It`s not often I disagree with Le Boss though he can confuse me as much as anyone else at times. I can`t help but feel he`s rather unnecessarily getting his pantaloons in a twist over this season`s 25 man squad rule though.
As they have no immediate or even prospective medium impact on our squad it`s surprising but he`s been pretty vocal about it recently. Late last month he labelled the scheme a ‘disastrous decision for football’ going on to say “First, it puts many players without clubs. That’s the mathematical consequence. Secondly, it puts the clubs in a weak position in the transfer market because when you already have 25 players and you buy another one, you know you now have to get rid of one.
“You have to calculate when you buy a player how much it costs to get rid of one. The big clubs will always have 25 top players and you will not stop that by this kind of decision. When the big clubs employ a player and he has to go to a smaller club there are only two solutions: the smaller club has to pay above their own potential or the big club pays part of his salary. In either case it’s not satisfactory.”
Now I don`t want to see players unemployed but frankly I don`t see much wrong with any of that. The average first team squad size in the big European Leagues is only about 25 to 28 players anyway and that complement has usually included a few under 21`s for which there isn`t any limit under the new regulations. It probably wouldn`t even have been considered an issue at all until Chelsea and more latterly Manchester City decided that the quickest route to success is to play a form of billionaire`s poker and attempt to buy up the market. These are the clubs primarily inconvenienced by these new rules.
If a player has taken the eye-bulging wages on offer at clubs such as these and then suffers the career crippling experiences of someone like Shaun Wright-Philips as a consequence then more fool him I say. They`ll still have their pension funds to fall back on and plenty of time to waggle their bling at whatever current hotspot night club chavs might favour. It`s not as though entirely new ground is being broken here in that Chelsea found they had to subsidise Crespo`s salary in Italy for quite a few years as a result of an injudicious purchase. Craig Bellamy and Shaun Given aren`t going to lose out financially but I take a bit of perverse pleasure in seeing that in their cases money isn`t buying complete happiness. If their careers are important to them then like any other employee career choices in the real world players need to take care about the decisions they make and their reasons for making them.
Earlier today Wenger expressed his displeasure once more at the squad rule citing the Fifa statute which allows a player to cancel his contract with `sporting just cause`.
“Do not forget that in England if a player plays less than 10 per cent of games in a season – which is a FIFA rule – you can get rid of your contract. I would like to know when they voted in the Premier League that they knew this rule. It would not count if you are injured. But if you do not play enough games, you can get in front of a FIFA commission that then decides how much money you have to pay to buy out your contract. If you are not in the 25 how can you play? Yet a player who doesn`t play more than 10 per cent of games can go to FIFA and say I want to get rid of my contract.”
That ruling might be given more effect with the squad rules but it`s been there for some time and doesn`t apply only in England. It`s been one reason why it isn`t really possible just to dump a want-a-way player on the bench for a season to teach him a lesson in loyalty. But then why on earth would you want to keep a player you wouldn`t wish to pick for as much 10% of the available games? That would be just 6 games or less in an average season – less than 4 league games. What on earth is he doing in the squad?
The real effect of that is to pretty well oblige clubs with more than 25 players over the age of 21 to sell before they buy or possibly take a big loss. In that case they should be very careful who they buy and what they pay for him. Isn`t that just the sort of prudence, albeit enforced, that Wenger has advocated his entire career anyway?
Arsene`s on more secure ground for me on the aspects of the ruling which has an oblique effect on the potential nationality constraints inherent in the ‘homegrown` element.
“The ‘home-grown` rule is artificial, it`s nothing to do with standards” he told reporters last week “They will create more rules like that for home-grown players, but it`s all rubbish” as he continued “I don`t know whether it`s self-preservation, but it is not linked with quality. If you want to stay the best league in the world, every way of thinking has to be linked with how you can make the best even better. The Premier League have to decide whether they are here to prepare the England national team, and they have to kick everyone out, or are they here to produce the best league in the world? That`s the decision you have to make.”
The present construction of the homegrown rule isn`t as yet too inhibiting which is why so few teams have fallen foul of it. Unwelcome though it is in principle, only if the suits were encouraged to extend this artificial constraint on quality would it start to pose any real problems. Can we trust them not to interfere further? Probably not, but that aside I don`t share Wenger`s concerns about these rules.
Together with the gradual impact that Uefa financial fair play rules will eventually exert on the ability of clubs to distort the player markets this is likely to provide a more favourable competitive environment for Arsenal. It will clip the wings of the ‘loadsamoney` clubs and will to some extent level the playing field for the clubs outside the customary top four too. The more equal the competition can be the better it will be for the game as a whole.
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