The adverse weather in London ensured that Arsenal’s FA Youth Cup tie with Fulham was postponed last night and the game has now been re-arranged for Tuesday, presenting U21 coach Terry Burton with a considerable selection dilemma ahead of this Sunday’s trip to face Southampton.
The vast majority of the side pencilled in to face Fulham has only played once this calendar year, for the U18s against Norwich City last weekend, so, ordinarily a run-out against the Saints would be ideal to boost fitness as Arsenal seek a lengthy run in the Youth Cup. On the other hand, however, it may be considered a risk to deploy the key components of the Youth Cup side in what are likely to be treacherous conditions on Sunday.
A compromise is likely to be reached, with only a smattering of the Youth Cup squad being involved, but Burton has several other selection issues to contend with. Emmanuel Frimpong is suspended having been sent off against West Bromwich Albion last time out, whilst Kyle Ebecilio, Jordan Wynter, Jernade Meade, Nico Yennaris, Serge Gnabry, Craig Eastmond, Daniel Boateng and Sanchez Watt are all still sidelined. In addition, as the Southampton game will be on-going whilst the first-team are in action at Stamford Bridge against Chelsea, the opportunity to field a side with a strong first-team core, as happened against West Brom, will be denied, with Sebastien Squillaci and possibly Andrey Arshavin the only senior players who could be involved against Southampton.
It is of much relief, then, that centre-back Ignasi Miquel is back fit again following an injury of his own and, with Johan Djourou having joined Hannover on loan, the 20 year old will be keen to assert his credentials and challenge for a place in the first-team squad, having only featured twice at senior level so far this season. Miquel is likely to captain the side at the Silverlake Stadium, whilst Conor Henderson could also receive his first start since returning from his frustrating loan spell with Coventry City.
It is stil likely that some members of the U21 squad will head out on loan before the end of the month, with Benik Afobe, Chuks Aneke and Philip Roberts the only current domestic loanees. Miquel and Thomas Eisfeld have been linked with temporary stints elsewhere, whilst Martin Angha, having built up considerable experience of U21 football and made his first-team debut, could also benefit from spending time at a lower-league club.
Southampton lost their opening fixture in the Elite Group, but Arsenal should be wary of midfielder Lloyd Isgrove, who has already made his senior bow for the Premier League club. Arsenal will be especially keen to pick up points having drawn against West Brom, and it is hoped that Eisfeld and, if he starts, striker Chuba Akpom can be the difference on Sunday.
subs: Shea, Monteiro, Olsson, Toral, Bellerin.