"Disastrous" says Wenger of new Premier League rules

LONDON: Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has described new Premier League rules limiting squad sizes to 25 players as "disastrous."

Wenger said Friday that the limit, which is part of the league's effort to wean clubs off big money transfers and onto a greater reliance on homegrown talent, will leave many players without a club and do nothing to stop top sides hoarding talent.

Wenger thinks that big clubs will simply make surplus players more attractive loan targets by paying part of their salaries while they take short-term deals with other clubs.

"I think it is a disastrous decision for football and I am amazed the union accepted it," Wenger said.

Manchester City, which has already spent more than 100 million pounds in the offseason for a second straight year, has 38 players listed on its website as belonging to its first-team squad.

The Abu Dhabi-owned club could easily subsidize loan deals to trim its squad, while avoiding the possibility of letting title rivals strengthen theirs by signing its players.

Wenger wants to sign at least one more central defender before the Premier League starts on Aug. 14 but says that clubs' movements in the transfer market are being hampered by the new rules.

"I'm not a big fan of it because it puts many players without clubs, that is the first mathematical consequence," Wenger said. "When you buy a player and you already have 25 players, you now have 26. You are not always capable to sell the player."

All 20 Premier League clubs must submit their list of 25 players, including at least eight so-called "homegrown" players, by Sept. 1 — the day after the summer transfer window closes.

A homegrown player is one who, irrespective of nationality or age, has been registered with an English or Welsh club for three full seasons or 36 months prior to his 21st birthday.

But Wenger insisted that if Arsenal misses out on the Premier League title for a seventh straight year, it will not be because of money.

"The money will not be an excuse for us if we do not achieve our targets," Wenger said. "Do I have a team I think can play at the top? I say yes. At the moment, I judge that my players are ready to compete for the championship.

"Do the other clubs have more money or less money is not so important for me. What is important is do the other clubs have better players or worse players than us. At the end of August we will have the players we need to compete at the top level."

Wenger ideally wants five central defenders in his squad before the season begins, but said he would be happy just to add one for now.

Johan Djourou is fit after a long-term injury and Laurent Koscielny has joined from Lorient, but three central defenders have left since the end of last season to leave Thomas Vermaelen as the Gunners' only other option in the position.

"There are plenty of names that we consider and we analyze," Wenger said. "We look at the financial possibilities and the technical potential.

"We are still on the search."

William Gallas, Mikael Silvestre and Sol Campbell have all departed since the end of the 2009-10 season, when Arsenal finished third in the Premier League.

Arsenal plays AC Milan on Saturday and Celtic on Sunday in the annual Emirates Cup preseason tournament it hosts. - AP

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