The Premier League, in their never-ending attempt to improve youth development in reserve teams, has shaken things up again. Allow me to introduce you to Premier League 2. What is this new league’s goal, you might ask? Allow me to share with you this PR-crafted mission statement:
The new Premier League Two has a greater focus on a level of play in terms of technicality, physicality and intensity to bring players as close to first-team experience as possible...
How might they accomplish this goal? They’ve bumped the age limit up to 23 from 21.
Yep, that’s it.
Teams can still use an overage goalkeeper, and can also field up to 3 overage outfield players (Sorry. I’m sorry, 7500 to Holte. I’m trying to remove this rule.).
How might this affect Arsenal? Well, the young Gunners will still be in Division 1 of this new league so they will still be squaring off against the best of the best in terms of reserve sides England has to offer.
It also means old hands Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Yaya Sanogo can be fielded in the competition and not count as overage players.
Will this rule change work, you ask? Probably not. The main problem with English reserve football is not that 23 year olds can’t play it; it’s the lack of real, meaningful stakes. It’s hard to manufacture those stakes by doing nothing but raising the age limit.
If it becomes a league where young-ish, fringe first-team players, such as Oxlade-Chamberlain, and overage, fringe first-team players are utilized league-wide in order to retain match fitness and attempt to impress the manager, there could be an improvement in the quality of the overall product. This would theoretically help in development, but it comes with the downside of less young prospects getting playing time. But, as it is now, it seems highly unlikely this change will have any real impact.