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April 2021
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Everyone says Arsenal need to thin down the squad but what does that mean?

By Tony Attwood

Of course we never know all the ins and outs of player issues within the club, but Arsenal do have some urgent work to do to restore a sense among players of being an organised club with a clear set of plans.

Buying Saliba and then not including him in the squad, nor sending him out on loan was never going to look good, no matter what the underlying reasons concerning a family bereavement and injury, especially when Arsenal had two other players also omitted from the squad.

But at least we are seeing progress.  Kolasinac has left on loan, reducing our number of foreign nationals by one, and now we are told William Saliba will join Nice on loan for the rest of the season on loan.   Since Saliba is under 21 he was not a pressure on the overcrowded 25-man list so he has always been available to us, but simply never used.

Still Nice could clearly do with some help – they have only one win in their last five games  and are 12th in the French league, 14 points off the top two (which interestingly still don’t include PSG).

Quite why none of the arrangements for a loan for Saliba did not come to anything is not public knowledge, but there were certainly plenty of stories about various clubs wanting him – although his injury was probably the key reason, with Arsenal not willing to risk a loan club playing him when injured, knowing they had no long-term responsibility for the player’s fitness.

But now we are back to reality.   In terms of players aged 21 plus we can have 17 foreign grown players and 8 home grown players – with the number of home growns able to go up if the foreign growns go down, to keep it at 25.

But as the list shows, without Saliba we only have five home growns out of the eight, which looks a bit silly (Tierney although British doesn’t count as home grown).

  • Hector Bellerin
  • Calum Chambers
  • Rob Holding
  • Matt Macey
  • Ainsley Maitland-Niles

But those three places are worth keeping given that we have no less than ten under 21s on the books who will be reaching their maturity in the not too distant future and will either have to be sold, given away or included.

Three can be included straight away of course because we have spaces in the main list, as under-21 players are eligible over and above the limit of 25 players per squad. For the 2020/21 campaign Under-21 players will have been born on or after 1 January 1999.  These are Saliba, Willock, Smith Rowe, Saka, Martinelli, Nelson, Nketiah.

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Of these Willock, Nelson and Nketiah will drop out of the under 21 list next season, and need places in the big boys list as home grown players – and with three places available, (as long as we don’t buy anyone else) these three can be included straight away next season.  It will in fact take the home grown list to eight – the highest number it can have without then removing players from the overseas list.

This is why I find the endless chit chat about Arsenal bringing in new overseas players so annoying.  All it can be is send a message to our English players that they are not valued and will have no place in the squad when they reach 21.

But for the moment it does look as if Arsenal are ignoring all the pundits and making sensible arrangements to keep and be able to play their younger players in the first team.

Except that we still need to get the number of foreign over 21 players down by one – or else we just keep paying Ozil until his contract runs out, without paying him.

That is not only a waste of money, but also sends out another bad signal to players who might be tempted to come to Arsenal – and we really should not be doing that.

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