Sep 242009

I didn’t manage to catch much of the 2-0 victory over West Brom the other night, but regardless of the circumstances, the win was an excellent result with a team that was young even by Carling Cup standards. Make no mistake, West Brom are a decent side, and on top form after dishing out a drubbing to Boro at the weekend.

It seemed to be a decent game until Thomas was sent off, and while Wilshere might have made the most of it, you simply can’t put your hands in the face of another player. It was as clear a red card as you get.

After that, it really was just a matter of time, but the introduction of Vela and Randall made the difference in the end, Vela striking a fierce shot that Kiely parried, Sanchez Watt burying the rebound, before Randall produced the a beautiful chip over the keeper, Vela tidying up once it had come back off the bar.

Aside from that, Watt hit the post in the first half, Szczesny made some decent saves, and what was a tight contest became a simple case of waiting for the opposition to fade. Good stuff.

Elsewhere, Wenger has been criticising the introduction of the homegrown rule:

“In England we accumulate disadvantages. If you cannot add any players under the age of 18, and you have the home-grown rule, and on top of that English clubs are limited to bringing in young players who live less than 90 minutes from the training ground, how can we produce home-grown players?”

For those who don’t know, here are the rules that are either already in place, or being proposed:

  • (Already in place) Clubs in England can only bring English players to their academies who live within 90 minutes travelling distance of the ground. Arsenal, competing with a whole host of London clubs, have a pretty small area to choose from. And what of a talented young player born down by Lands End? Where exactly is within 90 minutes travelling distance? There are precisely zero Cornish league clubs, so such a player is guaranteed to have a fairly poor footballing education in his crucial formative years.
  • (Coming in next season) Premiership clubs will need eight of their 25 players to be homegrown next season, which is fine in isolation since foreign players count if signed early enough, but will cause a massive problem if Platini gets his way on rule three…
  • (Platini’s proposals) … which is to restrict movement of players under the age of 18 from travelling outside their nation. No more Cescs at Arsenal, then.

The trouble is that if a club cannot sign players from abroad, and they cannot recruit to their academies from more than an hour and a half away, there are only two ways these eight homegrown spots can be filled:

  • Be fortunate enough to have a local lad good enough (e.g. Wilshere)
  • Sign a player from another English club at a young age (Walcott) – they would count as homegrown

The net effect would be that young English players, of which every club would need a hatful, would be even more outrageously priced than before. And for all Platini’s worries about the effect on young players’ lives caused by moving them abroad as a youngster, at least this is done based on their talent, so they have the best chance of success, whereas under the new system average English players would be signed based on their nationality only, and would play only when all other options are unavailable. How does that help their careers?

The 90 minute rule and the foreign restrictions are completely contradictory and incompatible. And that is for all Premiership clubs, not just Arsenal. To put in into perspective, from next season there needs to be at least 160 home grown players in the Premiership. If foreigners schooled at English clubs are removed from the equation, how can we possibly reach 160? The talent pool in this country is simply not good enough.

Fortunately, Platini’s rule is also highly illegal (thanks to freedom of movement laws), but he is appealing to the European Commission to make football an exception. This is the same European Commission that denied that exact argument to create the Bosman rule.

It is a relief for football, and particular for the Premiership, that he is pissing into the wind. The sooner he stops being UEFA president, the sooner football might get back on track.

More later.

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