If you put every Premier League manager in the same room and asked for a show of hands to see which of them was an advocate for the current player loan system, you can almost guarantee that Roberto Martinez would have both palms reaching for the ceiling.
It is also of a high probability that Arsene Wenger would not only keep his extremities firmly by his sides but also head straight for the door, slamming it firmly behind him.
The Arsenal manager’s disdain for the current loan system stretches back a few seasons to when Adebayor, on-loan from Manchester City at the time, was helping Tottenham leapfrog Arsenal into a Champions League spot. Fortunately for Wenger, it just so transpired that Tottenham and Arsenal both qualified for Europe’s most prestigious tournament that season and, for Wenger, the natural order of football was maintained.
It is Deja vu for the Frenchman this season though as Everton have been hot on Arsenal’s heels since the New Year in pursuit of the final Champions League qualifying position, and once again Wenger has decided to ignite a debate about the fairness of the loan system.
Wenger’s main sticking point is the fact that loan players are not allowed, under the current system, to play against their parent club. This has been the case a few times this season with the likes of Everton’s Romelu Lukaku and Gareth Barry being ineligible to play against title contenders Chelsea and Manchester City respectively.
Earlier this month Wenger was quoted as saying, “I believe that if you want to keep the system we have to keep them available against the teams that loaned them out – or the system is not defensible.”
He then went on to state, “It is just a protection of the clubs that loaned the players out to hurt their opponents, when they have no risk at all.”
Would the Arsenal manager have batted an eyelid had loan signings, such as Everton’s, not performed so well and hadn’t made Everton such a threat to the Gunner’s Champions League qualification hopes this season? The answer is, of course, a resounding no.
It is true that the current stipulations preventing players from appearing against their parent clubs is a contentious one.
However, as the rule is universal, Wenger has every right to take advantage of it if he decided to. What’s more, the rule eradicates any moral dilemmas that could arise if the recipient club had to choose whether they should field the player or not.
A hypothetical example of this would be if Lukaku was forced to play against his parent club, Chelsea. The player may feel like he shouldn’t play to the best of his abilities due to his loyalties and future aspirations with the club.
Lukaku then runs the risk of coming under severe scrutiny from his loan club and the media, subsequently bringing his integrity into question. This is an intense amount of pressure for a person to bare, especially for someone who is just twenty years old.
Maybe Wenger’s gripe is purely over the banning of loan players turning out against their parent club’s, but it seems all too coincidental that he recurrently sparks the debate at a time when Arsenal’s Champions League qualification chances are being threatened by another club.
Rather than scrutinizing the loan system, maybe the Arsenal coach should question why there are so many loan signings happening in the first place. If he were to do this then he would quickly realize that a swell in squad sizes is the real issue. The wealthier clubs swallow up the young emerging talent to prevent their rivals from doing the same.
These players are then sent out on loan to gain top flight experience and to avoid stagnating in the reserves. Loaning out players also means that bigger clubs are compliant with the 25 man squad rule.
This would have a huge effect on a team like Chelsea who, in order to obey the squad limit rule, they have had to send twelve players out on loan, three of which to Premier League opposition.
Instead of setting a limit on squad numbers maybe there should be a cap on players registered to the club. Less players affiliated with the club would mean less loan signings. This would then force clubs to choose more wisely about who they sign and how they are utilized.
The loan system really isn’t the problem here. This season has shown, more than any other that has preceded it, that the loan system is a fantastic way for smaller less financially affluent clubs to not only push for Premier League survival but also apply pressure to the bigger teams.
The real issue is that Arsene Wenger feels threatened by Everton and so, instead of concentrating on his own management, he creates a debate about loan signings that shouldn’t exist.
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