Guardian writer David Conn hits the the nail precisely on the head on the roots of England’s struggles being the Premier League and the pressure to win and subsequent glut of foreign talent.

That practice has gone now, and the gap between Football and Premier Leagues widened to a chasm. The answer to the argument about the 1970s and 1980s is that the Premier League was formed in 1992 explicitly to repair the defects, of coaching and fixture congestion, identified then to have weakened the national team. Instead, as Richards said correctly, the Premier League clubs refused to reduce the top division in size to 18, and now do not dare put faith in youngsters they themselves have coached since the age of eight. Instead, they sign mostly overseas players as fully-formed stars. Michael Essien played 116 league matches for the French clubs Bastia and then Lyon, before Roman Abramovich slapped £24.4m down to buy him for Chelsea. Given that the manager, Avram Grant, was sacked for finishing second in the league and not winning a Champions League final penalty shoot-out, it is hardly surprising that he did not feel inclined to give a single graduate from Chelsea’s academy a first-team start last season.

To bring this back to US for the moment, this as one of the few real benefits of the MLS salary cap. It does force clubs to play young players, because they can’t afford to fill the roster with experienced pros.


6 thoughts on “Precisely

  1. I’ve been hearing people say that the quality of domestic players in England has been eroded by the influx of foreign talent since the Premier League has been in existence. Maybe it’s true that that’s the source of the problem. But then why isn’t it a problem in every other country in Europe, which is full of Brazilians, Argentinians, and folks from nearly every other country around (including the other European countries)? Inter have Zlatan, Cruz . . ., Barcelona have Messi, Eto’o, Henry, Ronaldinho . . ., Ribery and Toni tear it up at Bayern . . .why is it only a problem in England?

  2. Because there are teams lower down in the Italian who don’t have the money to pay lots of foreigners and thus focus on developing talent. Atalanta is a great example and I am sure there are others. The difference is that a smaller club like Boro or Reading can still go out and get lots of foreign players.

  3. I don’t follow either Middlesbrough or Atalanta closely; but according to their senior rosters right now, 17 of 27 players for Boro are English, while 18 of 26 players for Atalanta are Italian. That doesn’t seem like a big difference to me.

  4. From another article in the Guardian:
    “Richards’ remarks pick at an issue which the Premier League, led by Scudamore, has persistently sought to play down. Scudamore has insisted that the paucity of England-qualified players, down last season to only 34% of Premier League club’s starting line-ups, had nothing to do with England’s failure to qualify for Euro 2008. ”

    This is from the year before from the FA’s Trevor Brooking.

    “Last year about 40 per cent of the starting XIs in the Premier League were English and with the upsurge of money in the game and all the buying that has gone on over the summer that will probably fall to under a third. If you look at Italy when they won the last World Cup, I think they had over 70 per cent of their league made up of domestic players. Spain, France, Holland, they’re all up there in the 60 per cents. The more that goes down, and the pool of choice reduces, we must come under pressure.”

    30 percent compared to 60-70 percent – that makes a difference.

  5. But those numbers appear to be two different things: one (“30 percent”) is the fraction of domestic players on the starting lineups in England; the other (“60-70 percent”) is the fraction of domestic players *on the rosters* in Italy/Spain/etc. I’d bet the fraction of domestic players on the senior rosters in the Premier League is much higher than 1/3, e.g. what we just saw above for Middlesbrough.

    Now, it may be true that if we compare apples to apples — the fraction of *starting lineups* made up of domestic players — that there, English teams post significantly lower numbers on the whole than teams in Italy etc. That may be true, I dunno. (or, it may be true that that’s what Trevor Brooking meant to suggest in the quote above, which is equivalent) But if it is, I’m not sure what hay can be made of that if the fraction of domestic players on the senior roster is still comparable among the top leagues. If the English players are on the rosters to the degree domestic players are in other countries, but not getting the nods to start and not earning as many minutes as domestic players do in other countries, that seems like more of a youth development issue to me than an issue of the foreign players simply being present. Otherwise, one would be forced to argue that even though the fraction of foreign players on the roster is comparable among the leagues, and thus even though the demand for foreign players is comparable among the leagues, the Premier League consistently has *much better* foreign players than the other leagues, making it harder for domestic players to see the pitch. I don’t see any reason to think that’s true: when I think of great players at a given position, I think of foreign players in Spain, or Italy, or Germany, as often as I do foreign players in England.

  6. Well, that’s weird — it replaced my right parentheses with “rolling-eyes” figures.

    Trust me, I wasn’t planning to roll my eyes.

    Here’s a test: “) . . .this is supposed to be a close-quotes followed by a right parenthesis.

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