Arsenal exploits home grown loophole to give flexibility over 25 player list




By Tony Attwood

One of the things that I seem to end up writing about each summer is the fact that all the media outlets that talk about the players Arsenal are possibly going to buy, rarely make much reference to the homegrown rule and how all these newcomers are going to fit into the squad.

And this time I’ve delayed for two reasons.   First, because on 10 May 2023 Tashan Deniran-Alleyne described by his employer, Football London, as an “Arsenal Writer” wrote a piece about the home-grown issue which looked to me to be wrong.

Second, a technicality in the rules was exploited by Arsenal last season, and a lot of commentators seemed to have missed this.   Which always makes me nervous in case it is me that has got it all totally wrong (and not for the first time).

Now far be it from me to suggest everyone else is getting all this wrong (!) but the FoLo piece said, “as things currently stand, the six Arsenal senior players considered ‘homegrown’ are Benjamin White, Emile Smith Rowe, Nketiah, Rob Holding, Aaron Ramsdale and Reiss Nelson. Meanwhile, Matt Smith has also been named on the list despite no official first-team promotion, thus taking the total to seven.

“Meanwhile, Gabriel Magalhaes, Mohamed Elneny, Gabriel Jesus, Fabio Viera, Jorginho, George Lewis, Jakub Kiwior, Martin Odegaard, Thomas Partey, Kieran Tierney, Takehiro Tomiyasu, Leandro Trossard, Matt Turner, Granit Xhaka and Oleksandr Zinchenko are the overseas players listed.”

Now if you have the eyes of an eagle and the beak of… no forget that, just the eyes of an eagle… you might notice some names missing from that squad.

First there was Saka – who was not included last season because of his age, but now I think should be included as a homegrown player.

And second there is… Saliba.  Which of course is odd as he most certainly is French and has played eight times for the French national team.

But Saliba qualifies because the rules say players signed at 18 can qualify as home grown, if they are born in the first six months of the year, and join in the summer immediately following their 18th birthday.  It’s all a load of bonkers waffle of course created by people desperate to give the FA something to do, but that’s what it says.

Now as FourFourTwo recently reminded us all, Arsenal included Saliba in the Arsenal squad while he was on loan at Saint-Etienne in order to meet the obscure technical rules as to what homegrown actually means.   He clearly is a French player, but he counts as homegrown because he was “listed in the Arsenal Premier League squad for three seasons before his 21st birthday.”

Thus the point is made: homegrown players don’t necessarily have to be English, but they must have spent at least three seasons with an English team before turning 21 even if they are on loan elsewhere, provided they were also listed in the English squad.

And this is good because we need as many home growners as we can get – as they are rather hard to find.  

So who are the homegrown eight going forward? 

  1. Rob Holding
  2. Reiss Nelson
  3. Eddie Nketiah
  4. Aaron Ramsdale
  5. Declan Rice
  6. Bukayo Saka
  7. William Saliba
  8. Matt Smith
  9. Emile Smith-Rowe

Yes there are nine, assuming we have actually bought Declan Rice.

However, there is some chit-chat suggesting some of these players are being moved on – Rob Holding for example and perhaps Eddie Nketiah.   Such moves would of course free up space in the 25, but if both go only one of the slots would be available for a foreign grown player.

But we still have one more card to play – if Balogun is added to the squad he also can be counted as homegrown under the arcane rules of the procedure.

Of course the club is not forced to have 25 players in the squad – it can declare fewer than this, but no matter what games are played only 18 of those players can be foreign-grown.

The foreign grown list at present is, at present

  1. Dos Santos Magalhães, Gabriel
  2. Elneny, Mohamed Naser Elsayed
  3. Fernando De Jesus, Gabriel
  4. Ferreira Vieira, Fabio Daniel
  5. Havertz, Kai
  6. Jorgino
  7. Kiwior, Jakub
  8. Martinelli, Gabriel
  9. Odegaard, Martin
  10. Partey, Thomas Teye
  11. Tierney, Kieran
  12. Tomiyasu, Takehiro
  13. Trossard, Leandro
  14. Turner, Matthew
  15. Xhaka, Granit
  16. Zinchenko, Oleksandr

Of course we know that some of these may be transferred out: Elneny may move into being part of the coaching team, Xhaka is said to be ready to take his leave and others could go as well.  But it looks to me like we do have some flexibility in terms of the nationality of the players we want to bring in.


5 Replies to “Arsenal exploits home grown loophole to give flexibility over 25 player list”

  1. I think the maximum number of non-homegrown players is 17, not 18. Also, I’m not quite so sure Martinelli doesn’t count as homegrown from this season as he has been with the club since turning 18 (not aware of the being born in the first half of the year rule so happy to be corrected if I’m wrong). Overall, though, I think if we lose any of the players mentioned like Holding, Smith or even Nketiah, there are a few players such as Okonkwo or Balogun who are at the start of being at required level who can help make up the homegrown numbers.

  2. Martinelli should qualify under the same “loophole” that Saliba qualifies under. As he had a June birthday and was signed by Arsenal in July of 2019, which would be the summer after his 18th birthday.

  3. Yeah, the 17:8 non-homegrown to homegrown talents rules hold true, and I think it has always been a brilliant idea because it protects the local talents and also makes the team to focus more on grassroot development more. However, my understanding also is this: in the event that a team only registers say 19 first-team players for the season, this 17:8 ratio has to reflect in the distribution of the players in the team. That would mean that non-homegrown will say 14, while homegrown will be 5. So it’d be a case of 14:5 for the 19 players.

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