This will be the third season in which the FA has had a 25 man squad rule in place, so it will be the third time Chelsea FC will be forced to name a squad. For this article, I'm going to ignore the Champions League squad and it's implications, as the rules in place for that are just very different and we still have some time before we need to name that group. The FA rule encompases all FA matches from September 1st until January 1st, so it will cover all but eight of Chelsea's contests in that time (six CL fixtures, two club world cup contests).
The rule as it stands breaks our roster down into three groups of players. Homegrown players are any players that do not qualify as U21 and have spent three seasons or more under contract with an English or Welsh club prior to the completion of the season in which they turn 21. A club doesn't have to have any of these, but eight of the twenty five spots on the roster are reserved for homegrown players. Chelsea FC have never used all eight slots since the advent of the rule, and have therefore never fielded a full twenty five man squad.
The second group of players are Internationally developed players, and this group basically includes everyone except U21 players. Chelsea can name any player they want to these seventeen slots on the roster, and if they happened to have more than eight homegrown players, they could classify them as International players as well.
The third and final group of players will be the U21's. Chelsea can have as many U21's take part in FA games over the course of the season as they'd like, and they do not have to name them to the twenty five man roster. A U21 for this season will include any player born on or after January 1st, 1991. So let's take a look at what players fit into what groups, shall we?
First we'll start with the homegrown players, as we started with them in the article. For the first time since the advent of the rule, Chelsea will be fielding a full compliment of eight homegrown players. Those eight include the following:
That's fantastic news, isn't it? The fact that we can fill all eight of those slots means that we have a full compliment of seventeen to be used on international players but may not have to fill them all. So who falls into that group?
Petr Cech, Branislav Ivanovic, David Luiz, Michael Essien, Ramires, Fernando Torres, Juan Mata, John Obi Mikel, Florent Malouda, Raul Meireles, Paulo Ferreira, Marko Marin, Yossi Benayoun, Henrique Hilario, Cesar Azpilicueta
That's fifteen of the seventeen slots filled, and two remain empty. There's some notable names missing, but the likes of Oriol Romeu, Eden Hazard, and Oscar all qualify as U21. Those players will not count against any FA roster this season, although all three will have to be accounted for in the Champions League. That's another matter though, and we'll deal with that later.
So what exactly does that mean for us now? Well for starters, it means we can still add two international players before we're forced to sell to make space. Even if we're done buying for the summer window (and I rather suspect that we are), come January we'll still have two empty international slots should we need reinforcement.
Other than that, there really isn't too much to make of all of this. Chelsea have done an excellent job of assembling their roster, and it looks a deep and balanced side with room to add should we need to. We've still got the ability to add if we so choose, and their is no restriction on what types of players we need to be adding. For the first time since the roster rule went into effect, I actually feel really good about where Chelsea are sitting.