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State of the Arsenal squad: Overview

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In the first of a three part series, we take a look at the composition of the Arsenal squad as it stands today.

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The summer transfer window Deadline Day is just a shade over 48 hours away, and there are rumors (albeit faint) that Arsenal might still be in the market before the window shuts until January 1, 2017. It's probably far more likely that a couple current players may be leaving, either on loan or permanently, and because of that it's as good as time as any to analyze the squad as it stands now in order to think about realistic inbound transfer targets.

Before any dissection of rosters, it's important to review the Premier League's homegrown rules. From our post about this topic two years ago, detailed expertly by friend of the blog @Heisenbergkamp:

The Requirement is basically this: Each Premier League team can only register 25 players over the age of 21 for that season’s first-team matches. Of those 25 players, no more than 17 can be non-Home Grown Players. In other words, if you want the full complement of 25 over-21 players, you have to have at least 8 Home Grown Players.

As a reminder, a Home Grown Player is a player - of any nationality - that has spent three years between the ages of 16 and 21 with a Premier League team, and who is 21 or over on January 1 of the year of the current season. As of today, there are currently 32 players on the first team (for the sake of this discussion, I'm including soon-to-be announced Shkodran Mustafi and Lucas Perez). Out of that total, seven are U21:

Rob Holding
Calum Chambers
Hector Bellerin
Jeff Reine-Adelaide
Alex Iwobi
Serge Gnabry
Chuba Akpom

This leaves 25 players, the Premier League maximum that can be registered for the league, left on the roster. Dissecting the remaining 25 players even further, nine of them are Home Grown players:

Emiliano Martinez
Carl Jenkinson
Kieran Gibbs
Aaron Ramsey
Francis Coquelin
Jack Wilshere
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
Danny Welbeck
Theo Walcott

Which, simple math tells us, leaves 16 non-Home Grown players left:

Petr Cech
David Ospina
Laurent Koscielny
Per Mertesacker
Shkodran Mustafi
Gabriel Paulista
Mathieu Debuchy
Nacho Monreal
Mesut Ozil
Granit Xhaka
Santi Cazorla
Mohamed Elneny
Olivier Giroud
Lucas
Alexis Sanchez
Yaya Sanogo

With 25 registered players as it stands now, Arsenal will not be able to add any players before the window closes without selling or loaning a current player first. But a quick look at the roster and knowledge of how Arsene Wenger has played (or not played) certain players these first three matches of the season, it's easy to zero in on a couple players that appear to be destined, or should be destined, to spend some (or all) of their future away from the club.

The first is Mathieu Debuchy. The right back, signed for £10 million two years ago, has struggled to regain his place in the starting lineup from Hector Bellerin following injuries to his ankle and shoulder during his first season with the club, and he spent the second half of last season away on loan at Bordeaux. He's currently struggling with yet another injury - this one to a calf - and whoever accepts a move for him will do so understanding he probably won't arrive fully healthy. It seems it's not too serious an injury to scuttle any potential move away, though, especially since the player is desperate to see out the end of his career getting regular playing time, and Arsenal is more than willing to free up his roster spot and as much of his salary as possible.

The other potential departure before the window is, somewhat controversially, Calum Chambers. When he was purchased before the close of the 2014 summer window, Chambers was Arsenal's second-most expensive defender ever, the club's third-most expensive signing, at £16 million. While Chambers shone brightly early on with Arsenal, his youthfulness eventually caught up; between that, continued good health in the combination of Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny, his infamous struggle at right back away at Swansea City while facing Jefferson Montero, and Wenger's purchase of Gabriel just five months after his arrival, Chambers faced an uphill battle to fall within the manager's good graces.

Wenger further cast Chambers' future in doubt this summer with his purchase of Rob Holding, a center back nine months younger than Chambers with no Premier League experience prior to this season, but who has already earned Wenger's trust in consecutive matches starting ahead of Chambers the last two weeks.

Chambers certainly has talent, as evidenced by his U21 and senior England caps. However, Arsenal is in a unique and challenging environment in the Premier League; Manchester City, Manchester United, and Chelsea have reloaded both in managers and rosters following disappointing seasons, and Tottenham, Liverpool, defending league champions Leicester City, and a host of other clubs drunk on TV money are certainly feeling they each have what it takes to unseat Arsenal's status as perpetual residents in the top four of the league.

There's never an ideal time time to groom in a talented but raw defender, but now is as good a time as any. In order for Chambers to continuing progressing towards his potential he needs regular playing time. With Mustafi's (eventual) arrival, and with Holding playing very well to start off his Arsenal career, Chambers will find it extremely difficult to get that time at Arsenal. A loan move away this season would benefit every party involved.

(Update: This post was composed well before the breaking news that Chambers is heading to Middlesbrough on a season-long loan. We will cover this development shortly.)

Assuming Debuchy and Chambers move, that leaves Arsenal with 23 registered players, with 15 non-Home Grown players. As stated above, that number doesn't include any U21 players so the full squad will be bigger than what they have to register with the FA. If either or both of these two are the only players that move away, Arsenal could theoretically bring in up to two players that are both non-Home Grown, thus leaving the potential for the long rumored #madness to continue unabated.

Tomorrow, we'll discuss the squad and locate any potential spots on the pitch that could use a last-minute shoring up.