Premier League teams seem to prefer foreign players, no matter what the FA do.



By Tony Attwood

The pundits are on the march, preparing us already for an array of Arsenal transfers this summer.  Newcastle target Arsenal defender Kieran Tierney in £30m-plus move,  announces the Telegraph for example.

But meanwhile the Premier League has limited the number of overseas under 21 players a club can sign to six per season with no one under 18 from outside the UK being able to be signed at all.

Except… by and large no one in the Premier League minds, because although that means that clubs can sign just total 120 foreign players under the age of 21 each summer, last summer and this January they signed eight.

And the reason is that the risk is too great, so while the money is available, the PL clubs will continue to buy the players when they get that bit older and show their worth.

Plus clubs like Arsenal think forward.   And it was with this forward-thinking that the club didn’t take up all 25 available first-team slots this year – despite the ongoing involvement in European football.

In fact, following their January manoeuvres Arsenal only had a squad of 22 registered players.  And that is not because the club has not found enough home grown players, but rather because three players have remained unregistered as they are still counted as under 21s.  Here’s the squad…

  1. Rob Holding(HG)
  2. Ed Nketiah(HG)
  3. Ben White(HG)
  4. Aaron Ramsdale(HG)
  5. Reiss Nelson(HG)
  6. Emile Smith-Rowe(HG)
  7. Matthew Smith(HG)
  8. Granit Xhaka
  9. Kieran Tierney
  10. Mohamed Elneny
  11. Gabriel Magalhaes
  12. Thomas Partey
  13. Martin Odegaard
  14. Takehiro Tomiyasu
  15. Matt Turner
  16. George Lewis
  17. Fabio Vieira
  18. Gabriel Jesus
  19. Oleksandr Zinchenko
  20. Leandro Trossard
  21. Jakub Kiwior
  22. Jorginho

And the three missing players who will all be counted in the 25 list for next season are

  • Bukaya Saka
  • Gabriel Martinelli
  • William Saliba

However, there are already some new players who will be expecting to join in the fun:   Folarin Balogun has scored 15 goals in 24 games at Reims (as well as seven in 13 appearances for England’s under 21 squad).  And then we have Marquinhos at Norwich, although this may still be a bit early for him.  He made his debut on 25 February, scoring once and also providing an assist for Gabriel Sara in Norwich’s 2–0 win against Cardiff City.  But just half a season in the Championship is probably not enough to displace anyone in the existing squad – unless he is brought in to play in the League Cup and easy Champions League matches.

And there is also Charlie Patino who has played 22 times for Blackpool on loan.

However, whenever the FA are involved there will always be clouds on the horizon.  The FA want Premier League teams to move toward having 38% of the players they use each week to be qualified for England.  At the moment among the top six clubs in the Premier League it is 28%.

This, it is noticed, is way below the figure for European leagues when talking about their own nationals, and, the FA argue, this is what gives other countries an advantage.

But of course, there are other possible explanations such as the gross incompetence of the FA.  The FA were very solidly behind Brexit, seeing it as a way to strengthen the England team.  It didn’t and it hasn’t and the clubs are most certainly not minded to help the FA any further.

Indeed the League is already lobbying for English clubs to be able to recruit more players from outside the top levels in Europe, allowing their coaching and tactical staff to find the best players not yet emerging in Europe, and then train them in England.

Of course, the FA’s arguments are all utterly self-serving with the Association arguing eternally that the current situation inhibits England’s development.   And yet they ignore that in the EU players are free to move around from one country to another and no one seems to get hurt.

It is also rather amusing to see how wrong the FA’s predictions were, over how leaving the EU would help the England team.   In the summer transfer window PL clubs signed 142 players from outside the UK which was around twice as many as in the final transfer window in which EU rules applied to England – which was supposed to be the final frenzy of buying.   In fact all that has happened is that English clubs have turned their attention to beyond the EU – and it is with non-EU players that the numbers have risen.   Arsenal with three Brazilians in the team?   Who would have thought it!’

The FA, as completely incompetent in the world of negotiation as it is in picking a manager or running a big European match on their own ground, now derogatorily call overseas players in PL teams, “squad fillers”.

So that was the argument everywhere before Brexit – foreigners coming over here and stealing our players’ jobs.   Except we are now out of Europe and yet the clubs are still buying foreigners.  There must be a reason. Could it possibly be that the education system and the opportunities for young footballers to mix their school studies and their football development simply isn’t sorted properly?

3 Replies to “Premier League teams seem to prefer foreign players, no matter what the FA do.”

  1. I hope that the media claims about Declan Rice coming to Arsenal pprove to be t he usual nonsense.

  2. One also has to wonder what the blazered fools (& grey-flanneled bean-counters) are actually doing to develop the game at grass root level in Enger-land, to provide Premier League clubs & the national team with this constant stream of world-beating superstars that presumably they feel are bursting to get a game? And where has the money from the Community Shield gone?

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