What is it about the Daily Mail? No matter how much I try to ignore Fleet Street’s greatest embarrassment, I can’t help finding new things about this fear-mongering, xenophobic, Thatcherite rag to annoy me, usually via a Newsnow link. This time it wasn’t some load of nonsense about how we’ll all be mugged by Kosovan asylum seekers if we even dared to step outside our front doors into the warzone that is 21st century British suburbia; it’s just another piece of journalistic sloppiness about football.
MJC posted a very good piece a little while ago about how the new 25-player squad rules will work – to recap, he explained that essentially (a) any player who is born on or after 1 January 1989 doesn’t count towards the 25-player limit at all for the coming season and (b) of the 25 “older” players, eight places are reserved for players who spent at least three seasons in England and Wales between the ages of 16 and 21 – these are “homegrown players”.
Importantly, but apparently beyond the wit of the Daily Mail, homegrown players can have any passport, it’s just where they trained in their early years that counts. So, Owen Hargreaves, as a Bayern Munich trained player, isn’t homegrown despite being English (sort of), but Nicolas Anelka is homegrown despite not being English and having played in France, Spain and Turkey as well as England. Clubs can have more than eight homegrown players, it’s just a quota to protect against importing too many established players from other leagues.
MJC explained that Arsenal are in pretty good shape for the new rules, but I wondered how that stacked up against our principal rivals. My nerdy curiosity got the better of me, and I checked the current first team squads of our principal rivals for the coming season (Chelsea, United, Spurs and City – sorry, I didn’t bother with Liverpool, they just don’t seem relevant…). I had to make some assumptions about which young players at each club would be serious senior squad contenders, but my conclusion is as follows:
* Arsenal: Squad of 33, of which 13 are under 21. We therefore have five spaces left for non-homegrown players aged over 21.
* Chelsea: Squad of 27, of which five are under 21. They therefore have three spaces left before they reach the 25-player cap, two of which are for homegrown players.
* United: Squad of 33, of which eight are under 21. United therefore have no spaces in their squad, so can’t make new signings without omitting existing squad members.
* Spurs: Squad of 29, of which four are under 21. They also have no space left in their squad for senior players.
* City: Squad of 31, of which six are under 21. But not only do City have no space left in the squad, even before making any further signings, they will already have to omit seven existing senior players.
Of course, none of this matters if our regular first choice players aren’t up to it, but we are clearly in great shape to get the best out of these rules. Only Chelsea come close to being in as good a position.
But what did the Daily Mail say? They of course said that United are doing well because they have lots of English players, but thought Arsenal and Chelsea would have to omit players. In fact, it’s the other way around, United are the worst positoned of last season’s top three. It’s a shame that there are so many people paid to write about our game who don’t know enough about it, or are too lazy to check.
Written by 26may1989