Welcome back to On the Break! Today’s post is the second in the Violeta Extra series, where we cover smaller points surrounding the save and how I approach or think about them! Today’s is something that to some will be an absolute non-event, but to others something that can cause superstitions, debate and even conflict! That’s right, we’re talking squad numbers!
Let’s start by talking about the differences between ‘traditional’ squad numbering in England and in Uruguay, specifically in the starting eleven. With an ever growing amount of footballers using their squad number as part of their brand, the traditional 1-11 is becoming a rarer sight all the time. Even at the World Cup where the squad has to be numbered 1-23, England failed to play a 1-11 side in 2018, with regular starters Dele Alli (20) and Ashley Young (18) taking their club numbers with them.
There are loads of other variations in nations around the world, but since I’m from England and managing in Uruguay, these are the most relevant to cover today.
The image above shows the traditional numbering system in England in a 4-3-3 formation, although there is debate as to which way around the 4 and 6 should be. I won’t go into how we arrived at this system here, but if you are interested I highly recommend checking out the Squad Numbers Blog article HERE that explains everything.
The above image shows the Uruguayan convention, and as you can see the front five are set up in the exact same way, but the back five are completely different. The centre-backs and full-backs swap, with the English 4-6 problem solved by number 5 being the holding midfielders number. Again, to see how and why Uruguay settled on this convention, click HERE for another brilliant Squad Numbers Blog article.
In the second half of the 2023 season, we changed system from a 5-2-2-1 to a 4-2-3-1, so we can start to follow the more traditional Uruguayan numbering, the only minor tweak we have to make is pushing the number 10 further forward again, into it’s natural home.
There’s a small spoiler for next season here for those that are paying attention!
This is how our first 11 will be numbered next season, with Benjamín Rodríguez the only player keeping his number. I’m not one for re-numbering the starting eleven every season, this is very much a reset for everything going forward to build from.
I don’t tend to like to have too much structure to numbering the rest of the squad, I tend to assign numbers I like more to some of my better/favourite/more exciting players, and if I think a number suits a player then I won’t change it for the sake of it. I do like to see a progression of squad numbers through a youth player’s career though, to me it’s a good if not arbitrary sign of their progression.
Last season I had 2,3, and 4 all unassigned, the purists would be fuming!
That’s it for this post, something a bit different! I know squad numbers aren’t something a lot of people care about, but I’ve always had a thing for them and there are far more passionate folk than me out there! I’d definitely recommend the Squad Numbers Blog if you are interested, the link to their website is HERE, and they are also on Twitter.
Thanks for reading.