Arsenal take their place in new Under-21 Premier League

Jamie Sanderson July 31, 2012 News 18 Comments

It’s been mooted for around 12 months, but will finally come into place next season. The Premier League will scrap its existing Reserve League format, in favour of a new Under-21 tournament.

The changes are brought in less than two years after the last overhaul of the reserves system, when the league was divided into groups A, B and C, as opposed to the previous North and South divide.

The new league is aimed at Under-21 players only, but a total of four overage players will be allowed in each match day squad, including a maximum of three outfielders and one goalkeeper. The rule is designed at making the matches more even and competitive.

Another key element of the league, is that it will be mostly made up of clubs granted a category one academy licence, although a number of teams who applied for category one, but were refused, will also feature.

The 23 teams confirmed have been divided into two groups of eight, and one group of 7, with the top two from each group advancing to the elite stage in January.

There they’ll be joined by two of the best third-placed teams, and will then do battle for the trophy in a knock out style format. You following?

The full details are yet to be confirmed, but it’s understood the opening groups are as follows:

Group A:
Arsenal, Blackburn, Bolton, Everton, Norwich, Reading, West Brom and West Ham.

Group B:
Newcastle, Tottenham, Southampton, Stoke, Manchester United, Watford, Sunderland and Aston Villa.

Group C:
Fulham, Chelsea, Manchester City, Liverpool, Middlesbrough, Crystal Palace and Wolves.

The most obvious changes are that there will be no divides, and a quality range of opponents for each team. It’s not yet been made clear, but the Under-16’s and Under-18 leagues are expected to undergo similar changes.

Update: Arsenal have confirmed their participation, with a list of fixtures published on the official site here. The first two games, at home against Blackburn and Bolton, will be played at the Emirates Stadium.


  • Interesting to see whether miquel will be loaned out…in fact quite a few of our reserves could leave on loan which leaves one question unanswered what will the reserves look like minus Miquel,Aneke,Boateng,Yennaris,Sead and even Gnarby….

  • The one problem is see is if a team fails to advance to the playoff round or is eliminated early in the playoffs. Does that mean that they have no more games to play for the rest of the season? That doesn’t seem what teams would want.

    • Exactly not well planned imo but i expect quite a few of our older reserves to go on loan plus there is the NextGen

    • That’s when the FA Youth Cup gets into swing, so that takes over then, along with many of the world wide tournaments, like the Dallas Cup etc.

      Clubs seem to be saying they’d like the time after Christmas free, so they can either send players on loan, promote them, or go on tours elsewhere.

    • Yeh, I think that could cause a problem as well. I know there is the FA youth cup, other tournaments and the possibility of going on loan, but I think for squad players who need a bit of game time or players returning from injury then reserve team football is vital for being prepared physically and mentally for the first team. I suppose friendlies can be arranged, but is it really the same?

  • Where will Arsenal play for home games?

    • Just like last season, the club will play summer fixtures at Barnet and winter ones at the training ground.

      A few, like the opening two games of the season, will be played at the Emirates.

  • Does Arsenal have category one?

  • We should without doubt introduce a system like in spain where the “b” teams play in the lower leagues and cannot be promoted to the premiership Probably one of the reason Spain has so many good young players is because of this system it means players can play at a truly competitive level as soon as they are ready without having to play for the first team. Its like having a built in loan system within the club but the benefit over the current loan system is that they can still play within the style of the club (ie pass and move as opposed to long ball on crap pitches) and still have the amazing facilities and performance assessments that are available to the first team. When they have really proved themselves then they can go to another team on loan in the premiership for top level competition. It would be so much better for the players and the clubs.

  • How can a team from the league of 7 teams be a best 3rd place team if they play 2 fewer games…surely that’s a huge disadvantage.

    Also, what happens to players who turn 22? Are they just told to go elsewhere? What does that mean for late-bloomers like Giroud?

  • 3 Overage players allowed in a squad and 1 overage GK

  • Nic
    The problem about that system is a scenario where a team falls short of promotion because they lose to one of the “big teams” b team who is fighting for nothing.if you’re a fan of that team?Imagine how it will feel like

  • Why don’t we all buy a Scottish team? Problem solved!

  • Whilst a good idea Nic it would be almost impossible to implement. There would be so much opposition to the big boys getting a second side in the league at the possible expense of clubs founded almost 150 years ago.

    The English lower tier leagues are of a much higher standard and are followed much more than their Spanish counterparts.

    I’d love to have an Arsenal B team competing in League 1/Champs but its impractical and never going to happen.

    I do believe in the next decade we will see a side such as Man City transferring funds to a struggling club (Portsmouth springs to mind) as well as selling players and coaching staff en masse to them for next to nothing on 2 year contracts with buy-back options to essentially be a training team. I know it would break many rules but the business minds will find loopholes I imagine.

  • Arsenal could found a “new” club and start from the very bottom and work their way up the leagues just like any other team in several years they would probably get promoted all the way to the top with all the resources and players being loaned to them.

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