Archive for September 6th, 2007

Arsene has one over Chelsea in the Champions League

184 comments September 6th, 2007

Not, admittedly, on the pitch, where they famously knocked us out in 2004. But when it comes to administrative procedes for squad registration, Arsene is the man with the plan. Oh yes.

Over the past couple of years, UEFA have introduced a rule regarding the minimum number of “locally-trained players”. Allow The Times (via to explain:

The definition of “locally-trained players” is made up of three “association-trained players” who are affiliated to the national association and three club-trained players who have been registered with their club for three years between the ages of 15 and 21. Next season the requirement moves to eight “locally-trained players” made up of four from each category.

Chelsea have no shortage of association-trained players – Ashley Cole, Wayne Bridge, Frank Lampard etc – but when it comes to club-trained players, only John Terry is eligible for submission. That deficit is punished by forcing Chelsea to enter a 23-man squad as opposed to a 25, and subsequently leaving out players such as Michael Ballack.

Arsene, meanwhile, has spent years preparing for this rule change. I’m certain it was a real factor in his decision not to let the likes of Justin Hoyte go. Hoyte is an association-trained player, like Theo Walcott. But ANNEX VIII of the Champions League Regulations outlines that it is permissible to use only one association-trained player if you can include five club-trained players. It is here that Arsene’s policy of youthful recruitment comes to the fore. Cesc Fabregas, Johan Djourou, Philippe Senderos, and Gael Clichy are all currently eligible, and they will soon be joined by the likes of Armand Traore, Denilson, Alex Song, and Niklas Bendtner.

Arsene’s policy also allows him far greater flexibility in his squad selection. Apart from the 25 players who make up your A-list, you are also allowed to enter a B-list. Allow UEFA to explain:

  • Each club is entitled to register an unlimited number of players on List B during the season.
  • A player may be registered on list B if he was born on or after 1st January 1986 and has been eligible to play for the club concerned for an uninterrupted period of two years since his fifteenth birthday by the time he is registered with UEFA.

Basically, you’re allowed as many U-21 players as you like. The requirement of the two-year “uninterrupted” period may explain Arsene’s reluctance to let his preferred youngsters go out on loan.  In the short-term, this means (incredibly) that we are able to place the likes of Cesc on our B-list, whilst using home-grown lads such as Mark Randall to meet the requirements of the A-list.  Our options are limitless.

It’s a situation that clubs such as Chelsea are trying to adapt to at the last minute – they’re looking to bring through players like Scott Sinclair and Ben Sahar. But we are far ahead of the game. The players Arsene is developing now will allow us to meet these quotas for years to come. That will allow us greater flexibility in our squad selection, as well as meaning that we don’t have to include unproven youngsters on the A-List – the likes of Denilson, Fabregas and Djourou will be our established stars as well as our locally-trained players.

Arsene’s smart move has been to give young players a chance and convince them that Arsenal is the right place for them to develop. One of our most recent aquisitions, Gilles Sunu, turned down Man U and Chelsea primarily for that reason.

It’s the kind of long-term thinking that Wenger is so brilliant at. Which is why the fact he’s about to agree a contract extension is such great news. My admiration of Arsene remains as strong as ever, and the way he speaks about the spending in football (see ‘On Takeover Talk’ here) assures me that we have the right man in charge to bring this club the combination of stability and success.

ps. If Jens Lehmann plays for Germany this week, do you think he’ll be declared fit for Arsenal at White Hart Lane? Somehow, I can’t see it.

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