Match report- Arsenal youngsters struggle to cope with dominant Chelsea as they crash out of Youth Cup

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FA Youth Cup Semi-Final Second Leg

Arsenal 0 Chelsea 1 (Colkett 16) (Chelsea win 3-1 on aggregate)

By Jeorge Bird @ Emirates Stadium

Photo by Kieran Clarke
Photo by Kieran Clarke

Arsenal’s hopes of winning the FA Youth Cup for the first time in five years were destroyed by an impressive Chelsea side at Emirates Stadium this evening. Chelsea, already carrying a 2-1 advantage from the First Leg at Stamford Bridge, capitalised on some woeful defending from Arsenal to score through Charlie Colkett and, despite Arsenal’s best efforts, didn’t come close to relinquishing their lead.

Arsenal did not give the best account of themselves during this tie, as they struggled as an attacking force in both legs, whilst Chelsea seemed physically and tactically superior throughout. This was Arsenal’s best run in the competition since they last won it in 2009, but, in these two games, they never came close to replicating the displays that the likes of Jack Wilshere produced half a decade ago.

Arsenal again failed to offer enough support to make the most of Chuba Akpom’s considerable talent and, although Gedion Zelalem was a little better than last week, the young Gunners lacked their usual fluidity, with Chelsea’s well drilled side closing them down at every opportunity.

Leander Siemann, meanwhile, made several defensive mistakes, rendering the decision to select him in preference to Stefan O’Connor rather bizarre.

Coach Carl Laraman made just one change from the First Leg, with Jack Jebb coming into the side at the expense of Dan Crowley, rather than Gedion Zelalem. Chelsea also made just a solitary alteration with Jay Da Silva being preferred to Isaiah Brown.

Vickers

Moore-Pleguezuelo-Siemann-Ormonde Ottewill

Kamara-Zelalem

Maitland Niles-Jebb-Iwobi

Akpom

subs: Crowley (for Iwobi, 58), O’Connor (for Siemann, 67), Lipman (for Kamara, 86). Not used: Huddart, Mugabo.

Chelsea were impressive in the early stages, with Jordan Houghton sending a cross wide. Left-back Ola Aina then saw a shot saved by Josh Vickers following a good move involving Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Da Silva.

Arsenal’s first attacking move of note involved their two most dangerous attacking players, Alex Iwobi and Chuba Akpom, with Iwobi finding the striker, whose effort was deflected for a corner.

Chelsea soon provided Arsenal with a reminder of their threat, however. Kiwomya’s cross was cut out, with Charlie Colkett subsequently sending his shot wide. Arsenal then, not for the first time in this Youth Cup run, were reliant on Josh Vickers for coming to their rescue. The goalkeeper made a superb double save to deny Dominic Solanke twice in quick succession.

Arsenal then sought to assert themselves at the other end, with Jebb’s free-kick locating Julio Pleguezuelo at the far post, but the Spanish centre-back’s header was saved. The chances were coming thick and fast for both sides, and Chelsea would make their next opportunity count, with Colkett pouncing on some disappointing defending from Jebb and Siemann, as well as a rare mistake from Vickers, to open the scoring and give Chelsea a 3-1 aggregate lead.

Houghton then sought to put the tie beyond doubt, but Vickers held his shot. Arsenal demonstrated their quality when Zelalem played a clever lofted pass into the path of Ainsley Maitland-Niles, but the winger’s shot was saved.

Da Silva then sent an effort wide for Chelsea, with Arsenal responding with their best move of the half. Iwobi embarked on a driving run down the left flank and spotted Akpom in space. Akpom back-heeled the ball into the path of his team-mate, with Iwobi’s shot eventually being cleared for a corner.

Chelsea ended the half as they started it by creating chances with regularity. Solanke shot over, then, after Zelalem lost the ball, Da Silva did well to find Kiwomya, whose shot lacked conviction.

Photo by Kieran Clarke
Photo by Kieran Clarke

Chelsea’s dominance continued after the interval, with Andreas Christensen somehow remaining unopposed as he marauded up the field before shooting wide. Arsenal came close at the other end, with the impressive Glen Kamara seeing his effort cleated off the line after he latched onto Jebb’s free-kick.

Arsenal then struck the post through Akpom after a precise through-ball from Zelalem, but the offside flag had already been raised. Arsenal sought to increase their attacking momentum by introducing Crowley in place of Iwobi, but Chelsea continued to dominate, with Colkett’s shot deflecting off the disappointing Siemann for a corner, before Solanke’s effort was kept out by Vickers.

Siemann then made another error, but Colkett again couldn’t capitalise, with the German centre-back then, at long last, being replaced by O’Connor. Arsenal also introduced Austin Lipman, featuring in his third game in four days, as they went all out for victory, but, even with Crowley operating almost as a second striker, they were still unable to breach the resolute Chelsea defence.

Some of Arsenal’s performances in this competition this season, particularly against Charlton Athletic and Everton, were mightily impressive, but once again, as they did in both the U21 Premier League Cup and the UEFA Youth League, Arsenal’s youngsters have fallen at the latter stages of a major cup competition.

Match report- Several debuts as Arsenal U18s ease past Fulham

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U18 Premier League- Game 29

Fulham 1 Arsenal 4 (Dobson 16, Lipman 29, 59, Robinson 68)

By Jeorge Bird @ Motspur Park

A young Arsenal side comprised primarily of schoolboys eased to a comfortable victory over Fulham at a sunny Motspur Park earlier today. Arsenal’s main focus this week is tomorrow’s FA Youth Cup Semi-Final, 2nd Leg tie against Chelsea, but this emphatic win will be welcomed given some of the disappointing results that have preceded it at this level this campaign.

Austin Lipman, one of the more experienced players on show, found the net twice, with schoolboys George Dobson and Tyrell Robinson also on the scoresheet. With the majority of the Youth Cup squad left out, coach Carl Laraman handed debuts at this level to four players- Tolaji Bola, Owen Moore, Marcus Tabi and Michel Parker.

Arsenal also gave game time to a trialist goalkeeper, with Lipman, Elliot Wright and Arinse Uade the only full-time scholars to feature. Joshua Da Silva started, having made his debut as a substitute against Newcastle United. Kick-off was delayed by 45 minutes due to the Arsenal coach arriving late.

Trialist

Eyoma-Wright-Uade-T. Bola

Dobson-Hinds

Mavididi-Da Silva-Robinson

Lipman

subs: Tabi (for Lipman), O. Moore (for Dobson), Parker (for Hinds). Not used: Huddart.

Fulham also named a very young side, with many of their players away at the Dallas Cup, but the majority of Arsenal’s youngsters possess plenty of experience at this level and they looked determined to make the most of that advantage in the early stages. The lively Robinson did well to win a corner, with Lipman seeing his shot saved from the resultant set-piece.

Robinson provided another example of the threat he poses to the opposition goal when he latched onto Dobson’s long pass and forced a good save from the Fulham goalkeeper. Uade had to be alert to cut out a cross at the other end, but Arsenal were largely dominant. They were rewarded when they took the lead through Dobson, who finished well with a shot that deflected in off the far post.

Arsenal didn’t stop there. Kaylen Hinds and Stephy Mavididi both shot over in quick succession, before Da Silva did well to find Lipman, whose shot was saved.

Da Silva, operating in the number 10 position, was beginning to become increasingly influential, and he shot wide, with right-back Aaron Eyoma also coming close. The game was effectively put beyond a struggling Fulham when Dobson crossed for Lipman, who finished from close range to make it 2-0.

Fulham threatened a little thereafter, with Arsenal’s goalkeeper having to make a couple of impressive saves, but Arsenal were always on top, a point that was emphasised when Lipman struck the crossbar with a fierce strike after being found by Hinds. The skilful Robinson then did well to find space for himself, but his subsequent shot was saved.

The second-half followed a similar pattern to the first, with Arsenal carving out numerous attacking opportunities. Hinds saw a shot saved after good work from Mavididi then Lipman made it 3-0 after pouncing upon a defensive mistake and finishing confidently.

Arsenal had some defending to do after that goal, with Fulham’s right-winger causing them considerable problems. Fulham pulled a goal back during that spell with a header from close range, with Arsenal then introducing Tabi and Owen Moore in place of Lipman and Dobson.

The final goal of the game followed almost immediately, with Wright playing one of his trademark long passes, which Robinson latched onto and then diverted into the net. There could have been even more goals for Arsenal, with Mavididi, Eyoma and Tabi all coming close. The game had long been won, however, and this result represents another important step in the development of these players.

Many of the youngsters on show today will form the bulk of the U18 squad for next season, and, on this evidence, some of them are very promising indeed. Dobson, despite still being a schoolboy himself, possesses good leadership qualities and was also one of the standout players today, whilst wingers Mavididi and Robinson were both very dangerous. Da Silva demonstrated glimpses that, in time, he could develop into a promising player, whilst the schoolboys that were brought on did not look at all out of place.

There are now just two league fixtures remaining at U18 level this season, against Wolverhampton Wanderers and West Ham United, but, for now, all the attention is focused on tomorrow night’s Youth Cup tie at Emirates Stadium.

U21 Match report- Arsenal 0 Leicester 4- Young Gunners outclassed

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U21 Premier League- Game 19

Arsenal 0 Leicester City 4 (Hopper 6, Watson 41, 50, Cain 80)

By Jeorge Bird @ Meadow Park

Arsenal U21s suffered a deeply disappointing defeat to Leicester City in their penultimate home game of the season. Steve Gatting’s side, who were without several key players due to first-team and FA Youth Cup commitments, struggled to garner any sort of attacking momentum and didn’t register a shot on target until the second-half.

They struggled to break down a Leicester defence that was marshalled manfully by the experienced Republic of Ireland international Sean St Ledger, whilst their own defensive frailties were pounced upon all too easily by a determined visiting side. Arsenal’s league form at U21 level this season, particularly post-Christmas, has been rather alarming, with Gatting’s team winning just two games out of eleven.

The most concerning element is that Gatting, along with current U18s coach Carl Laraman, will still be in charge of Arsenal at this level next season, but it is hoped that the appointment of Andries Jonker as the club’s new Head of Youth Development will reduce the chances of results such as this occurring in the future.

Leicester were fully deserved of their win, but Arsenal’s play was painful to watch at times as some players struggled to make the requisite runs and others gave the ball away in dangerous areas. Their play in an attacking sense did improve a little following the introduction of Austin Lipman as a second-half substitute, but Leicester goalkeeper Adam Smith was barely tested throughout.

Arsenal were without several regulars at this level. Hector Bellerin is likely to be on the first-team bench against West Ham United tomorrow, whilst Chuba Akpom, Gedion Zelalem, Dan Crowley, Julio Pleguezuelo and Jack Jebb were all left out with the second-leg of the FA Youth Cup Semi-Final against Chelsea in mind. Isaac Hayden, meanwhile, was missing through suspension.

Macey

Moore-Ajayi-O’Connor-Mugabo

Olsson-Toral

Maitland Niles-Eisfeld-Iwobi

Ansah

subs: Lipman (for Maitland-Niles, 70), Kamara (for Iwobi, 70). Not used: Huddart, Siemann, Ormonde-Ottewill.

Arsenal’s start was sluggish and set the tone for the rest of the game. Alex Iwobi gave away a free-kick which was taken by Callum Elder. Matt Macey was on hand to gather, but it wasn’t long before the Arsenal goalkeeper was picking the ball out of the back of his net, with Tafari Moore struggling to deal with the considerable threat of Tom Hopper, who beat the full-back for pace and then beat Macey with a confident finish.

That was just the beginning. Leicester were putting Arsenal under pressure at every opportunity and Gatting’s side simply couldn’t cope. The visitors came close from a corner before Macey had to deal with two free-kicks in quick succession. The pressure was relentless, with Ryan Watson then seeing a shot deflected narrowly wide.

Watson came close again shortly afterwards, with Stefan O’Connor then having to make a well-timed intervention to prevent further damage. Arsenal couldn’t stem the overwhelming tide of Leicester attacks, however, and they were soon 2-0 down, with Watson being rewarded for his persistence.

The midfielder finished well after being found by Harry Panayiotou from a corner, with Arsenal leaving the field at half-time without having even come close to threatening the Leicester goal.

Arsenal appeared a little more determined after the interval, with Zak Ansah’s attempted pass being gathered by Smith, but mistakes continued to plague their game. Alfred Mugabo, who is set to be released in June, inadvertently directed the ball into the path of Hopper, who shot wide.

In an all too rare attacking move from Arsenal Jon Toral found Kristoffer Olsson, whose shot was just off target, but normal service resumed when Leicester made it 3-0. O’Connor committed a late challenge high up the pitch, but the referee waved play on and Leicester took full advantage, with Watson embarking on a mazy run through the Arsenal defence before beating Macey once more.

Watson then came close to claiming a hat-trick, but shot wide. Arsenal sought to change things a little, with Lipman and Glen Kamara being introduced. Kamara at least provided protection to the defence, something that had been glaringly absent beforehand, whilst Lipman worked hard and attempted to make things happen on the right flank.

Arsenal’s best move came when Olsson closed down St Ledger’s clearance and played in Thomas Eisfeld, who was on the bench at Wembley on Saturday. The German directed the ball into the path of Ansah, whose effort struck the crossbar. Leicester were always on top, though, and inflicted further damage when substitute Michael Cain capitalised on some woeful defending to make it 4-0. This had long been a bridge too far for the young Gunners.

It was a deeply disappointing way to end their first campaign at Boreham Wood, but the Youth Cup has certainly taken priority this week. That said, some of the players who aren’t eligible for that competition, such as Eisfeld, Olsson and Toral, were far from at their best here, and a similar team managed to dispatch of Manchester City last week.

Mugabo is strong but deploying him at left-back is to nobody’s benefit, whilst Ajayi will have to be far more consistent if he is to become a first-team squad member next season. Hayden, meanwhile, was sorely missed. If Arsenal manage to prevail over Chelsea in the Youth Cup on Thursday then this game will probably be largely forgotten, but losing by such a scoreline should not be acceptable for a club that places so much emphasis on youth development.

 

Loan report- Wellington scores twice; Aneke sent off

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Wellington delivered an excellent performance as Murcia beat Lugo 3-1. The Brazilian scored twice before being withdrawn in the 84th minute. This was the first game in which the 21 year old has found the net this season, but he has certainly impressed in recent weeks since being elevated into the starting line-up.

Chuks Aneke was sent off in first-half stoppage time for elbowing Richard Stearman as Crewe Alexandra lost 2-0 to Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Joel Campbell started and was booked as Olympiacos beat Apollon Smirnis 1-0 in their final league fixture of the season.

Benik Afobe played the final eleven minutes and was booked during Sheffield Wednesday’s dramatic 3-3 draw with Blackburn Rovers. Goalkeeper Damian Martinez was an un-used substitute.

Johan Djourou played the whole game as Hamburg lost 2-1 to his former loan side Hannover, whilst Francis Coquelin wasn’t involved in Freiburg’s 2-0 win over Braunschweig.

Ju-Young Park was again not involved as Watford drew 2-2 with Millwall. Ignasi Miquel is unlikely to be involved when Leicester City take on Reading tomorrow night.

Injury meant that Zach Fagan didn’t feature in Boreham Wood’s 2-1 defeat to Whitehawk. The centre-back is set to return to Arsenal later this month. Josh Vickers didn’t feature in Canvey Island’s goalless draw with Hendon.

Daniel Boateng‘s Hibernian side didn’t have a fixture this weekend.

Pre- Wigan training report: Rosicky, Gibbs, Toral and Eisfeld involved

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Hector Bellerin, Thomas Eisfeld and Jon Toral joined the first-team squad this morning for their final training session ahead of tomorrow’s FA Cup Semi-Final against Wigan Athletic.

Kieran Gibbs, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Tomas Rosicky, who were classed as doubts for this fixture, all came through the workout unscathed and could be part of the squad tomorrow.

Mathieu Flamini is suspended, whilst Lukas Fabianski will start in goal. Abou Diaby continued to train individually, with Mesut Ozil, Jack Wilshere, Laurent Koscielny, Theo Walcott and Ryo all still unavailable. Serge Gnabry was not present, suggesting that the German winger is not yet fully recovered from the injury he suffered last week. Nicklas Bendtner is set to return to England on Monday.

Players in training today: Szczesny, Fabianski, Viviano, Sagna, Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Gibbs, Monreal, Arteta, Flamini, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Cazorla, Rosicky, Podolski, Giroud, Sanogo, Bellerin, Eisfeld, Toral, Kallstrom, Ramsey. 

FA Youth Cup report- Chelsea 2 Arsenal 1- Much work to do for young Gunners

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FA Youth Cup- Semi Final, 1st Leg

Chelsea 2 (Colkett 59, Kiwomya 66) Arsenal 1 (Akpom 56)

By Jeorge Bird @ Stamford Bridge

Arsenal U18s face an uphill struggle if they are to reach their first FA Youth Cup Final since 2009 after they were beaten by Chelsea in the first leg of their Semi-Final tie this evening.

The young Gunners took the lead courtesy of a fine strike from Chuba Akpom, but Chelsea levelled just three minutes later before Alex Kiwomya scored what could prove to be a crucial goal as he put the hosts ahead. As in several of the previous rounds, Arsenal were hugely reliant on goalkeeper Josh Vickers to keep the opposition at bay, but they struggled to fully function as an attacking force, with midfielder Gedion Zelalem particularly culpable.

Zelalem’s carelessness in possession led to Chelsea’s opener, which was scored by Charlie Colkett, and the German lost the ball again shortly afterwards, prompting his replacement by Jack Jebb. Julio Pleguezuelo and Ainsley Maitland-Niles did, however, come out of the game with some credit, along with Vickers and Akpom, although this was far from a vintage display from an Arsenal side who were at times swamped by Chelsea’s dominance in midfield.

The tie is not over, especially when the youth teams’ immaculate record at Emirates Stadium is taken into account, but coach Carl Laraman will want to see much more from his side next Thursday, with Arsenal having struggled to gain any sort of foothold in this encounter.

The team line-up was the expected one, with Zelalem being preferred over Jebb. In hindsight, that was perhaps the wrong decision to make.

Vickers

Moore-Pleguezuelo-Siemann-Ormonde Ottewill

Kamara-Zelalem

Mailtand Niles-Crowley-Iwobi

Akpom

subs: Jebb (for Zelalem, 66). Not used: Huddart, O’Connor, Dobson, Lipman.

Arsenal had some defending to do in the early stages, with Vickers being called into action for the first time as he gathered a cross from Fankaty Dabo.

Maitland-Niles, who has been so impressive recently, then did well to manoeuvre some space for himself at the other end, but he dragged his shot wide of the far post before Chelsea squandered an inviting opportunity when Colkett flicked the ball into the path of Izzy Brown, who made the mistake of electing to pass instead of going for goal, with Arsenal eventually clearing their lines.

Chelsea were dominant throughout the first-half, particularly in terms of their midfield play. Arsenal’s approach was rather stagnant in contrast, but most of the openings that they did create fell to Akpom. The striker struck a shot into the side-netting, before Alex Iwobi’s header was tipped over the crossbar for a corner.

Chelsea’s dominance continued after the interval, with the game suddenly becoming rather more open. Brown saw his shot held after Arsenal’s hesitancy saw them hustled out of possession, then Jordan Houghton shot over after Pleguezuelo’s header fell invitingly into his path.

Chelsea goalkeeper Mitchell Beeney then played the ball mistakenly into the path of Dan Crowley in front of goal, but the midfielder couldn’t capitalise. The intensity of the game had increased greatly, with Vickers then making a superb double save in quick succession to deny Colkett and Kiwomya.

Arsenal were struggling to create chances with any sort of regularity, and their usual brand of passing football was surprisingly absent, but what good openings they did muster came courtesy of Akpom, with the striker attempting a shot from a difficult angle which was saved.

Arsenal’s lack of ingenuity seemed set to cost them, but then they temporarily awoke from their slumber. Maitland-Niles played a perceptive pass straight into the path of Akpom, who beat Beeney with a well-placed finish. With the travelling Arsenal supporters jubilant and Akpom evidently delighted to have found the net, you forgot that this was a youth-team game, albeit just for a moment.

With their lead, albeit somewhat fortunately, intact, Arsenal were now faced with the task of seeing the game out for the remaining 34 minutes. Largely owing to the carelessness of Zelalem, they held out for just three minutes. Zelalem, not for the first or last time, lost possession, and, although Arsenal initially managed to clear the danger, the ball eventually fell to Colkett, who finished well to equalise.

Zelalem didn’t learn from his mistake, as he squandered possession again. Thankfully, this time the outcome wasn’t quite so damning, with Vickers earning his team-mate a reprieve as he denied Brown.

It was only a temporary respite, however, as Chelsea soon took the lead. The effective Ruben Loftus-Cheek clipped the ball forwards. Vickers kept out Dominic Solanke’s header, but the ball fell into the path of Kiwomya, whose overhead kick was enough to beat the Arsenal goalkeeper.

Jebb, not before time, was then introduced in place of Zelalem. The midfielder immediately got to work, playing a good pass into the path of his long-time colleague Akpom, who couldn’t quite get the ball under control.

Arsenal had threatened intermittently, but in the end they were perhaps thankful to depart Stamford Bridge with just a one-goal deficit. Right-back Ola Aina wasted a good chance following a quick breakaway, with Vickers then making two more excellent stops. The goalkeeper, along with fellow second-years Iwobi and Glen Kamara, will surely be rewarded with a professional contract at the end of the campaign.

Maitland-Niles sent an effort well wide in the closing stages, but Arsenal will be all too aware that, if they are to progress to the Final, it will require an immense improvement from tonight. They flickered only ever so often in an attacking sense, with Akpom impressing despite often receiving little support from the midfield, whilst the defensive frailties that seem to plague the club at all levels were once again in evidence here.

This was another example of Arsenal being somewhat overrun by a major side at youth level, with the defeat put into even further perspective by the fact that Chelsea were without arguably their most impressive starlet in Jeremie Boga.

Vickers, as he has been throughout this run, was outstanding, but he will need his team-mates to perform similar heroics in the second leg if they are to reach the Final against Fulham.

FA Youth Cup preview- Semi-Final, 1st Leg- Chelsea v Arsenal

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For all the criticism of the Arsenal youth system this season, and it has been considerable, there remains a genuine chance of Carl Laraman guiding the young Gunners to success in the FA Youth Cup for the first time since the much-lauded class of 2008/09.

There are still some considerable obstacles to overcome if that dream is to become a reality, however. Fulham, possessing the talents of Patrick Roberts and Moussa Dembele, are waiting in the Final, but, before then, Chelsea must be overcome in a two-legged Semi-Final, with the first assignment taking place at Stamford Bridge tomorrow evening.

Arsenal have already knocked Chelsea out of one youth tournament this season, prevailing in the U21 Premier League Cup, but the Blues have been involved in three of the past four Youth Cup Finals, winning the competition two years ago. They also dispatched of an Arsenal side containing Benik Afobe and Chuks Aneke at the Fourth Round stage in 2011.

Many of the Chelsea players will already be familiar to Arsenal. The likes of Jeremie Boga, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Izzy Brown, Andreas Christensen and Alex Kiwomya have been involved in numerous battles between the London rivals in the past few seasons, and there will be a further meeting between the two sides at U21 level later this month.

Arsenal’s list of talents is also lengthy. Dan Crowley, Gedion Zelalem and Chuba Akpom are the most prominent, but Chelsea should also be wary of wingers Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Alex Iwobi, who have been in impressive form in this competition this season. Goalkeeper Josh Vickers, meanwhile, has also impressed, with Arsenal negotiating their way past the varied threats of Torquay United, Peterborough United, Charlton Athletic and Everton to reach this stage.

Jack Jebb was particularly influential against Everton, but, with Crowley back from injury, Jebb will most probably be amongst the substitutes tomorrow night. None of the players who started Monday’s U21 victory over Manchester City are expected to be involved from the offset, with Julio Pleguezuelo and Leander Siemann set to be deployed at the heart of the defence.

Arsenal will undoubtedly seek to create as many chances as possible, but they will know that a draw would not be the end of the world, particularly when their stellar record of playing at Emirates Stadium is taken into account. With a place in the Final at stake, this two-legged tie promises to be an intriguing match-up between two of the country’s most prominent academy teams.

Possible Arsenal team:

Vickers

Moore-Pleguezuelo-Siemann-Ormonde Ottewill

Kamara-Zelalem

Maitland Niles-Crowley-Iwobi

Akpom

subs: Huddart, O’Connor, Jebb, Dobson, Lipman.