Home Grown Talent – It’s more than just Squad numbers Mourinho

In happier times

In happier times

This is not a transfer speculation piece, but it was inspired by a transfer speculation!

Rumours surrounding Petr Cech’s future have been gathering pace over the last few days; I don’t follow transfer news on mainstream media but I do come across tweets multiples times a day speculating on transfers while quoting news sources.

One such tweet today mentioned Chelsea wanting a homegrown player in exchange for Cech otherwise the deal won’t take place.

I’m not going to speculate whether or not this is true; but it certainly made sense that Chelsea would ask for such an exchange.  More importantly, I feel, it is reflective of what the potential downside of, what I’ll refer to as, the ‘Abramovich model’ football clubs.

This is quite a spur of the moment post so I’ll try to give it some flow and structure, please bear with me!

To play or not to play?

We have heard Jose Mourinho talk about how he has been envious of Wenger for having a board that is very patient i.e. waiting so long for success.  Whether or not there’s a hint of sarcasm in those statements is not important.  Mourinho truly hasn’t had that privilege, and why should he have?

Every team, barring Porto, which he has managed, has invested vast amounts of money in players to bring instant success.  It’s a very business-like approach; you expect high returns from high investments in a short amount of time.

Managers of such clubs will undoubtedly be under pressure to deliver results every single season.  What’s the easiest way to try to achieve those results?  Buy proven talent.

Whether or not that always works is debatable because, of course, proven talent is not the only factor that contributes to success; but, that’s a separate discussion.

Managers of such clubs will prioritize playing time for proven squad members because it minimizes the risk of losing games while increasing the probability of winning them.

Who loses out from this approach?  Youth development loses out.


Despite significant investment in youth academies, the product isn’t coming through.  Why should it come through?  Why would I, as a manager of an Abramovich model club, allocate playing time to players who are not proven when I need to deliver results?

Abramovich Model

The problem, though, for a manager of such a club is the homegrown player rule(s).  There is a requirement to have a certain number of homegrown players in the first-team squad.  What will the manager do?  He hasn’t bothered giving anyone a chance till now and doesn’t want to ‘waste’ a spot in the squad to unproven talent.  That’s when we see signings such as Scott Sinclair to Manchester City, take place.

If this rumour about Chelsea wanting a homegrown player as part of the exchange is true, it’s reflective of a sad state of affairs.  The Blues have several youngsters who have performed well on loan; but, once again, Mourinho would want someone proven at the top level.  One can’t blame Mourinho for this; it’s the owners to blame.  Either way, it’s not necessarily good for Chelsea or English football for that matter.

The Wider Picture

From a broader perspective, this is detrimental for English football.  There were many debates surrounding suggestions that the allocation of homegrown players be increased rather than investment in grass-roots football.  Personally I’m in favor of the latter; but, I can speculate as to why the former was suggested.

It’s the easy way out for the FA.  It will place the onus of development on clubs.  Clubs will be forced to invest in youth development not only to ensure they meet the rules; but, in order to compete effectively both domestically and on the continent, they’ll need to ensure that product coming through is top quality.

Despite there being an indication that the required allocation of homegrown players in the first team squad may be increased; the Abramovich model clubs are still being short-sighted and think that buying homegrown players is the solution!  It may work now but, in the future, clubs will be more reluctant to let go of such talent because they’ll have their own squad requirements to meet.  What will these Abramovich model clubs do then?

Even if the FA says fine, let’s not increase the allocation just yet; let’s invest in grass-roots football first.  Let’s commit to a drive to have more qualified coaches in England.  With such a large-scale investment in developing footballers, it is bound to be followed by an increase in allocation of homegrown players.

So far I have only discussed footballing downsides of being an Abramovich model club when it comes to youth development.  Let’s quickly look at the non-footballing aspects that can be a detriment as well.

When Football is more than just Money

Player Motivation

I would like to single out Arsenal but I think there are plenty of other clubs who have had players that have put in maximum effort week-in-week-out just because of their emotional attachment to the club.  Play for the badge as they say.  Liverpool has certainly reaped the benefit of having Gerrard in their ranks over the years.  That’s just one example.

More than just a job – To feel part of something

Motivation to play for the badge is one thing, motivation to actually want to join the club as a youngster is another.  If I’m a talented youngster, with an option to join any academy I like, why would I join a Chelsea or a Manchester City?  Why not Southampton or Arsenal where I’m more likely to be selected in the first team squad if I develop?

If the Abramovich model clubs continue as is, perhaps their will be a decline in better prospects signing up at their academies.

Club Culture and Identity

I personally believe that players that come through the ranks help form or maintain a certain identity of the club.  It’s something that fans resonate with and helps attracts more supporters.

Arsenal, to me, is a club that is about history, tradition, professionalism, fantastic football, self-sufficient, and integrity.  I’m an international Gooner and I’m sure Gooners who have grown up in England probably see more to Arsenal than I do.

Look at players like Adams, Dixon, Bould, Winterburn, Parlour, Gibbs, Ramsey, Wilshere; they reflect those traits.  I’m sure the older fans could name plenty of players from the 70s, 80s, and 90s, who were a reflection of the values of the club.

Home Grown Class of 87-89

I wouldn’t be surprised if aspiring footballers also prioritized the clubs they want to play for based on this factor – what a club represents – as well.  If they’re too young to think along those lines, then surely their parents put in a word in or two?

Advantage Arsenal?

Yes it took quite a number of years for Arsenal to win some trophies but we have.  At a time when prices for players are quite ridiculous, to say the least, developing young talent becomes even more important.

If Arsenal were to compete directly with Chelsea, City, PSG, etc. for a certain player; we can only hope that money is among the lower priorities for the player and he’ll sign for us.  Otherwise there is no way we will try to match the bid that the richer clubs will place.  Nor should we do so.  I still can’t get over David Luiz going for 50m!  Andre Schurrle for 25m also seemed quite a bit considering he didn’t do THAT much at Chelsea.

Dave Seager (@GoonerDave66) has written a series of really good posts on how things can work out even if Arsenal does not sign anyone.  Can you imagine that?  I can.  The talent that we have at our disposal, especially the youngsters, has kept me relatively calm.  No, it doesn’t mean we can’t improve; of course we can.  However, we are not in a position like when Cesc and Nasri left and we had absolutely no quality cover.

Wenger has managed to not only ensure that talent has developed and come through the ranks; but, also manage to retain them.  They want to play for Arsenal.


Wrapping it Up

I’ll end this by expressing some gratitude for the Arsenal management for having a long term view of matters.  Fellow blogger @AFC_ChrisGooner wrote a fantastic, detailed piece, on Arsenal’s investments which reflect their long-term thinking; I strongly recommend you give it a read.

I hope the new money clubs take heed and become more patient; not only for themselves but also for football in England.  I’m not English, but spent 10 years in a British school so I do support England – not passionately of course – and would like to see quality talent come through as the likes of Spain and Germany have seen.

Lastly, if you have any thoughts or comments then do share them, I always reply (hint:  check the ‘notify me of follow-up comments by email’ box).  Or you can tweet me and we can attempt a discussion limited by 140-character statements!

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3 Responses to Home Grown Talent – It’s more than just Squad numbers Mourinho

  1. zac June 17, 2015 at 6:38 pm #

    i’ll hit you with this Arsenal type of management. I have no disrespect to Arsenal like you have for Chelsea. Ever since Chelsea were bought by Abramovich, I wonder what Arsenal won! But we all know VanPersie helped United win PL. Samir Nasri @ City
    Cecs @ Barca and Chelsea(Oooh! That transfer really hurt you right?)

    You asked about Luiz and Schurrle… Well what about Alex Song and Adebayor? I’m sorry Mate, every team has flops(like when did your club really replaced David Seaman?) and Heroes. Better look the crap Arsenal has done by selling. Arsen Wenger is not so good.. Look how many players Sevilla and Southamtom sold and what they achieved? Did Wenger get that when he sold one Van Persie, one Nasri, or one Cecs? Home grown players you say but look what have any “home(Arsenal) grown players done on 2010, 2012, 2014 for England?” NONE!

    Best GoalKeeper – Joe Harts
    Best Central Defence – Gary Cahill
    Best Fullback- Ryan Bertrand (was Luke Shaw)
    Best Midfield- oh! Guess that’s where Arsenal need much more attention
    Best Winger- Sterlling
    best playmaker- England have no good playmaker sometimes they use Rooney(a striker)
    Best Striker: Kane( was Rooney and Sterlling)

    I don’t see any Arsenal players.. So much for the home grown policy. Best Wishes for defending FA Cup again next season and the CL spot.

    • Omar Hasan Khan June 17, 2015 at 9:49 pm #

      Hello Zac,

      Not sure in what way you presume me to be ‘disrespectful’ to Chelsea but I’ll move past that and say thank you for giving this a read and sharing your views.

      Though I feel you have somehow not entirely captured the points I was trying to make, I’ll address your points first because it would be rude not to.

      Yes I do ask about Luiz and Schurrle, and you are right to ask about Song and Adebayor. I think any Arsenal fan will vouch for his/her pleasant surprise at Song fetching such a fee, don’t think anyone expected it. As far as Adebayor is concerned, well he wasn’t exactly on a goal drought when he left the Gunners, nor was he at his peak – aged 24-25; it was a hefty sum and who would be willing to pay a hefty sum for a player who may not have commanded it as per your opinion? Manchester City.

      Every club has flops, yes, and did Wenger replace Seaman? Temporarily he did, yes, Lehmann was effective for most of his career with Arsenal. After that? No.

      You talk about Southampton selling players and what they have achieved. Southampton had a good season under Pochettino, correct me if I’m wrong but several of those players that drove that success were homegrown? They sold them, made replacements, and still have a good pipeline to build on. Besides, you’re judging Southampton on one season?

      I can’t comment on Sevilla except for their successive Europa League wins. I don’t follow the Spanish League closely enough. Perhaps you can enlighten me about the players that replaced Sevilla’s top brass that helped ensure that Sevilla remained an ever-present force?

      I won’t comment on England’s best players because that’s entirely subjective and is very debatable. I could throw man of the match statistics at you and you could cite some other factor; depends on what you prioritize.

      I don’t think any England fan would mind the likes of Wilshere, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Theo Walcott and to some extent Kieran Gibbs and Welbeck to be in the squad on a match day. Unless you truly believe none of them can make an impact when required, then that’s your prerogative.

      Did Wenger focus on English homegrown players for the best part of the last ten years? No. Did Arsenal contribute to effectively to England’s squads in the years you cited? Barring 2014, not much. Also notice how England stuck with the old guard for as long as possible? It’s only recently that Hodgson has done a shake up and is trying to build a team filled with youngsters so they develop and achieve together. Are Chelsea or City contributing to that? England have had a perfect qualifying campaign so far, I believe Jack Wilshere has been pivotal in most of those games, Welbeck before him. Walcott provided the assist for the winner in the last game.

      Mate my point isn’t that Chelsea won’t achieve anything, or City or PSG for that matter. Of course they’ll continue achieving. Nor is it about whether Mourinho is a better manager than Wenger or vice-versa. Personally I think Mourinho is a great manager but would love seeing him tested with limited resources in a major European league.

      If FFP regulations were to be cranked up a notch or two, combine that with the FA revising homegrown rules, Chelsea and City could face some challenges and I’ve already mentioned those in the post.

      My point is that homegrown players are more than just numbers. Not only is it essential for England but for clubs as well, re-read my points under ‘player motivation’ and ‘club culture and identity’. Surely you must believe in the latter? Unless you’re an international fan then I can understand you may not because many don’t, including Gooners, simply because we haven’t been raised in that sort of footballing culture.

      I hope I haven’t left any question unanswered, cheers!

      • Dave Seager June 17, 2015 at 10:27 pm #

        That answer Omar was a new blog or 2 in its own right. Lol

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