Premier League Squad Rules 2010/11 – Problems Ahead?

There’s been much written over the last couple of weeks about the new Premier League squad rules to apply from next season. Arsčne Wenger has criticised the regulations.
In fact Arsenal has been essentially complying with the rules for a number of seasons already. Since 2005/6 regulations put in place at the annual UEFA Congress which took place at the Estonian capital of Tallinn in 2005 have applied to all clubs entering the Europa League and the Champions League, restricting squad size and composition. The full effect of the new regulations was phased in over four seasons. From 2008/9 all clubs competing in UEFA competitions have had to submit a so-called “A” list of a maximum of 25 senior professionals, of which at least eight have to have been developed by the a club in the same national association. Of those eight at least four have to be developed by the club itself. The “home-trained” quota can be five, six, seven or eight players, as long as at least four have been developed by the club itself.
The definition of “home trained” is a player who has spent at least three years at the club between the ages of 16 and 21. The rules make no reference to nationality. Clubs competing in the Europa League and the Champions League may submit an additional “B” list comprising an unlimited number of players under the age of 21 on I January in the year in which the relevant season starts who have spent at least three years with the club. All these players are eligible to play for the club in UEFA competitions.
It is essentially these regulations that will apply in the Premier League from next season. The difference is that none of the home developed players will have to have been developed by the club itself, merely by a club in England or Wales (the latter change being due to the senior Welsh professional clubs playing in the English league system). Aaron Ramsey will therefore count towards the quota, as will Cesc Fàbregas and Gaël Clichy (assuming they’re both still with us next season!)
The following current players would also qualify for “the eight”:
Theo Walcott
Johan Djourou
Kieran Gibbs
Jack Wilshere
Armand Traore
Vito Mannone
Nicklas Bendtner
Alex Song
Sol Campbell
Craig Eastmond
Fran Mérida
Wojciech Szczęsny
Tom Cruise
Kyle Bartley
Luke Ayling
Jay Simpson
Nacer Barazite
Jay Emmanuel-Thomas
Mark Randall
Henri Lansbury
Gavin Hoyte
That assumes all those players stay at the club of course, but unless there’s a mass exodus we should have no problems fitting under the “A” list squad cap. Some of the marginal fringe players who can’t qualify for the “B” list (under the age of 21, three years with a club in England or Wales) are likely to have to go though. We don’t have to get rid of them, but they’ll be of limited use to us as they won’t be able to play in Europe or the Premier League, only the FA Cup and the Carling Cup. I’d guess a fair number will be put on the transfer list or put out on a season-long loan.
Arsčne Wenger has said he opposes the rules. Personally, I support them. It will stop the money no object clubs Chelsea and Manchester City from “banking” players principally to keep them out of the hands of their opponents. It will also incentivise clubs to “blood” players from their academies.
There’s be some frankly ill-informed comments about the new squad regulations out there in the Arsenal blogosphere. The point which many appear to be missing is that a) there is no reference in the regulations to nationality. The Treaty of Rome makes it unlawful to discriminate against nationals of the European Union, European Economic Area (the EU plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) and Switzerland; b) that the “A” list of 25 senior professionals can be supplemented at any time by an unlimited number of players under the age of 21 from the club’s youth academy (who have spent at least three seasons at the club between the ages of 16 and 21).
There has been some argument that the regulations could be the subject of a legal challenge as a restraint of trade. I could make an intelligent legal argument that that was the case but I think such a challenge would fail. Settled cases of the European Court of Justice at Luxembourg where these things tend to end up these days make it clear that professional sport is entitled to make its own regulations provided that they are proportionate to the ends they are intended to achieve and are introduced for a sporting purpose. I could mount a vigorous defence on those grounds, and I’m an informed lay person rather than a lawyer. Despite the boss’s objections I think the rules will benefit us as a club that has invested a lot of time, effort and money in developing our own players.
In contention for the seventeen “open spots” on the 25 player “A” at Arsenal list will be:
Andrey Arshavin
Manuel Almunia
Lukasz Fabiański
Bacary Sagna
Thomas Vermaelen
Tomáš Rosický
Abou Diaby
Samir Nasri
William Gallas
Robin van Persie
Carlos Vela
Emmanuel Eboué
William Gallas
I’ve left Philippe Senderos and Mikaël Silvestre out of contention. Both are out of contract in the summer. I assume they won’t be offered new deals. William Gallas and Sol Campbell are also out of contract too. I’d make them both offers personally. We would have been REALLY stuffed without Campbell in the latter half of the season. His attitude has been fantastic. I’d give him another year, as much for his influence in the dressing room and on the training ground with the younger players as for his ability as a reliable, experienced reserve.
We have plenty of head-room in the seventeen “open” spots, especially if a couple of players move on. I’ve loved Eduardo since he came to the club but I have severe doubts about whether he’s going to make it back to his former pre-injury level. I also wouldn’t be unhappy to see Manuel Almunia and Lukasz Fabiański go if we get decent offers for them. It would be better to keep Almunia though I think, assuming we can get a top of the line goalie in as first choice. I think we’ll get better out of Wojciech Szczęsny in the long-term if he spends another season out on loan. He’s only just 20 which is young for a goalkeeper. If Fabiański doesn’t go we’ll need to loan out him, Almunia or Mannone, else we’ll have one too many goalkeepers on the books. We need only three in the first team squad.
I’ve also had more than enough of Andrey Arshavin’s pining and whining. If the bloke doesn’t want to knuckle down, shut up and soldier I’d let him go – if we can get any decent offers for him. He is turning out to be all fur coat and no drawers as they say in Scotland. I love class players who can play, but everybody has to take their turn carrying the piano as well as playing it in any successful team. Arshavin appears completely uninterested when we don’t have the ball.
It appears all but certain that forward Marouane Chamakh will be joining us after his contract with Girondins de Bordeaux expires this summer. That leaves a goalkeeper and a central defender as the primary positions in which we need to recruit quality and experience I believe. We may need to do more recruiting in central defence if William Gallas and/or Sol Campbell don’t end up being offered and accepting new contracts for next season.
We’ll also need to be thinking about a plan B in case any of Cesc Fàbregas, Gaël Clichy, Bacary Sagna or Andrey Arshavin are tempted away. I certainly don’t want any the first three named to leave but you never know – it’s better to be prepared like the good Boy Scout. We also need to sit Arshavin down and have a very serious word with him. Shape up or ship out mate.
Keep the faith!

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