Premier League Logo

Guardiola's rotation could be decisive in duel with Arteta

3 Feb 2023

We look at why Man City's stars thrive in the second half of the season

Arsenal may be top of the table but their manager Mikel Arteta, formerly a coach at Manchester City, will be only too aware that his side are being pursued by a team who are at their best in the second half of the campaign.

The top two

Pos Team Pl GD Pts
1 ARS 28 +40 69
2 MCI 27 +42 61
View More

Over the last five seasons, Man City have delivered the most points in the second half.

They have provided the best points returns in four of those campaigns, winning the trophy each time. Only Liverpool, in their title-winning 2019/20 season, have outperformed City in the second half of a season.

See: Why Guardiola is reshaping his defence without Cancelo

City's average of 46.6 points from their last 19 matches over that time is three more than Liverpool's and 12 points clear of the next-best average, Manchester United's.

Points in second half of the season
17/18 45 40 39 29 31 26
18/19 54 46 34 32 32 28
19/20 43 44 38 32 34 19
20/21 45 35 34 34 38 26
21/22 46 51 27 34 33 38
Ave. 46.6 43.2 34.4 32.2 33.6 27.4

So, how has Pep Guardiola managed to get such a return from his team, especially at a time in the season when they have been pushing for their first UEFA Champions League triumph?

Much of this success is due to Guardiola's famed rotation policy.

City generally have the most changes to their starting XI over a campaign, although their totals were exceeded by Man Utd in 2017/18 and Liverpool last season.

Most starting XI changes in each season
Season Club Starting XI changes Players used
2017/18 MUN 106 27
MCI 99 25
2018/19 MCI 109 21
LIV 76 23
2019/20 MCI 144 24
LIV 82 24
2020/21 MUN 120 29
MCI 136 24
LIV 91 28
2021/22 MCI 106 26
LIV 113 27

Analysing the numbers for this season, in the table below, the difference is stark.

The 45 changes to Guardiola's starting XIs are three times more than the 14 Arteta has made, even if the latter has used three more players.

Rotation of top four in 2022/23
Club Starting XI changes Players used
Arsenal 14 24
Man City 45 21
Newcastle 21 24
Man Utd 41 23

It certainly seems that Arteta, and Eddie Howe at Newcastle United, have been more dependent on a core number of players this campaign.

This is backed up by a look at how the minutes are distributed around the squads of the top four sides.

If the time of the 11 players with the most minutes played (the core XI) is totalled, the main XI for Arsenal have played 1,500 minutes more than City's. And Newcastle's total is even more than Arsenal's.

Total minutes of most-used 11 players
Club Minutes played
Arsenal 16,546
Man City 14,914
Newcastle 17,082
Man Utd 14,474

Interestingly, the two tables above show that Erik ten Hag has rotated his Man Utd squad in a similar way to Guardiola as the Red Devils fight on four fronts in the Premier League, UEFA Europa League, FA Cup and EFL Cup.

With Arsenal returning to Europe themselves in March, Arteta's use of his squad will also be tested.

Indeed, as he and his former boss Guardiola go head-to-head in the title race, both managers' decisions on when and how to rotate could be decisive.

Latest News

More News: Latest News

Latest Videos

More Videos: Latest Videos