There seems to be some confusion over what this entails for the 25-man squad and who counts as homegrown. I guess we should start by quoting straight from this season's Premier League Handbook.
“Home Grown Player” means a Player who, irrespective of his nationality or age, has been registered with any Club (or club) affiliated to the Football Association or the Football Association of Wales for a period, continuous or not, of three Seasons or 36 months prior to his 21st birthday (or the end of the Season during which he turns 21) and for the purposes of this definition of “Home Grown Player” a Season will be deemed to commence on the date on which the first Transfer Window closes and expire on the date of the final League Match of the Season
"Squad List” means the list of up to a maximum of 25 Players eligible to participate in League Matches during a Season of whom a maximum of 17 may not be Home Grown Players
“Under 21 Player” means a Player under the age of 21 as at the 1st January in the year in which the Season concerned commences (ie for Season 2010/11 born on or after 1st January 1989)
Requirement for Registration
1. A Player shall not play for a Club in a League Match unless that Club holds his registration with effect from at least one hour before kick off and for League Matches to be played between the close of the First Transfer Window and the end of the Season either:
1.1 his name is included on the Squad List; or
1.2 he is an Under 21 Player.
I reckon that's enough legalese. Long story short, clubs can have a squad of up to 25 players, no more than 17 of whom can be senior non-homegrown players. However, clubs can register and use an infinite amount of under-21 players. Naming eight senior homegrown players or a full 25-man senior squads aren't requirements.
So, where does that leave Liverpool? Going off of LFC.tv's current squad list:
Homegrown players (7):
Non-homegrown players (18):
Under-21 (born after 1/1/89):
Lauri Dalla Valle
FYI: For thoroughness' sake, I included Insua and Plessis, even though they don't have squad numbers, because both have played first-team matches and are (technically) still with the club.
* will not count as homegrown after leaving the under-21 list.
ª I'm still not 100% sure about Danny Wilson. His birthday is 12/27/91. He'll be 21 at the start of his third season with the club, but by the time he's been with the club through three seasons he'll be 22, and his birthday is four days before the January 1 under-21 cut-off. So I'm not positive. And can we count him signing in '09/10, because of the page 89 line where the season "commences" once the window closes? One of the few times bureaucratic speak eludes even me.
Even though Liverpool doesn't have eight senior homegrown players, the squad's nearly compliant with Premier League rules as it stands. One of Cavalieri or Itandje (yep, he's still here) are the most likely departures from the list of non-homegrown players, but we can also expect to see the backs of Plessis and El Zhar on the basis of preseason appearances. Remove two of them, and Liverpool will be compliant next season as well, when Ngog counts as a non-homegrown player. And remove all four, which looks the most likely (and that's not even getting into Mascherano, Kyrgiakos, or any other rumored exits), and Liverpool actually has space for a few more non-homegrown signings.
Liverpool used 30 players in the league last season, rising to 32 if we count Cavalieri and Plessis' cup appearances. Nine of them counted as u21, and four of those only had one substitute appearance; only Ngog and Insua played anywhere near regularly. The team used 18 non-homegrown players (again, 20 if you count the couple of cup games), and Benayoun, Riera, Degen, Dossena, and Voronin aren't with the club anymore. Liverpool easily could have complied with this rule last season if necessary.
Buying British is important in this day and age, but it's not as if that's a new wrinkle. Because of the amount of eligible, talented youngsters and as Liverpool's so close to the cutoff of foreign players as it is, buying Brad Jones makes little sense to me unless Cavalieri's angling for an exit – then Liverpool would need an experienced back-up, no matter how good a prospect Gulasci looks. Sure, it gives the club more wiggle room, and that could be necessary if Liverpool finds the means to make more signings. And Liverpool will need more English players if Darby and Spearing – already on the fringe of the squad – don't make it. But it's not a Manchester City situation where actual sacrifices will have to be made because of the size of the foreign contingent. Liverpool will be filling out the squad with youngsters no matter the amount of senior homegrown players; Ngog, Kelly, Pacheco, Wilson, etc. will have roles to play this season.
Teams will now pay even more of a premium for English players, and yes, Liverpool have fewer than the majority of Premier League clubs. Which is why the youth set-up so painstakingly rebuilt over the last few years is more crucial than ever. It's telling that out of the 19 under-21 players, only Ngog (and possibly Wilson) won't count as homegrown if they make the senior squad list. And not that it matters, but seven of the above 19 u-21 players are English.
Long story short, it means that Liverpool has little need to seek out the Koncheskys, Bridges, and Carlton Coles of the world simply to have another English passport on the books. Especially when the club's already scouring under sofa cushions for spare change.