With the transfer window closing at 17:00 on Thursday 9th August, there are fewer than 19 days left on which to do business. At the end of the window we will be required to notify the Premier League of our 25-man squad.
To summarise the rule, as I do each year, we are able to name a 25-man squad if eight of the players are ‘home grown’. We could name fewer than eight home grown players, but would need to also name fewer than 25 players in our squad — for example, if we only have seven home grown players, we can name a 24-man squad, 6/23, 5/22, etc. A home grown player (HGP) is defined as follows:
An HGP means a player who, irrespective of nationality or age, has been registered with any club affiliated to The Football Association or the Football Association of Wales for a period, continuous or not, of three entire seasons, or 36 months, before his 21st birthday (or the end of the season during which he turns 21). – Source: Premier League
We do not need to name players who are under 21 on our squad list; for the 2018/19 campaign, players considered ‘under 21’ will have been born on or after 1st January 1997.
Since the beginning of last season we have added one non-home grown player in Lucas Moura.
Also, since last season, Harry Winks, Connor Ogilvie, Dele Alli and Davinson Sánchez have all passed the age threshold and will need to be named in the squad, whereas last year they could all simply be included in our list of under-21 players.
Our ‘named’ 25-man squad might consist of the following (* = home grown player):
NB: there are only 24 players and Georges-Kévin N’Koudou has been left out in this example, as we only have seven home grown players over 21.
Of course, we are then able to select any players who were born on or after 1st January 1997 without needing to register them. This means that any of the following (plus the other first and second year academy scholars) would be available for selection. NB: I have presented them in age order.
Jonathan De Bie
As it stands, we have 25 players over 21 and not all of them can be named on our Premier League squad list, as only seven of them are home grown players. This means that we have ‘squad space’ for one more grown player, but no space for more non-home grown players without first removing one.
From next year (2019/20), Luke Amos, Anthony Georgiou, Kyle Walker-Peters, Josh Onomah, Shayon Harrison, Tom Glover, and Cameron Carter Vickers would need to be named on our squad list should we wish to use them as they were all born before 1st January 1998. The fact that all seven of these are considered home grown is useful, though I would suspect that some of them will be permanently transferred before the start of next season.
That’s the facts dealt with; now some commentary on the above. Firstly, a number of players listed in my example squad list are seen as expendable (Vincent Janssen, Fernando Llorente, Moussa Sissoko, Connor Ogilvie*), but rumours suggest that we are struggling to sell unwanted players and, indeed, only have loan offers on the table for Janssen, Sissoko and Nkoudou. Alderweireld, Rose and Dembélé were expected to leave, but all has currently gone quiet.
The state of the squad – bloated with a lot of deadwood – points towards an at-least-partially unsuccessful transfer policy, and helps to explain in part why our summer has been quiet so far. Mauricio Pochettino likes to work with a small squad, but is also presumably acutely aware that being left with players that cannot be listed in the Premier League squad is not an efficient use of his wage budget. In essence: we need to sell before we can buy.
Also: Jack Grealish makes total sense. Central midfield is a problem position, with Harry Winks needing to prove his fitness and Mousa Dembélé 1. visibly declining and 2. rumoured to be leaving. As a homegrown player, we could add Grealish to the squad without having to sell. He is not yet 23, covers some of the skills missing from the squad (driving runs forward, creative passing from deep-ish midfield) and is available for a reasonable price for various reasons.
Finally, we are being linked with wingers and I don’t really know why. We signed Lucas Moura in January, and are now looking pretty well-stocked for players who play wide in a 4-2-3-1 or 3-4-3, with Christian Eriksen, Dele Alli, Son Heung-min, Erik Lamela, and Lucas Moura all used in these roles (I’m assuming we will sell Moussa Sissoko and GK Nkoudou). One may argue that Christian Eriksen will be moved back into a three-man midfield this year, but that would then assume we would switch to a system (4-3-3?) that allows just three forwards, which you would have to assume would be Kane, Son, and Dele, with Lamela and Lucas as rotation options.
Another suggestion is that the wingers we are being linked with – Anthony Martial, Wilfried Zaha, Malcom – could cover Kane too. We have some reasonable squad cover for Kane through Son (and, I guess, Llorente if he stays), and Lamela showed potential as a false nine last season if we were short. Essentially, I personally think funds are better spent elsewhere in this team unless Pochettino has given up on Lucas already (which would seem hasty).
The good news is that the World Cup and lack of signings means that young players will get opportunities on the pre-season tour, and will have a chance to impress Pochettino; this could ultimately lead to some squad gaps being filled from within. Cynically, I think it’s a problem that our young players tend to only get a chance when we are down to the bare bones, but that’s another article. Walker-Peters, Onomah and Amos are all now 21 and probably need to make decisions about their long-term futures, or will risk becoming versions of Ruben Loftus-Cheek (just 2,442 Premier League minutes – the equivalent of 27 matches – at the age of 22 despite having such ability). Perhaps this was the long-term plan all along, and Pochettino has timed it perfectly.