Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger called the sizeable group of Chelsea loanees as “one of the big problems in the modern game.”
According to Wenger, a club with massive financial flexibility can afford to swing at a large number of young players and miss on a few, leaving those who fall short to fend for themselves and ultimately hurting player development on a large scale.
“You’ve invested a lot of money into players because we’re paying more and more money,” Wenger said. “Then at the age of 20 you don’t usually get much money for any of the players, so the reflex is to stockpile the players. That’s not right.”
Wenger did not mention Chelsea by name, but the Blues are known for sending vast swaths of young players out on loan, hoping a few will be good enough to return and play at Stamford Bridge.
“When you look at the number of loans that happen here and there, the whole system has to be thought about again because we have two kinds of solution in there. The first is to continue developing players, the second step is to make sure your investment is safe – that’s not the right way to think about it but it’s the natural reflex for the clubs.”
Chelsea sent at least 20 players out on loan this summer, including some to other Premier League sides like Nathan Ake at Bournemouth and Patrick Bamford at Burnley. They have a few playing in the Championship, such as Christian Atsu at Newcastle plus the duo of Tomas Kalas and Lucas Piazon both impressing at Fulham. They also sent some to frequent Blues loan destination Vitesse Arnham such as USMNT youngster Matt Miazga, Danilo Pantic, and Lewis Baker.
Despite all this purging of young players for first-team action elsewhere, the Chelsea youth squads still perform at a high level every year. The U-18 team, for example, currently leads the South portion of the table and has won the FA Youth Cup three years in a row.
Wenger’s proposed solution to the problem opens a whole new can of worms. “Maybe you could create a possibility for some clubs to own part of a League One club as a feeder club,” Wenger suggested. “After that, a limitation on the number of players on your books could work.”
Arsenal plays Chelsea next on February 4th at Stamford Bridge.