Arsenal starting XI for 2021/22 opener was most under-used of all this season’s Premier League sides

Earning a place in Mikel Arteta’s side for the season opener against Crystal Palace is not necessarily a good omen. However, a start for West Ham against Man City is worth fighting for.

We are repeatedly told that pre-season is not about results and all about building to the first game of the campaign. It's certainly the case for the players who are all pushing hard to get in the starting XI for the season-opener.

However, with the transfer window open, getting a start for the big kick-off is not a guarantee you will go on to feature week in, week out. As teams evolve it is often the team that finishes the season which clocks up the most appearances.

That was certainly the case for Arsenal, with the side that kicked off against Brentford only going on to average 13.5 appearances across the season, as opposed to a 21.7 average for the team that wrapped up with a thumping win over Everton.

The same was true for Manchester City.

Conversely, the West Ham side that finished the campaign against Brighton had nine of the players who started their opening-day fixture against Newcastle.

In fact, such was the dearth of options available to David Moyes that his side on the closing day averaged more than 30 appearances apiece, higher even than any of the three promoted sides who had played eight games more.

Planet Sport has gone through the first and last league games for all 20 of this season's Premier League clubs to see how the starting line-ups changed across last season and how many starts the players involved made.

AFC Bournemouth

First game: Bournemouth 2 West Brom 2

Starting XI (number of starts in brackets): Mark Travers (45), Adam Smith (20), Chris Mepham (12), Lloyd Kelly (40), Jordan Zemura (32), Emiliano Marcondes (8), Phil Billing (37), Gavin Kilkenny (13), David Brooks (7), Dominic Solanke (46), Jaidon Anthony (38)

Final game: Bournemouth 1 Millwall 0

Starting XI: Mark Travers, Adam Smith, Nat Phillips (17), Lloyd Kelly, Jordan Zemura, Lewis Cook (25), Gavin Kilkenny, Robbie Brady (2), Emiliano Marcondes, Jaidon Anthony, Dominic Solanke

Changes from first day to last: 3

Average number of starts of opening-day side: 27.1

Average number of starts of final-day side: 26

With promotion to the Premier League already assured, Scott Parker made one enforced change for the final day, with Jefferson Lerma ruled out with a hamstring injury.

Phil Billing and Ryan Christie dropped to the bench. Gavin Kilkenny and Robbie Brady were handed their first starts in the Championship since December, while Emiliano Marcondes featured for the first time since coming off the bench against Peterborough in March.

Arsenal

Aaron Ramsdale Arsenal Mar22

First game: Brentford 2 Arsenal 0

Starting XI: Bernd Leno (4), Calum Chambers (2), Ben White (32), Pablo Mari (2), Kieran Tierney (22), Albert Sambi Lokonga (11), Granit Xhaka (27), Nicolas Pepe (5), Emile Smith Rowe (21), Gabriel Martinelli (21), Folarin Balogun (1)

Final game: Arsenal 5 Everton 1

Starting XI: Aaron Ramsdale (34), Gabriel (35), Rob Holding (9), Nuno Tavares (13), Cedric Soares (16), Martin Odegaard (32), Granit Xhaka, Mohamed Elneny (8), Eddie Nketiah (8), Gabriel Martinelli, Bukayo Saka (36)

Changes from first day to last: 9

Average number of starts of opening-day side: 13.5

Average number of starts of final-day side: 21.7

Granit Xhaka and Gabriel Martinelli were the only Arsenal players who played both the first and last matches of the season for the Gunners. Nuno Tavares and Bukayo Saka did come on in the opening-day defeat to Brentford, however.

The evolution of the Arsenal side over the season is reflected in the disparity between the average appearances of the first-day starters with those that lined up against Everton.

Aston Villa

First game: Watford 3 Aston Villa 2

Starting XI: Emiliano Martínez (36), Ashley Young (10), Tyrone Mings (35), Matt Targett (17), Ezri Konsa (29), John McGinn (35), Marvelous Nakamba (10), Anwar El Ghazi (4), Emi Buendía (22), Matty Cash (38), Danny Ings (22)

Final game: Manchester City 3 Aston Villa 2

Starting XI: Robin Olsen (1), Lucas Digne (16), Calum Chambers (9), Tyrone Mings, Philippe Coutinho (16), John McGinn, Emi Buendía, Matty Cash, Douglas Luiz (31), Jacob Ramsey (29), Ollie Watkins (33)

Changes from first day to last: 7

Average number of starts of opening-day side: 23.5

Average number of starts of final-day side: 24.1

The arrival of Steven Gerrard mid-way through the season goes some way to explaining the high number of changes for Villa. Olsen came in for his only appearance of the season against Manchester City.

Brentford

Christian Eriksen

First game: Brentford 2 Arsenal 0

Starting XI: David Raya (24), Pontus Jansson (37), Kristoffer Ajer (23), Rico Henry (33), Ethan Pinnock (32), Christian Norgaard (35), Sergi Canos (26), Vitaly Janelt (27), Frank Onyeka (12), Ivan Toney (32), Bryan Mbeumo (34)

Final game: Brentford 1 Leeds 2

Starting XI: David Raya, Pontus Jansson, Kristoffer Ajer, Rico Henry, Mads Bech Sorensen (9), Christian Eriksen (10), Mathias Jensen (19), Vitaly Janelt (12), Ivan Toney, Yoane Wissa, Bryan Mbeumo

Changes from first day to last: 4

Average number of starts of opening-day side: 28.6

Average number of starts of final-day side: 26

Ethan Pinnock, Christian Norgaard and Frank Onyeka were ruled out through injury for the final-day clash with Leeds, though Onyeka only featured sporadically in 2022 due to AFCON duty and injuries.

Christian Eriksen's arrival was the only major change to a side that didn't deviate too much from the opening-day line-up (as illustrated by the second highest average for the division). Even Sergi Canos, the only one of the four to miss out from the season-opener, made an appearance from the bench.

Brighton

First game: Burnley 1 Brighton 2

Starting XI: Robert Sanchez (37), Adam Webster (16), Shane Duffy (15), Lewis Dunk (29), Pascal Gross (24), Solly March (17), Yves Bissouma (25), Enock Mwepu (12), Leandro Trossard (32), Neal Maupay (25), Steven Alzate (4)

Final game: Brighton 3 West Ham 1

Starting XI: Robert Sanchez, Adam Webster, Joel Veltman (33), Lewis Dunk, Marc Cucurella (35), Pascal Gross, Solly March, Yves Bissouma, Alexis Mac Allister (22), Moises Caicedo (8), Danny Welbeck (16)

Changes from first day to last: 5

Average number of starts of opening-day side: 21.5

Average number of starts of final-day side: 23.8

Adam Webster came in for Brighton on the final day due to an injury for Leandro Trossard.

Marc Cucurella, who joined on the final day of August, went on to start the remaining 35 games for the Seagulls.

Chelsea

Antonio Rudiger

First game: Chelsea 3 Crystal Palace 0

Starting XI: Edouard Mendy (34), Cesar Azpilicueta (24), Marcos Alonso (25), Antonio Rudiger (34), Andreas Christensen (17), Mateo Kovacic (16), Jorginho (26), Trevoh Chalobah (17), Mason Mount (27), Christian Pulisic (13), Timo Werner (15)

Final game: Chelsea 2 Watford 1

Starting XI: Edouard Mendy, Thiago Silva (28), Cesar Azpilicueta, Antonio Rudiger, Reece James (22), Saul Niguez (5), N'Golo Kante (21), Hakim Ziyech (14), Kenedy (1), Mason Mount, Kai Havertz (22)

Changes from first day to last: 7

Average number of starts of opening-day side: 22.5

Average number of starts of final-day side: 21.1

With third-place secured, Thomas Tuchel opted to rotate his squad on the final day, with Saul making a farewell appearance and Kenedy making his only appearance of the campaign. Andreas Christensen and Marcos Alonso were both left out ahead of summer moves.

Antonio Rudiger, despite also being poised to leave as a free agent, retained his place in the side.

Crystal Palace

First game: Chelsea 3 Crystal Palace 0

Starting XI: Vicente Guaita (30), Joel Ward (27), Jeffrey Schlupp (20), Marc Guehi (36), Tyrick Mitchell (35), James McArthur (15), Cheikhou Kouyate (23), Jairo Riedewald (1), Jordan Ayew (23), Wilfried Zaha (31), Jean-Philippe Mateta (13)

Final game: Crystal Palace 1 Manchester United 0

Starting XI: Vicente Guaita, Joel Ward, Nathaniel Clyne (15), Joachim Andersen (32), Tyrick Mitchell, Jeffrey Schlupp, Will Hughes (13), Conor Gallagher (33), Jesurun Rak-Sakyi (1), Wilfried Zaha, Odsonne Edouard (18)

Changes from first day to last: 6

Average number of starts of opening-day side: 23.1

Average number of starts of final-day side: 23.2

Jesurun Rak-Sakyi was handed his first start for Crystal Palace against Man Utd, while Marc Guehi missed out after picking up an injury in the penultimate fixture of the season.

Odsonne Edouard joined on transfer deadline but after an impressive start found himself out of the side for much of the second half of the campaign. He returned for the final game, replacing Jean-Philippe Mateta.

Jairo Riedewald's only start of the season came in the opener.

Everton

Frank Lampard after Everton draw at Watford

First game: Everton 3 Southampton 1

Starting XI: Jordan Pickford (35), Seamus Coleman (30), Lucas Digne (13), Michael Keane (31), Mason Holgate (23), Andros Townsend (17), Allan (25), Abdoulaye Doucoure (29), Demarai Gray (28), Dominic Calvert-Lewin (15), Richarlison (28)

Final game: Arsenal 5 Everton 1

Starting XI: Asmir Begovic (3), Michael Keane, Jonjoe Kenny (11), Mason Holgate, Jarrad Branthwaite (4), Abdoulaye Doucoure, Dele Alli (1), Demarai Gray, Tom Davies (2), Alex Iwobi (22), Dominic Calvert-Lewin

Changes from first day to last: 6

Average number of starts of opening-day side: 24.9

Average number of starts of final-day side: 15.4

With Premier League survival assured, Frank Lampard left out Jordan Pickford and Richarlison for the visit to the Emirates and went with a side which had very little Premier League experience in 2021/22.

The previous game, a dramatic 3-2 win over Crystal Palace, had seen six of the team which kicked off the opening-day defeat to Southampton in the starting XI.

Fulham

First game: Fulham 1 Middlesbrough 1

Starting XI: Paulo Gazzaniga (13), Tim Ream (46), Kenny Tete (15), Tosin Adarabioyo (41), Antonee Robinson (33), Neeskens Kebano (31), Josh Onomah (8), Harry Wilson (40), Tyrese Francois (1), Fabio Carvalho (33), Aleksandar Mitrovic (44)

Final game: Sheffield United 4 Fulham 0

Starting XI: Paulo Gazzaniga, Tim Ream, Michael Hector (4), Kenny Tete, Antonee Robinson, Nathaniel Chalobah (11), Neeskens Kebano, Jean Michael Seri (26), Fabio Carvalho, Bobby Reid (26), Aleksandar Mitrovic

Changes from first day to last: 4

Average number of starts of opening-day side: 27.7

Average number of starts of final-day side: 25.6

Paulo Gazzaniga played the first and last matches for Fulham but it was Marek Rodak who was first-choice keeper for the Cottagers last season, making 33 appearances.

Australian midfielder Tyrese Francois made his only start on the opening day.

Fulham wrapped the title up the previous Tuesday but Marco Silva resisted the temptation to make wholesale changes for the final day. Nevertheless, Fulham were still thrashed 4-0 by Sheffield United.

Leeds

Patrick Bamford

First game: Manchester United 5 Leeds 1

Starting XI: Illan Meslier (38), Liam Cooper (21), Luke Ayling (26), Stuart Dallas (34), Robin Koch (17), Pascal Struijk (22), Mateusz Klich (26), Jack Harrison (32), Rodrigo (27), Patrick Bamford (7), Raphinha (34)

Final game: Brentford 1 Leeds 2

Starting XI: Illan Meslier, Liam Cooper, Diego Llorente (28), Robin Koch, Junior Firpo (19), Kalvin Phillips (18), Jack Harrison, Rodrigo, Raphinha, Sam Greenwood (1), Joe Gelhardt (5)

Changes from first day to last: 5

Average number of starts of opening-day side: 25.8

Average number of starts of final-day side: 21.8

Sam Greenwood came in for his first start on the final day, replacing Mateusz Klich, while two of Joe Gelhardt's five starts came in the penultimate game draw against Brighton and the final-day win over Brentford.

Injuries prevented Patrick Bamford adding to his seven appearances, while Kalvin Phillips would also have racked up more game-time had it not been for shoulder, calf and hamstring injuries.

Leicester

First game: Leicester 1 Wolves 0

Starting XI: Kasper Schmeichel (37), Ricardo Pereira (13), Daniel Amartey (23), Caglar Soyuncu (28), Luke Thomas (21), Youri Tielemans (29), Wilfred Ndidi (18), James Maddison (28), Harvey Barnes (24), Jamie Vardy (20), Ayoze Perez (6)

Final game: Leicester 4 Southampton 1

Starting XI: Kasper Schmeichel, Jonny Evans (16), Timothy Castagne (22), James Justin (11), Wesley Fofana (7), Nampalys Mendy (12), Youri Tielemans, James Maddison, Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall (23), Harvey Barnes, Jamie Vardy

Changes from first day to last: 6

Average number of starts of opening-day side: 22.5

Average number of starts of final-day side: 20.8

Kasper Schmeichel was the only Foxes player to clock up more than 30 appearances and the inability to name a settled side may have some bearing on Leicester's inconsistent season.

James Justin, Timothy Castagne and Nampalys Mendy all established themselves in the side in the run-in, while Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall only gained his first start in December but went on to clock up 23.

Liverpool

Luis Diaz celebrates for Liverpool

First game: Norwich City 0 Liverpool 3

Starting XI: Alisson (36), Joel Matip (31), Virgil van Dijk (34), Kostas Tsimikas (9), Trent Alexander-Arnold (32), James Milner (9), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (9), Naby Keita (14), Mo Salah (30), Sadio Mane (32), Diogo Jota (27)

Final game: Liverpool 3 Wolves 1

Starting XI: Alisson, Joel Matip, Andrew Robertson (29), Trent Alexander-Arnold, Ibrahima Konate (11), Jordan Henderson (29), Thiago Alcantara (17), Naby Keita, Sadio Mane, Diogo Jota, Luis Díaz (11)

Changes from first day to last: 5

Average number of starts of opening-day side: 23.9

Average number of starts of final-day side: 26.9

Mohamed Salah and Virgil van Dijk started the final day on the bench after injury issues but would have started if fit. The arrival of Luis Diaz provided the Reds with attacking impetus in the second half of the campaign, with the Portuguese making 11 Premier League starts and supplying four goals and three assists.

Manchester City

First game: Tottenham 1 Manchester City 0

Starting XI: Ederson (37), Joao Cancelo (36), Benjamin Mendy (1), Nathan Ake (10), Ruben Dias (27), Fernandinho (10), Ilkay Gundogan (20), Jack Grealish (22), Riyad Mahrez (15), Raheem Sterling (23), Ferran Torres (4)

Final game: Manchester City 3 Aston Villa 2

Starting XI: Ederson, Joao Cancelo, Aymeric Laporte (33), John Stones (12), Fernandinho, Kevin De Bruyne (25), Bernardo Silva (33), Rodri (33), Phil Foden (24), Riyad Mahrez, Gabriel Jesus (21)

Changes from first day to last: 7

Average number of starts of opening-day side: 18.6

Average number of starts of final-day side: 25.4

The opening-day defeat to Tottenham can perhaps be explained by the subsequent lack of starts for a number of the starting XI.

And while Pep Guardiola has an embarrassment of riches at his disposal, five of the starting XI for the final-day clash with Villa made 33 or more league appearances over the course of the season.

Manchester United

First game: Manchester United 5 Leeds 1

Starting XI: David De Gea (38), Victor Lindelof (26), Harry Maguire (28), Luke Shaw (19), Aaron Wan-Bissaka (20), Paul Pogba (16), Fred (24), Bruno Fernandes (35), Scott McTominay (28), Daniel James (2), Mason Greenwood (16)

Final game: Crystal Palace 1 Manchester United 0

Starting XI: David De Gea, Alex Telles (18), Victor Lindelof, Harry Maguire, Diogo Dalot (19), Fred, Bruno Fernandes, Scott McTominay, Hannibal Mejbri (1), Edinson Cavani (7), Anthony Elanga (14)

Changes from first day to last: 5

Average number of starts of opening-day side: 22.9

Average number of starts of final-day side: 21.6

Hannibal was brought in for his debut on the final day of the season, while Edinson Cavani was handed a start in his final game in United colours.

However, those two apart, the United team looked very similar to the one that opened the season under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Cristiano Ronaldo didn't join until late in August but still racked up 27 starts, the fourth highest for a United outfield player.

Newcastle

Newcastle United manager Eddie Howe

First game: Newcastle 2 West Ham 4

Starting XI: Freddie Woodman (4), Federico Fernandez (5), Ciaran Clark (12), Emil Krafth (18), Jonjo Shelvey (22), Matt Ritchie (14), Isaac Hayden (12), Miguel Almiron (19), Allan Saint-Maximin (31), Jacob Murphy (13), Callum Wilson (31)

Final game: Burnley 1 Newcastle 2

Starting XI: Martin Dubravka (26), Kieran Trippier (5), Dan Burn (16), Jamaal Lascelles (22), Matt Targett (16), Miguel Almiron, Allan Saint-Maximin, Bruno Guimaraes (11), Sean Longstaff (15), Callum Wilson, Joelinton (30)

Changes from first day to last: 8

Average number of starts of opening-day side: 16.5

Average number of starts of final-day side: 20.2

Only Miguel Almiron, Allan Saint-Maximin and Callum Wilson survived from the opening-day defeat to West Ham, underlining Newcastle's transformation from relegation strugglers to the richest club in the world.

In fact, of the XI that started against West Ham, Freddie Woodman, Isaac Hayden and Ciaran Clark have already departed (the latter two on loan), while Federico Fernandez is training with the reserves and is also expected to leave.

Nottingham Forest

First game: Coventry 2 Nottingham Forest 1

Starting XI: Brice Samba (40), Gaetan Bong (4), Scott McKenna (45), Jordan Lawrence-Gabriel (4), Loic Mbe Soh (2), Jack Colback (36), Ryan Yates (41), Brennan Johnson (44), Lyle Taylor (8), Joe Lolley (10), Alex Mighten (5)

Final game: Hull 1 Nottingham Forest 1

Starting XI: Brice Samba, Tobias Figueiredo (22), Joe Worrall (39), Richie Laryea (1), Jonathan Panzo (1), Cafu (2), James Garner (36), Philip Zinckernagel (35), Joe Lolley, Xande Silva (2), Alex Mighten

Changes from first day to last: 8

Average number of starts of opening-day side: 21.7

Average number of starts of final-day side: 17.5

With automatic promotion out of reach and their play-off spot already assured, Forest boss Steve Cooper made seven changes for the final-day visit to the MKM Stadium.

It was the only league game Scott McKenna missed, with the defender recovering from illness and only making the bench.

Brice Samba, Joe Worrall, James Garner and Philip Zinckernagel were the only players to retain their places from the side that lost to Bournemouth in their previous outing to end their automatic promotion hopes.

However, to underline the evolution under Cooper, even the side against the Cherries had six changes from the one that started the season with Chris Hughton at the helm.

Southampton

Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl

First game: Everton 3 Southampton 1

Starting XI: Alex McCarthy (17), Jack Stephens (9), Romain Perraud (18), Valentino Livramento (25), Mohammed Salisu (33), Oriol Romeu (34), James Ward-Prowse (36), Moussa Djenepo (5), Theo Walcott (5), Adam Armstrong (17)

Final game: Leicester 4 Southampton 1

Starting XI: Alex McCarthy, Jack Stephens, Lyanco (9), Kyle Walker-Peters (29), Mohammed Salisu, Oriol Romeu, Stuart Armstrong (15), Nathan Redmond (20), Mohamed Elyounoussi (23), James Ward-Prowse, Adam Armstrong

Changes from first day to last: 5

Average number of starts of opening-day side: 18.1

Average number of starts of final-day side: 22

Southampton's form again tailed off at the end of the campaign, with nine defeats coming in their last 12 Premier League games.

However, they arguably boasted a more experienced XI for their final game, with the side averaging 22 starts across the season as opposed to just over 18 for the side that faced Everton.

Tottenham

First game: Tottenham 1 Manchester City 0

Starting XI: Hugo Lloris (38), Davinson Sanchez (17), Sergio Reguilon (22), Japhet Tanganga (10), Heung-min Son (35), Lucas Moura (19), Pierre Hojbjerg (36), Dele Alli (8), Eric Dier (35), Oliver Skipp (14), Steven Bergwijn (4)

Final game: Norwich 0 Tottenham 5

Starting XI: Hugo Lloris, Ben Davies (28), Davinson Sanchez, Emerson Royal (26), Heung-min Son, Pierre Hojbjerg, Eric Dier, Rodrigo Bentancur (16), Ryan Sessegnon (13), Dejan Kulusevski (14), Harry Kane (36)

Changes from first day to last: 6

Average number of starts of opening-day side: 21.6

Average number of starts of final-day side: 26.7

The opening game against Manchester City was the only game in which Harry Kane did not feature last season, with the England captain coming on in the next game against Wolves and starting the subsequent 36.

Five players provided the core of the Spurs starting XI, with Hugo Lloris, Heung-min Son, Harry Kane, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Eric Dier all making at least 35 starts.

After joining on loan from Juventus, Dejan Kulusevski started 14 of the 18 matches he was available for, coming on as substitute in the other four.

West Ham

Declan Rice disappointed after West Ham defeat

First game: Newcastle 2 West Ham 4

Starting XI: Lukasz Fabianski (37), Angelo Ogbonna (11), Aaron Cresswell (31), Craig Dawson (30), Vladimir Coufal (25), Michail Antonio (34), Tomas Soucek (34), Declan Rice (35), Pablo Fornals (32), Said Benrahma (26), Jarrod Bowen (34)

Final game: Brighton 3 West Ham 1

Starting XI: Lukasz Fabianski, Aaron Cresswell, Craig Dawson, Vladimir Coufal, Kurt Zouma (24), Manuel Lanzini (19), Tomas Soucek, Declan Rice, Pablo Fornals, Michail Antonio, Jarrod Bowen

Changes from first day to last: 2

Average number of starts of opening-day side: 29.9

Average number of starts of final-day side: 30.5

The Irons had a Premier League high eight players who made 30 or more starts in the campaign, reflecting the lack of options at David Moyes' disposal.

West Ham also boast the highest average appearances for their first-day and last-day teams, a figure that may have been even higher but for a cruciate ligament injury for Angelo Ogbonna.

Wolves

First game: Leicester 1 Wolves 0

Starting XI: Jose Sa (37), Fernando Marcal (17), Conor Coady (38), Max Kilman (30), Ki-Jana Hoever (4), Joao Moutinho (34), Romain Saiss (31), Ruben Neves (31), Raul Jimenez (30), Adama Traore (10), Francisco Trincao (16)

Final game: Liverpool 3 Wolves 1

Starting XI: Jose Sa, Willy Boly (10), Conor Coady, Leander Dendoncker (21), Jonny (10), Rayan Ait Nouri (20), Toti Gomes (4), Joao Moutinho, Raul Jimenez, Ruben Neves, Pedro Neto (5)

Changes from first day to last: 6

Average number of starts of opening-day side: 25.3

Average number of starts of final-day side: 21.8

Seven Wolves players made 30 or more appearances for the Molineux side, with Conor Coady an ever-present. All seven featured in the opening-day defeat to Leicester.

READ MORE: Patrick Vieira says small pre-season squad is 'not ideal' as unvaccinated players are left at home

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