This season’s Barclays Premier League has the recipe to be one of the best yet. We have new managers on both sides of Manchester, the return of the ‘special one’ and his press conference pizzazz, Arsene Wenger’s purchase of the ever elusive marquee signing and perhaps most interestingly, Tottenham Hotspur’s smashing of their transfer record three times in one window. However, one issue remains the same, the very prominent decline in the number of English players starting for the clubs of the English Premier League.
The question stands to be asked: should we be concerned? With the influx of Roberto Soldado, Mesut Özil, Jesus Navas, Alvaro Negredo, Christian Eriksen and Ricky ‘The Wolf’ Van Wolfswinkel (to name but a few), it’s not like the Premier League is losing any of its attraction as the most exciting league in the world. Equally, it’s hard not to be taken aback by the quantity and quality of talent gracing the league. In spite of this, one must worry that this will see further the suffocation of young English talent within the game.
The “English Route”?
Clubs have tried to go the “English route” before, with Tottenham and Liverpool most notably failing in their pursuit of building a strong team on a young English core. Spurs signed Jermaine Jenas from Newcastle, supposedly one of the hottest prospects in the Premier League, and also David Bentley for a rather embarrassing club record fee (at the time) of £16 million from Blackburn Rovers. Touted as the next David Beckham, he spent last season on loan at FC Rostov in Russia and is now a free agent at the age of 29. Liverpool have also bought in young English players in the past, splashing extortionate sums of cash on Andy Carroll, Stewart Downing and Jordan Henderson for a combined total of around £70 million. Despite Jordan Henderson now featuring regularly in an extremely talented Liverpool midfield, the other two, now at West Ham, have seen their international careers disintegrate.
Value for Money
Not only is there a worrying lack of English talent available when compared with the likes of Germany or Spain, but they also provide very little value for money. Newcastle is a club which has highlighted this perfectly, exploiting financially stricken foreign clubs who are looking to balance the books. The French Ligue 1 has been their favoured hunting ground , cherry-picking the likes of Hatem Ben Arfa for circa £9 million, Yohan Cabaye for an outrageous £4.3 million and Moussa Sissokho on a free transfer. Players of such quality at these bargain prices can only explain why overpriced English talent is not getting the game time required for it to flourish.
Foreign managerial influence
6 out of the 20 managers in the Premier League are English, which perhaps might offer a view of the real reason behind the lack of English players within the league. 69.9% of players within the EPL are foreign, the highest percentage out of all the major European leagues. There is a direct correlation between the stats; in that naturally, managers will most likely purchase players who they are familiar with or who they have previously worked with. Take the examples of Michael Laudrup and Mauricio Pochettino. Both have had experience managing in the Spanish league, and each respectively has brought in players from that league. For example, Laudrup recruited Michu from La Liga side Rayo Vallecano, and the current Southampton manager made Dani Osvaldo, a player he had previously worked with at Espanyol, a club record signing at £15 million. Therefore, instead of blaming foreign players for stifling English talent, we should instead focus on the foreign managers who bring them into the Premier League in the first place.