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 been playing every four games (at best) since returning to post-World Cup Premier League action on December 27 and will continue playing every four days (at best) until at least February 26.
Chuck in a Carabao game on December 21 and in little more than two months United will have played 19 games of football. 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. Aston Villa – 1
Ezri Konsa 2031
The Villa centre-half has re-found his form under Unai Emery, who is still trying to work out his best XI.
19. Nottingham Forest – 1
Brennan Johnson 2253
You don’t buy 20 new players to flog them past the 2000-minute barrier as quickly as possible, Carabao run or no Carabao run. Although one of the rare Forest players who was already at the City Ground was first across that particular line having featured in 29 of Forest’s 30 games this season so far.
18. Bournemouth – 2
Adam Smith 2077, Jefferson Lerma 2019
It’s a crap squad, but at least it won’t be a knackered one.
17. 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.
16. Crystal Palace – 2
Marc Guehi 2250, Vicente Guaita 2160
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.
15. Brentford – 3
David Raya 2160, Rico Henry 2034, Ben Mee 2020
Ivan Toney is close.
14. Chelsea – 3
Thiago Silva 2268, Mason Mount 2117, Kai Havertz 2109.
Mad numbers for a Champions League club, and a reminder of just how daftly vast Chelsea’s playing resources are. Jorginho is currently still sixth 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.
13. Wolves – 3
Max Kilman 2430, Ruben Neves 2367, Jose Sa 2340
Nathan Collins (1923) will make it four before too long, but nobody else is yet past 1800 minutes for the Midlanders.
12. Southampton – 3
James Ward-Prowse 2640, Gavin Bazunu 2520, Mohammed Salisu 2266
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.
11. Everton – 4
Alex Iwobi 2232, James Tarkowski 2186, Jordan Pickford 2070, Vitaliy Mykolenko 2041
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.
10. 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.
9. Leicester – 4
Danny Ward 2250, Harvey Barnes 2230, Tomothy Castagne 2199, Youri Tielemans 2162.
If James Maddison had been fit enough to make this list, you suspect they would have had a safely mid-table season.
8. West Ham – 5
Jarrod Bowen 2531, Declan Rice 2366, Tomas Soucek 2110, Vladimir Coufal 2065, Lukasz Fabianski 2054
Only Manchester United have been busier than the Hammers, who are already 34 games into their season thanks to Europa Conference commitments, so only give 2000-minuters isn’t so bad.
7. Fulham – 5
Andreas Pereira 2210, Joao Palhinha 2209, Tim Ream 2158, Harrison Reed 2038, Bobby De Cordova-Reid 2029
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 quintet to have racked up 2000 minutes regardless, though.
6. Liverpool – 6
Mohamed Salah 2783, Alisson 2700, Trent Alexander-Arnold 2290, Virgil van Dijk 2205, Fabinho 2114, Andy Robertson 2066
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 33 games this season, starting 31 of them. One conspicuous game in which he didn’t start was Rangers away in the Champions League. He only got 22 minutes that night, but made the most of them with an absurd six-minute hat-trick in a 7-1 win.
5. Manchester City – 6
Rodri 2805, Ederson 2610, Kevin De Bruyne 2417, Erling Haaland 2403, Ilkay Gundogan 2272, Bernardo Silva 2193
Manuel Akanji and Jack Grealish are right on the edge here but it still remains a fine example of squad management.
4. Arsenal – 7
Gabriel Margalhaes 2653, Granit Xhaka 2440, Bukayo Saka 2394, William Saliba 2343, Gabriel Martinelli 2259, Aaron Ramsdale 2250, Martin Odegaard 2113.
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 here. Their players also had, relatively speaking, a quiet World Cup.
3. Tottenham – 7
Harry Kane 2927, Eric Dier 2712, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg 2633, Heung-min Son 2466, Hugo Lloris 2430, Rodrigo Bentancur 2127, Ivan Perisic 2105
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. Newcastle United – 8
Kieran Trippier 2477, Nick Pope 2452, Dan Burn 2373, Sean Longstaff 2348, Fabian Schar 2326, Joelinton 2320, Sven Botman 2272, Miguel Almiron 2237
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. Did Nick Pope need a rest that bad?
1. Manchester United – 8
Bruno Fernandes 3143, David De Gea 3060 Marcus Rashford 2700, Lisandro Martinez 2422, Christian Eriksen 2276, Casemiro 2211, Luke Shaw 2162, Diogo Dalot 2094.
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 is now the season’s first 3000-minute player. He and 2023’s deadliest striker Marcus Rashford have both appeared in 36 of United’s 38 games this season.