Arsenal’s under23s will play in the new Premier League 2 next season but the club have declined an invitation to play in the EFL Trophy.
Replacing the u21 league, Premier League 2 will have two divisions. Arsenal will play in Division 1 along with Chelsea, Derby County, Everton, Leicester City, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Reading, Southampton, Sunderland, and Tottenham Hotspur.
Division 2 will feature Aston Villa, Blackburn Rovers, Brighton & Hove Albion, Fulham, Middlesbrough, Newcastle United, Norwich City, Swansea City, Stoke City, West Bromwich Albion, West Ham United, Wolverhampton Wanderers.
The team will be allowed to field three ‘over age’ players as well a keeper who can be over the age limit of 23 which applies to the rest of the team.
Players must be born after 1st January, 1993, to be eligible for the competition unless they are one of the older players allowed to give fringe players and those returning from injury a chance to play.
Games will be played just like in any other league, with sides playing each other once, home and away. The side that finishes top of Division 1 will be Champions, those who finish in the bottom two will be relegated to Division 2.
The Champions of Division 2 will be automatically promoted, with play-offs taking place between second, third, fourth, and fifth for the second promotion place. There is no relegation from Division 2.
In addition, each club must use their main stadium to host at least three of their 11 home matches. A further three may be staged at the club’s training ground or academy.
“We are always trying to develop more and better home grown players, with a record 67 making their debut last season,” said Premier League executive chairman Richard Scudamore.
“The hardest part for players is the transition period from development football to the first team. Premier League 2 is structured to give players the optimum opportunity to get to the Premier League through more competitive and meaningful game time.
“The average age for a player to make their first team debuts is between 22 and 23. Therefore it is right that we extend the age range to Under-23 to give greater opportunities for players to make it.”
Teams in Premier League 2 were also invited to take part in the English Football League Trophy which sounds like it would have been a great chance to experience life in a ‘proper’ competition but Arsenal declined. They weren’t the only ones, with Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City, Tottenham and Newcastle all declining their offers as well.
The invites were extended to 16 Category One academies but only Leicester, Chelsea, Southampton, West Ham, Stoke, Everton, Swansea, West Brom, Sunderland and Middlesbrough accepted.
EFL chief executive, Shaun Harvey, said the invitations were declined due to scheduling reasons. “The challenges we faced were due to scheduling issues that football faces throughout the full season – we are in a position where the EFL Trophy fixtures are played in international weeks,” said Harvey.
“Some of the bigger clubs who supply the bulk of players for the international sides – the younger players in particular in that under-21 age group, under-17, under-18, under-19, under-20 age groups as well – their players were on international duty so the type of players this competition could have suited may be missing.
“From a competitive perspective I think those clubs who provide the majority of those players took the option that it was probably a step too far at this stage, particularly when the better younger players in those age groups have already been committed to go out on loan to other clubs.”