy spell stuck on 2430. Son would be well past 2500 minutes but for getting a smack in the face, while Cristian Romero and Dejan Kulusevski would definitely have 2000 minutes behind them as well given a clear run.
2) Manchester United – 8
Bruno Fernandes 3323, David De Gea 3240, Marcus Rashford 2876, Lisandro Martinez 2602, Casemiro 2391, Luke Shaw 2342, Christian Eriksen 2276, Diogo Dalot 2162
Manchester United are determined to play absolutely all of the football this season, finishing second in their Europa group to land a play-off against Barcelona and going the full distance in the Carabao too. Bruno Fernandes plays nearly all of the football and became the season’s first 3000-minute player. He and 2023’s deadliest striker Marcus Rashford have both appeared in 38 of United’s 40 games this season.
1) Newcastle United – 9
Kieran Trippier 2567, Dan Burn 2463, Nick Pope 2452, Fabian Schar 2416, Joelinton 2410, Sean Longstaff 2393, Sven Botman 2362, Miguel Almiron 2327, Joe Willock 2002
For a club not in Europe, it’s a lot. The Carabao run to Wembley is quite rightly not something most Newcastle fans would trade given their long, long wait for a showpiece final, but it has stretched an overperforming squad and the cracks might just be starting to show in the league.