Sorry Hector, you can’t come around here no more

Europe :(

Morning all, no football again today as the players who have made it through the knock-out rounds have been rather selfishly been given some time off to recover before they play again. Don’t they know we’ve grown used to having games all the time?

Ah well, at least we can spend the day talking about the EU Referendum, in the wake of Britain’s vote to leave. I tend to stay away from politics here, for very obvious reasons, but for me it’s a sad day. The idea that hideous, goat-toothed, mendacious racist like Nigel Farage is gloating and happy is basically a terrible thing. I can’t bear it.

But if we channel it into our own little niche right here, this could have an effect on football too. I know it’s not the most important thing in the world, the consequences of this result will be widespread over the coming months and years, but if we’re all here because we’re Arsenal fans, then it’s worth considering what it might mean from that point of view.

As we know players from EU countries are entitled to come to the UK and play in the Premier League without a work permit because of freedom-of-movement. Unless football is given some special dispensation – and there’s no particular reason why it should be – these players now have to qualify for a work permit.

The criteria for a work permit are as follows:


  • A player from a top-10 nation has to have played in 30% of their games in the two years prior to the date of application to be granted a work permit.
  • A player from a nation ranked 11-20 must have played in 45% of international games.
  • That percentage rises to 60% for the next 10 countries, then 75% for nations ranked 31-50.

What it means for recruitment of players in the future is another issue. English teams are already at something of a disadvantage to other big European leagues as the best young talent from South America is pretty much impossible to bring in because of the work permit issues. Now, having closed the door to Europe, there’s a far smaller pool of players to choose from.

All the clubs in Spain, France, Germany, Italy etc that we have to compete with, can pick the best young European players while English clubs will have to, under the current rules, apply for special talent visas. So, you think of players who have come to us at a young age and gone on to do good things, but who might have been rejected were it not for EU rules.

No Freddie Ljungberg. No Cesc Fabregas. No Robin van Persie. No Gael Clichy. No Jose Antonio Reyes. No Bacary Sagna. No Samir Nasri. No Wojciech Szczesny. No Laurent Koscielny. No Mikel Arteta. No Nacho Monreal. No Hector Bellerin.

Whatever you feel about those players now, or the contributions they made, they were fundamental parts of our team for a long time. And the idea that the gap will somehow be filled by ‘home-grown’ players who were just waiting for a chance but couldn’t get one because of these pesky immigrants is fanciful. There will be a more limited pool of talent at the disposal of English clubs, while the rest of Europe picks and chooses from far and wide. The simple reality is that you have a better chance of finding quality when you have more options open to you.

Again, football isn’t the most important thing in the world, but then decisions like this have consequences that aren’t part of the main talking points. This is surely one of them. Maybe we won’t feel it for a while, but down the line it’s going to be something that will have to be dealt with.

Just yesterday I was thinking that despite the horrible scenes of the opening few days of the European Championships, it was brilliant to see how much football meant to people and how it could bring people together. Getting behind Iceland; fans of Ireland, Northern Ireland, Wales and England (some of them anyway!), wanting each other to do well. People mixing from all of Europe, having fun, singing songs, enjoying the togetherness that football can bring.

The world has been a pretty grim place recently. Even as inured as we are to terrible things, some of recent events have been profoundly shocking and disturbing. The fact that blatantly racist, xenophobic and dangerous politicians are on the rise scares me because of what it means now and in the future. What it might mean for our kids and the world. So it was great to witness the best of people, brought together, and not pushed apart even with sporting rivalries taken into account.

The Brexit – what a horrible word, by the way – feels divisive and isolationist. It’s sad. I know many won’t share that point of view this morning, but there you go.

In other news, Jamie Vardy looks as if he’s staying at Leicester, having agreed a new four year deal with them. Agreed is not signed, obviously, but chances are his mind is made up. Whether Arsenal got ‘played’ or not is, at this point, irrelevant. We went after a target having had encouragement from his people that he’d be up for the move, in the end it looks as if he’s happy to remain a big fish in a small pond.

In some ways you have to say that’s admirable. We keep hearing about how player loyalty is a thing of the past, so when a player can be convinced to be loyal by a second massive pay increase in four months, shouldn’t we applaud that?

Anyway, if he doesn’t want to come to Arsenal, that’s on him. We now have to set our sights elsewhere and find the striker we need. The difficulty, of course, is that really top class strikers feel more and more like a rariety these days. They are so hard to find, and it’ll be interesting to see what our solution to this one is.

Right, have a good day folks. I love you all. Mostly πŸ˜‰


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