With the international break upon us we've had time to take an in-depth look at the average ages of each team in the Premier League based on their starting XIs over the first 3 fixtures. While it becomes apparent that a number of managers are looking towards the future by fielding younger sides, others are looking to their elder statesmen with varying degrees of success.
Taking a look at the average age of the starting XIs from the final 3 games of last season compared to the opening 3 games of this, we see that 11 teams have a younger average age this time around, with 9 older. While this may seem insignificant there are a number of sides that seem to have made concerted efforts to either bring that age down or include more experience.
Although Arsenal currently have the youngest starting line-up on average thus far (25.7), it is Paul Lambert who has made the biggest effort to drop the age of his squad, mirrored by the signings the new Villa manager made in the summer. McLeish's last 3 starting XIs in charge of the Midlands outfit averaged an age of 28.4, while Lambert's first 3 games in charge have seen an average age of just 25.9.
The likes of Brendan Rodgers, Nigel Adkins and Tony Pulis have all also made changes to try and refresh their teams with younger faces. They, though, along with Villa have had somewhat unfavourable starts to the campaign, while the likes of Everton, West Brom and Chelsea have all seen their average age marginally increase (as shown in the table above) and all began the season in fine form.
It is, however, Michael Laudrup's Swansea whose average age has had the most significant rise from the tail end of last season. The Welsh side had an average age of 25.6 in the last 3 games of the 2011/12 campaign and that average is up to 27 this time around. With the fine start that the Swans have had to the season it appears that adding experience is paying off in the most part at the start of this term.
A factor that can have a big effect on the average age of a team's starting XI is that of the advancing years of many goalkeepers. For example, when factoring out Shay Given's inclusion for Villa, having played the first two games of the season, Lambert's side have the youngest outfield on average (25.1). In contrast, Arsenal's reliance on their younger stoppers sees their average age rise and leave them with the 4th youngest outfield in the Premier League (25.8).
While the most senior side's in the league, Fulham and Everton, remain rooted to the bottom in terms of age averages when including the keeper or not Spurs, unsurprisingly, are the biggest movers. With 41-year old Brad Friedel still displaying the form to keep him as number 1 at White Hart Lane for the time being, Tottenham's average starting XI age is 27.5 and the 9th eldest in the league. However, when removing the American from the equation they jump to the 5th youngest (26.2).
Not content to stop there, we have also looked at the average age of each side's defence, midfield and attack to gauge whether inexperience or experience in certain areas has been the key to success.
A look at the backlines of each team sees a familiar name pop up at the younger end of the table, with Villa's defence averaging an age of just 24 thus far. While Lambert's side have had their struggles at the back, Arsenal's defence - the second youngest (24.6) - have the best record in the league, keeping 3 clean sheets to date.
At the other end of the scale, Everton's defence has an average age of 31.7 and their experience is invaluable to Moyes' side. Although Arsenal defy the general rule, it seems the younger the defence, the more goals a side concedes in general, with the likes of QPR, Southampton, Norwich and Liverpool having let in the most goals this season all among the youngest 9 defences in the league on average this season. In fact, the average goals conceded of the youngest 10 defences in the league is 4.9, while the eldest 10 defences have conceded just 3.6 on average.
A look at the averages for midfields suggests towards the opposite a little, with only Arsenal recognised as one of the league's top sides to have an average midfield age in the eldest 10 so far this season. The likes of United (25.6), Chelsea (25.6) and in particular Spurs (24) have looked to fresher faces in the midfield so far this season.
The average age of Alex Ferguson's midfield is perhaps the most intriguing having had the oldest on average in the last 3 games of last season (31.8), with a 6.2 year drop on average this season. The fact that United won 2 and lost 1 of the aforementioned final 3 games from last season and have the same record at the start of this campaign could suggest that there has been little impact despite a huge decrease in the average age.
When it comes to attack it seems that inexperience is hindering the likes of Liverpool, whose youngest front line in the league of 22.2 have scored a joint league low of just 2 goals this season, with both coming from set pieces. Villa again crop up with a young strike force thus far (25.7) and they too have netted just twice.