"I feel that when you want to see the best players in the best league in the world, you have to be open. To accept competition – and we live for competition – it is not to accept artificial rules and that is why I am against it."
- Arsene Wenger, speaking out against the new quota system
The Premier League's going to introduce a new quota system. Starting next year, clubs will have to include 8 "home-grown" players in a squad of 25 players. Those "home-grown" players will have had to be registered with an English/Welsh clubs for at least 3 years between the ages of 16-21.
Richard Scudmore says that "it will encourage youth development and the promotion of young players. It's a rule which we think will give clubs an extra incentive to develop players, and to make a better return from their investment in youth. Make, rather than buy, is our intention."
The rule is going to make things interesting. But I'm not sure it'll do what Scudmore wants it to do. The lack of young English players in the Premier League isn't due to lack of effort from Premier League clubs. Every Premier League clubs wants to promote youth players into the senior squads. You save on transfer fees, after all, and having players come up through the system imbues the club with a feel-good factor.
The problem with English football is that their kids aren't coached as well as their counterparts in France, Spain, Holland, Portugal, Italy, Germany... pretty much everywhere in Europe, really. There's too much emphasis on athleticism and not enough on technique. There's no central academy, such as Clairefontaine, in which to hone the the talents of the most promising kids. And probably worst of all, there's still that recruitment rule which restricts clubs from signing kids who live outside a 50-mile radius from the club.
I know this, and I'm just a plastic Arsenal supporter from Australia. I get most of my youth development theory from watching Craig Foster on SBS on a Sunday afternoon. If it's obvious to me what the problem with English football is, why isn't it obvious to the English FA and why are they doing sweet f*** a** about it?
A quota's not going to solve these problems. All it's going to do is push more mediocre English players into the Premier League, where they'll be up against the best foreigners that money can buy, and where they'll be out-classed game after game because they weren't given the proper coaching at youth level. It'll look good on paper, and it'll satisfy UEFA because the Premier League will revert to playing a classically agricultural style of English football, but it won't help England win a World Cup. And when you get down to it, winning the World Cup should be the English FA's first and only concern.
This plan won't even help clubs to break into the Top 5. All it means is that Man Utd, Liverpool, Chelsea and Man City will just pay staggering sums for the best 18/19 year olds in England, and leave the other 15 clubs scrounging around for the scraps. The other 15 clubs will have to fill their 25-man squads with 8 "home-grown" players of lesser talent, and therefore will end up with paper-thin squads that can't compete with the Top 4.
As for Arsenal, we're sweet. Wenger's crazy plan of stealing all the best 16 year olds on the planet is working. Just about everyone at Arsenal qualifies for the quota. From the first team, we have Song, Denilson, Clichy, Cesc, Theo, Ramsey, Vela and Wilshere. And if you add the likes of JET, Frimpong and Coquelin in the mix, you can see that we will qualify for the quota without having to buy up half the England U21s.
The quota makes no sense to me.
Then again, I'd like to ask Wenger a question about his comment. If he "lives for competition", why does he explain his refusal to buy experienced players by saying that it'll "kill his players"? Surely having no competition within a squad for places is just as bad as an "artificial restriction"?