On Sunday against Brighton and Hove Albion, Arsenal only had three outfield players named on the subs bench thanks to an obscure FA rule that limits academy players’ involvement but, as with most rules, there is a loophole.

With Jordan Nobbs, Kim Little, Tabea Kemme, Viktoria Schnaderbeck, and Danielle Carter already sidelined, Arsenal are running out of players.

For the game against Brighton, Joe Montemurro named Pauline Peyraud-Magnin (26), Ava Kuyken (17), Ruby Grant and Paige Bailey-Gayle (17) on the bench, leaving three slots vacant.

The reason for this has to do with The FA’s rule 8.11.3 that states:

Where registered and subject to Rule 2.4, a maximum of 3 Academy/Reserve
players may be included on a Club’s Team Sheet for each Competition Match.

Arsenal didn’t have any more senior players fit, and the FA rules stopped them from naming a bench stuffed full of academy prospects.

However, the very next rule, 8.11.4, offers a loophole, but it will mean giving contracts to Kuyken, who is set to leave in the summer, and possibly a few others.

Let’s look at 8.11.4:

Where registered, an Academy/Reserve Player may participate in up to 3 Competition Matches without being included in a Club’s Squad Cap. Any  Academy/Reserve Player who participates in more than 3 Competition Matches shall be included in a Club’s Squad Cap.

In effect, clubs must make academy players first-team members if they play more than three games.

Kuyken, we know, has featured in at least three matches for Arsenal. If the club offer her a professional contract until the end of the season, they would then be able to use her slot on the bench for another academy player, even though Kuyken would most likely be sitting alongside her.