Tag Archives: Wilfried Zaha

How “frustrating” home grown rules impacting Arsenal’s transfer business

A lot is made about buying home grown players, and the struggle teams face to recruit enough quality of “English” talent to fulfil the Premier League home grown criteria.

People often get the criteria the wrong way round, talking about how each club must register “8 home grown players”. This is not true. They could for all intents and purposes register none.

The rule is about how many “non home grown” players a team can register:

Each club is able to list up to 17 senior players that are not English or Welsh and did not spend a significant period in an English or Welsh academy.

Currently, to be classified as home grown one must be on an English (or Welsh) team for at least three years before the age of twenty-one. It does not matter if the player was born overseas, or what country they play for.

For this reason, the likes of Alex Iwobi (born in Nigeria, plays for Nigeria) and Wilfried Zaha (born in Ivory Coast, plays for Ivory Coast) are considered home grown. And rightly so.

Both came to England at 4 years old, and are very much British citizens as much as they are Nigerian or Ivorian. Both have representing England as youngsters before deciding to play for the country of their both at senior level. Regardless of what people say, I will always class both as British (interestingly when I do this on Twitter, it riles up mainly Nigerian fans who seem to not realise he can be both Nigerian and British).

You then have players such as Hector Bellerin and Cesc Fabregas.

Both signed for Arsenal from Barcelona as teenagers. Both spent 3 years in England before they were 21-years-old.

Both born in Spain, both capped by Spain, yet both are considered as home grown.

The home grown rule was bought in by Greg Dyke in an attempt to improve the English national team. In theory, to force sides to have more “English” players in the squad. But you could essentially have Zaha, Iwobi, Bellerin and Fabregas in the squad, all home grown, non of whom play for England.

You also have the Welsh criteria.

As Swansea, Cardiff and Wrexham play in England, the Premier League count you as home grown even if you were in a Welsh academy.

This means someone like Ben Davies of Tottenham is home grown, despite being born in Wales and playing for Wales.

This does not extend to Scotland, however.

Bournemouth have to register Ryan Fraser (born in Scotland, plays for Scotland) as non home grown. This has probably impacted some top teams signing him this summer.

Arsenal target Kieran Tiernay is the same.

Tiernay was born on the Isle of Man, a self-governing British Crown dependency in the Irish Sea. He moved to Scotland at a young age and came up through Celtic’s academy. Like Fraser, were he to move to England he will not be considered as home grown.

I am sure these rules impact English teams signing Scottish players. Why go for a player from North of the border  when their are better French / German / Spanish players available?

The oddest rule of them all can be seen with Eric Dier.

Dier was born in Cheltenham, England. He plays for the English national team. At the age of 7, he moved with his family to Portugal as his mother got a job with UEFA working on Euro 2004. He is not considered as home grown.

So we have Zaha, Iwobi, Fabregas, Bellerin and Dier. 1 born in England, 4 born abroad. 1 plays for England, 4 play for foreign nations. Yet it is the English born, England international who is not considered as home grown. It all feels a little backwards.

When teams play in Europe, UEFA confuse matters further.

The “Welsh Rule” which means the Premier League considers players who have come up through an academy in Wales does not apply for UEFA competitions.

So back to the aforementioned Ban Davies.

Davies spent all his time in the Swansea academy (bar a brief spell in Denmark as a pre-teen).

Since 12 years old, he has played within the English football pyramid, working his way through the Swansea junior teams before becoming a 1st team regular. The issue is that whilst Swansea play in England, they still come under the Football Association of Wales rather than the English FA. UEFA do not consider him as home grown.

This led Tottenham having to leave him out of their European squad a few years back, something which baffled Mauricio Pochettino.

The fact the UEFA do not consider players to have come through the Welsh system is confusing, as every top Welsh player would have likely have come through the Swansea or Cardiff youth system (unless they moved to England at a very young age).

It also works the other way round. If Swansea or Cardiff were to play in European competition, any English players would be considered as non home grown.

This could create a situation where Swansea are Champions of England, with a squad containing 25 English-born players, but in Europe could only register 17 of them.

Like with Scotland, I wonder how much this impacts English clubs from buying Welsh players? And how many parents would consider moving their child from Wales to an English academy at 15 to ensure that they are eligible for both countries as home grown?

In summary, it is all a bit of a mess.

When an English born, English international is not considered home grown, whilst a Nigerian born, Nigerian international is home grown, something is broken.

Would Arsenal have signed Ryan Fraser if he was home grown? And is that a key reason we are targeting Zaha?


Zaha a no-go for Arsenal

Wilfried Zaha is reportedly Arsenal’s number one attacking target this summer. That worries me.

The Ivory Coast international is one of the most overrated players in the Premier League. One of those players who makes Soccer Am’s highlights reel week in, week out, but actually has very poor output.

Zaha turns 27 next season, and last year was the first time he had ever scored 10 league goals in a single campaign. Crystal Palace’s reported £70million asking price for is too much for a player with his ability and age.

Were Zaha 22 or 23, you would be entitled to think “fantastic young talent” but he is not. In November he turns 27. That means he is not going to get much better. He is at his peak. And any transfer fee spent on him is unlikely to be recouped.

Last season he had a decent season. But it was not an exceptional one.

Yes, he scored 10 goals, but he averaged nearly 300 minutes per goal. The much maligned Theo Walcott Only averaged as high as this twice in his Arsenal career, the last being when he was 22.

In Walcott’s last full season with Arsenal, he scored 19 goals. He was deemed by many as dead wood. Not good enough.

Comparing Walcott to Zaha is one of those ones where Zaha looks a lot better, he beats a man more often, has more tricks. Yet Walcott gets more goals and more assists. Throughout his Arsenal career, Walcott was ugly yet efficient. Zaha is the opposite.

Zaha’s 10 goals this season have come at a very high minutes per goal ratio. Out of all the wingers to score 10 Premier League goals, he had by far the worst ratio.

I understand that on the list, he played for the worst club. But this also means he got the most game time.

Whilst Sterling had to share the limelight with Sane, Silva x2, De Bruyne, everything that Palace did went through Zaha.

Zaha is a good mid-table player. Inconsistent but can win you games. He is the type of player that will put in 5 match winning performances a season, and those 5 performances will be enough to take a team from a relegation battle to mid-table safety.

He would do a job as an impact substitute at a top club, but certainly not at the price Palace are demanding.

There is an argument that he is “better than what Arsenal already have” which whilst true, does not mean we should buy him. Being better than what we have does not necessarily make him the best option.

Even if he was on the market at £40million, I would still feel that as overpriced. There are younger, cheaper, more exciting players in world football.


Arsenal: 5 to target, 5 to avoid in January

5 to target

Leon Goretzka

The 22 year old German is available on a free transfer in the summer. It might be logical to get a contract in place in January, securing him for the summer, but I would prefer we signed him in January for a reduced transfer fee and gave him 6 months to acclimatise to the Premier League.

With Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil set to leave for nothing in the summer, both require replacing.

Getting in someone of the talent of Goretzka for a low price (or even a free if we do wait) frees the money up to replace that other number 10 we are missing.

A powerful attacking midfielder, Goretzka reminds me of Michael Ballack and would be the perfect replacement for either Mesut Ozil or Alexis Sanchez.

He has the talent to be as good as the likes of Ozil and Kevin de Bruyne.

Signing him should be a no brainer.

Julian Draxler

We have been linked with Julian Draxler forever. It is incredible to think that he is just 24.

Since joining PSG a year ago, the German international has struggled to make an impact on the first team – starting just 10 games this season.

With PSG considering a bid for Alexis Sanchez, and having the likes of Neymar and Mbappe staring week in week out, Draxler is surplus to requirements.

Draxler is competing with the likes of Mesut Ozil, Toni Kroos, Mario Götze, Leroy Sané, Leon Goretzka, Julian Brandt & Thomas Muller for a place in Germany’s World Cup squad. Those 7 are playing regulary for their clubs. Draxler isn’t.

A move to Arsenal could reignite his hopes of making the German squad for Russia 2018

Raphael Varane

With Real Madrid looking to offload a whole host of players to fund a summer spending spree, French centre back Raphael Varane might end up on his way out, despite only just signing a new 5 year deal with the Spaniards.

At just 23-years-old, Varane has both youth and experience on his side.

When you consider Virgil van Dijk has just gone for £75m, if Arsenal can pick up Varane for £40m or less, it would be brilliant business.

Leon Bailey

With Arsenal returning to 4 at the back, the future might also see a return to playing 4231. With Arsene Wenger’s reluctance to play Theo Walcott wide right, a move for Bayer Leverkusen’s talented Jamaican winger.

The 20-year-old speedster joined the German outfit €20 million in 2016/17 transfer window. He has broken through to the first team this season, scoring 8 goals in his 16 appearances.

The reported £35m might be too much for an unproven talent, but if we can recoup half of that by selling Theo Walcott, it offsets the risk.

Idrissa Gueye

When Arsenal were linked with N’Golo Kante 18 months ago, a lot of people scoffed at the notion of signing the Frenchman as he was not the big name they demanded – despite being one of the stand out midfielders in the Premier League. Kante went on to win the Premier League with Chelsea and be named PFA Player of the Year.

Everton’s Idrissa Gueye is in a similar boat.

People look at the Senegalese midfielder as the man who was relegated with Aston Villa, and not the player who in 2016 calendar year, made the most successful tackles and interceptions out of any player in Europe’s top five leagues.

Gueye is a strong tackler, but he can also play from the back and is able to distribute quickly – something which Granit Xhaka struggles with.

We have needed a player like Gueye for some time and, with the current midfielder partnership of Granit Xhaka and Aaron Ramsey not offering enough solidity, he would be a proven Premier League player that would immediately improve our squad.

Likely to be able to get him for under £30m.

5 to avoid

Thomas Lemar

I banged the Thomas Lemar drum most of the summer. When we were linked with him for the region of £40m, I felt we should have moved for him.

As that price target rose, by what felt like £10m a week up until we offered £90m for him I deadline day, I went cold on the Frenchman.

He is still a long term target for Arsenal, but his 2017/18 form is concerning. Just the two goals and 4 assists in Ligue 1 and the Champions League.

Compare this to 11 goals and 14 assists in those competitions and it would indicate a player who has gone backwards this season.

Rather than move for him in January, I would rather we wait until the summer, allowing new Head Scout Sven Mislinta to run the rule over him.

Arda Turan

We seem to have been forever linked with Turkish midfield Arda Turan since the day he joined Barcelona back in 2015.

The former Atletico Madrid star as never really settled in the Nou Camp, finding himself on the fringes of the first team.

A move for Turan – who is 31 in January – would be very short termist.

We would be better saving the £35m he would cost to put towards a long term attacking midfielder, someone who is of the required quality and longevity, rather than someone who is not good enough.

Medhi Benatia

The Juventus centre back has been linked recently with a move to Arsenal – with reports from Italy that the Old Lady have rejected a £35m bid for him.

I would be concerned about Arsenal signing a centre back who has been let go by Bayern Munich, and potentially Juventus.

At 30, his injury record is concerning – he has played just 35 games since joining Juventus 18 months ago.

We need to reinforce the defence, but Benatia does not solve our problems.

Wilfried Zaha

It is incredible to think that it was 5 years ago that Sir Alex Ferguson signed the then 20-year-old Wilfried Zaha as a leaving present for Manchester United.

He failed to make a start under David Moyes, only scoring with Moyses’ daughter before being shipped out on loan to Cardiff after just 6 months.

A loan move back to Crystal Palace followed the next season, before he rejoined his boyhood club permanently.

Zaha has a lot of skill and ability, but little end product – he has scored 17 goals since 2013.

When you compare that to Theo Walcott who scored 19 last season, it shows how much Zaha flatters to deceive.

We dumped an average winger in Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in the summer. It does not make sense to replace him with someone else who is not good enough.


The Brazilian attacker has settled quickly in the Premier League, scoring 5 goals in 14 games.

Arsenal could take the risk and sign the man who Watford spent £11.2 million on in the summer. A transfer would likely cost twice that in January. If he continues his form, and the way transfer fees are going, that fee could treble by the summer.

£25m for a player with 14 appearances in England? I would rather pay £35m once he has proven himself for a season.