The Premier League 2 announced a significant change to their age restrictions this week, but it shouldn’t have a major impact on Arsenal.
The Premier League 2 has been an under-23 competition in recent years, but they’re changing the regulations to make it an under-21 competition next year – in line with other youth competitions in England and abroad.
The alteration is softened by a concurrent increase in the number of overage outfield players allowed from three to five. You’re also allowed an overage goalkeeper, meaning over half of your starting lineup can be over the age of 21 if necessary.
At Arsenal, this is not going to have an immediate impact on the top academy side.
Technically, Arsenal will have six overage players in their under-21 squad as it stands (per Jeorge Bird), with Daniel Ballard, Jordi Osei-Tutu, George Lewis, James Olayinka, Matt Smith, and Zak Swanson still with the club.
But it would be astounding for all six to remain with Arsenal this summer. Ballard is expected to leave permanently, Osei-Tutu has also been linked with a move, and most of the rest will likely earn loans at the very least.
Even if they did all stay, Arsenal would only need to leave one of them out each game, which wouldn’t be hard given many of them occupy the same positions.
In Arsenal’s last Premier League 2 fixture, only one Arsenal player was over the age of 21 in the entire squad – and it was Jonathan Dinzeyi, who has since been released.
The Gunners have a young u23 side already, so they’ll easily slot into the new restrictions.
Perhaps some of Arsenal’s opponents will be forced to name slightly younger sides, but the increase in the number of allowed overage players means the change will likely not have much impact at all.
The only real difference will be in terms of ease of understanding of youth football for casual followers of the system.
When the EFL Trophy is an u21 competition, but the Premier League 2 is an u23 competition, but the same Arsenal team play in both competitions, and international matches only go up to u21, it can get confusing.
Having all major youth competitions stop at 21 (with generous allowances for a few older players) should clear that up.