Arsenal’s participation in the NextGen Series for the 2012/13 campaign was confirmed in April, and yesterday the anticipation ahead of the tournament, which will run for six months culminating in the Final in March next year, was cranked up somewhat when the draw for the group stages was made, pitching the young Gunners against Althletic Bilbao, Marseille and Anderlecht.
The game against Bilbao in particular, with the Spanish side, like Arsenal, renowned for their free-flowing style of play, should prove a watchable affair, whilst Marseille and Anderlecht will also pose difficult tests as the Gunners look to progress out of Group Four. With the club yet to confirm who will replace Neil Banfield and Steve Bould in their reserve and youth roles following their promotion to the first-team coaching staff, however, it is currently unclear who will be taking charge of Arsenal at the tournament.
However, Banfield has indicated that the players Arsenal will use in the NextGen series are likely to be those who are not receiving regular game time in the newly-restructured Premier Reserve League, which will effectively be an under-21 league from next season. The NextGen series is open to players born on or after January 1st 1994, meaning that players such as Martin Angha, Zak Ansah and Kyle Ebecilio, who have become increasingly involved in the Reserve side, will all be eligible to feature, although three over-age players can also be named, meaning that, theoretically at least, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Thomas Eisfeld would be permitted to be included, although the club are more likely to include players such as Josh Rees and Jordan Wynter, who, whilst only just entering their first full seasons as professionals, are regarded as over-age players having been born in late 1993.
Group One – FC Barcelona, Tottenham Hotspur, Olympiacos, Vfl Wolfsburg.
Group Two – Manchester City FC, Juventus Football Club, Paris Saint-Germain, Fenerbahce.
Group Three – Chelsea FC, AFC Ajax, CSKA Moscow, Molde FK.
Group Four – Arsenal FC, Athletic Bilbao, Olympique de Marseille, RSC Anderlecht.
Group Five – Liverpool FC, Borussia Dortmund, Internazionale, Rosenborg BK.
Group Six – Sporting Clube de Portugal, Celtic FC, Aston Villa FC, PSV Eindhoven