â€œI definitely wouldnâ€™t go somewhere just because Iâ€™m a homegrown player.â€
So said Jack Wilshere in the run-up to Englandâ€™s match against Slovenia: a reminder, if ever it were needed, of the peculiar cachet of being British and half-decent.
Since then weâ€™ve heard (admittedly unsubstantiated) rumours of Mourinho wanting an English Arsenal player â€“ maybe Oxlade-Chamberlain – in return for Cech. Though we could just as easily put that down to a helping of typical Mourinho opportunism.
Man City would take Wilshere in a heartbeat, according to more rumours, but then again â€“ is that because heâ€™s English or because heâ€™s good?
A bit of both maybe, because theyâ€™re short of homegrown players. That explains why theyâ€™ve bid a whopping Â£40m â€“ and would probably go higher â€“ for the admittedly promising Raheem Sterling. According to this chart, theyâ€™ve got six homegrown players (though that would be five now Milnerâ€™s gone). Chelsea, the same graph says, have three. Things may well have changed for both sides since then, I donâ€™t know exactly â€“ but probably not by much. We, apparently, lie on the borderline with exactly eight.
Of course, ArsÃ¨ne has been stockpiling British players for a while now, so compared to some sides itâ€™s not something we need to overly concern ourselves about. What we do need to be careful about is keeping those we have. Partly because theyâ€™re good and partly because theyâ€™re homegrown.
The homegrown quota system was designed to bring more British players through the ranks, an aspiration I have no beef with at all. As an Englishman, I like seeing British players making it at Arsenal.
Itâ€™s a little complicated, but boiled down, a Premier League side is allowed 25 over 21-year-old players in its squad, and of those 25, eight must be home-grown. (This article from @heisenbergkamp explains it quite well, better than I can).
On top of that, Greg Dyke has vowed to extend those numbers to 12, phased in over several years, starting in 2016, and to make the â€˜homegrownâ€™ criteria tougher. I donâ€™t know where weâ€™re at with those proposals â€“ not far, I donâ€™t think â€“ but you can see how even the prospect of this raises the premium on young British players.
| A valuable asset |
So good British players are valuable, and they know it.
Thatâ€™s why, while Iâ€™m not remotely worried about Jack leaving, I do think Wenger has to find a regular slot for him (assuming form and fitness, naturally). Jack is valuable and Jack knows it. He wants to play and he needs to play. There are teams out there whoâ€™d bite and bite hard if he made the faintest flutter of the eyelashes.
But will any of our exciting young British crop actually go this summer? Wilshere, Walcott, Ramsey, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Welbeck, Gibbs, The Ox?
Hot air. Wenger would never countenance it and none of them are agitating for it in any way, shape or form. There is no swerving off the road at contract demands that we know of. Recent history says we buy rather than sell.
The only one who has the perfect storm of contract, age, nationality and ability on his side is Theo.
And until he signs, then you never quite know.