The Home-Grown rule and the squad quota have come under the spotlight in recent times even though the initial announcements were made early in September 2009. The salient aspects of the new rules are as follows
- Teams will have to register squads of 25 players at the end of both transfer windows
- Eight of this 25 will have to be home grown i.e. trained by an English or Welsh club for three years between age 16 and 21. But they need not be U-21 at the present time.
- The squad can be supplemented by unlimited number of U-21 players, popularly known as the B-list. These players will have to be Under-21 on January 01 in the year in which the season starts. In effect, Jan 01, 2010 will be considered the relevant date for the next season
Details can be seen on this link.
Intuitively, it seems that this is a very Pro-Arsenal rule. Moneybags like Chelsea and Citeh will have to take a look at their squad and come up with some balancing act. They cannot just go on buying big names from around the world and cannot have a disproportionately large squad. Since Arsenal have the best youth system in England, we can have much better depth in the B-list.
For the record here is how the present Arsenal squad looks,
The names in Red are those who qualify both as Home-Grown and U-21 for the next season. Those in Blue are Home-Grown but NOT U-21. In total, this list has 29 names, 8 of whom are in Red and another 8 in Blue. I’ve left Diaby out because I think he joined Arsenal after his 19th birthday and does not qualify as a home-grown player, but I’m not sure about it.
I’ve included Vela as home grown but he has spent a lot of time on loan out side England which could lead to a complication. As he is U-21 for this season it’s not a big deal.
We can consider the 8 players in red to be part of the B-list. This means without making any changes to the primary squad we can still add 4 more players without thinking about nationality or age.
Assuming that at least one defender and a keeper might move on, this will give us the opportunity of signing 6 players. In short, as far as buying players is concerned we don’t have to worry at all.
It’s also safe to assume that our youth and reserves players are all eligible as most of them are U-21. Players like Kerrea Gilbert and Jay Simpson might have to move on. There is a theory that we might get a good price for some of our surplus “English” talent but that would depend on the player being Premier League quality.
It all seems quite rosy up to this point and you might be wondering why I said the squad quota is bad for Arsenal! Well, the first issue is the age limit. 21 is not a good age limit for deciding whether a player is good enough or not.
We’ve invested heavily in youth and it would be good for us to keep these players as long as we want. Unfortunately, as these players grow older the 25 player limit could force our hand. For instance, Walcott, Vela, Gibbs and Traore will be over 21 next year. Merida, Ramsey and Szczesny will be over 21 the year after. Some of the promising players reserves will also cross the 21 year limit in the coming years.
Most of these players will develop to their full potential around the age of 23-25. It would be a real shame if we were forced to sell some of them at 21 just because they aren’t good enough at that age. Of course, there are other options like sending them on loan, and selling them with a buy back clause, etc.
The real problem is that we need a bigger squad to cope with the injuries that we have. Some of the young players help us on that front, although the counter argument could be that the likes of Vela and Merida have hardly featured this year so we might as well make space in the squad by sending them on loan.
I feel a limit on squad based on numbers is illogical and artificial. The best limit should be based on the total salary expense which should be limited to a percentage of revenues. In this way clubs would have the freedom to use the money they earn in any manner suitable to them.
There is another argument about the legality of this rule. I’m not sure how this can be considered illegal because it doesn’t really say you cannot sign foreign players. Putting a limit on how many you can sign is just the same as UEFA saying you cannot spend more than what you earn. It’s a means of control and as long as it is reasonable I can’t see a legal problem emerging. Having said that, you can never underestimate the power of money and how the rich can get the rules tweaked to their advantage based on some or the other technicality.
Assuming the rule is implemented and stays on in the coming years, amongst our rivals United are quite well placed, Liverpool seem to be in the most trouble and their recent signings point towards a course correction, and the rich daddies will have to think about their play-things a lot more carefully.
Arsenal don’t have a problem this year and we can buy whoever we want. The inherent assumption being Arsene won’t sign more than two or three players unless there are a significant number of departures. In the coming years we will have to be more careful with how we develop our younger players but that’s a headache for another year. Right now we can focus on developing the squad to challenge for the titles next year.
Update July 27, 2010: From the above list, Gallas, Silvestre, and Eduardo have left and we have signed Koscielny and Chamakh. That means we have 20 senior players (above 21). That leaves us with room to sign 5 more. If Campbell does not sign, we’ll have to leave his spot vacant or promote a junior home grown player or sign a senior home grown player.
If we sell a goalkeeper and buy a new one it will not affect our numbers and we are not likely to have 4 keepers in the squad of 25 so that will open another place.
We will have to have room for players like Walcott and Vela who will be over 21 next year but we have enough room to spare. I think Arsenal are amongst the best placed teams in this regard.