Author: Jeorge Bird
FA Youth Cup Quarter-Final
Arsenal 3 (Jebb 34 (pen), 64, Akpom 40) Everton 1 (Williams 48)
By Jeorge Bird @ Emirates Stadium
Jack Jebb has endured a rather difficult season, with the 18 year old having struggled to assert himself in the club’s U21 set-up. He most probably wouldn’t have been involved at Emirates Stadium this evening had Dan Crowley not been absent through injury. Tonight, however, the midfielder was one of the stars of the show, along with the hugely effective Chuba Akpom, as Arsenal U18s dispatched of a hard-working Everton side, in so doing sealing their place in the last four of the FA Youth Cup.
Jebb and Akpom were never far from the action. Everton enjoyed some sustained spells of possession in the first-half, but their good work was undone when Akpom was brought down in the area by goalkeeper Russell Griffiths, with Jebb dispatching the penalty with the minimum of fuss. Akpom doubled Arsenal’s advantage before the break and, even though Everton responded through Joe Williams, a trademark free-kick from Jebb ensured Arsenal’s progression and, with it, revenge over the side that knocked them out of the competition last season.
Coach Carl Laraman persisted with the same side that beat Charlton Athletic in the last round, with Leander Siemann continuing to deputise for the injured Stefan O’Connor. Schoolboys George Dobson and Chris Willock made the bench, with the latter receiving his first call-up in this competition.
subs not used: Huddart, Wright, Dobson, Lipman, Willock.
Everton are renowned for their strong youth teams and a closely-fought encounter was anticipated this evening. It was Arsenal who started on the front foot, however, with Ainsley Maitland-Niles, who had scored in each of the three previous rounds, seeing a cross gathered by Griffiths.
Glen Kamara then laid the ball off to Jebb, who saw his shot saved, but it was then Everton’s turn to attack with Arsenal goalkeeper Josh Vickers, who was outstanding against Charlton, called into action to tip the ball over his crossbar. Vickers made another impressive stop from the resultant corner, before the talented Everton number ten Ryan Ledson directed a header off target.
It was an engaging opening, with both sides attacking well without neglecting their defensive duties. Alex Iwobi cut inside his marker and shot wide, with Siemann then having to be alert to make a crucial intervention to bisect an attack at the other end. Arsenal were beginning to find their range, with Jebb and Akpom combining to good effect, although the latter could only shoot wide after being played through by his fellow Hale End graduate.
Ledson shot over for Everton, but Arsenal ended the half the strongest and would go into the break with a two-goal advantage. First Jebb made it 1-0 from the penalty spot after Akpom was felled by Griffiths, but it was the show-stopping piece of skill from Iwobi, a back-heel that completely befuddled the Everton defence, that was the most memorable instance of the move.
The goal increased Arsenal’s confidence somewhat and Laraman’s side began to play with a greater sense of authority, Gedion Zelalem seeing a shot saved before Akpom capitalised on some hesitant defending to beat Griffiths and double Arsenal’s advantage before the interval.
It could have been game over just moments later, with Iwobi slipping in Akpom, who raced past the Everton defenders but couldn’t finish sufficiently. The final action of the half saw Maitland-Niles strike the crossbar with a deft effort, although the fact that Arsenal hadn’t yet found that third goal offered Everton a glimmer of hope.
They certainly seized upon it, with the visiting team fully dominant in the early minutes of the second-half. Vickers had to gather a cross after Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill, not for the first time, was left stranded, with Williams then turning home from close range to halve the deficit.
Arsenal had to dig deep, with Tafari Moore making a superb covering challenge to prevent an Everton attack from materialising, and, from that point onwards, the Gunners started to regain their attacking momentum. Arsenal ultimately secured victory following a flurry of chances in quick succession. Kamara played a diligent pass into the path of Jebb, whose shot was saved, with Akpom striking the crossbar from the rebound.
Jebb then provided a reminder of his quality from set-pieces, as he seems to do in nearly every game, with the former England U17 international dispatching a wonderful free-kick high into the goal and well out of the reach of Griffiths. Crowley should be back for the two-legged Semi-Final, but, with Jebb playing like this, Laraman will have a rather difficult selection dilemma on his hands.
Arsenal could easily have scored more, with Akpom embarking on a superb burst down the left flank, only to see his shot hit the side-netting, before later coming close with another effort in the dying stages. The striker has always been a promising player, but he already appears much stronger physically as a consequence of his loan spells in League One, whilst he has continued to build upon his considerable talents in terms of technique.
Akpom’s fitness is certainly not in question either, with the 18 year old playing the full game for his loan side Coventry City against Colchester United on Saturday before also completing the entire 90 minutes here. A return to Arsenal next season as a back-up striker for the first-team squad is not beyond the realms of possibility. Centre-backs Julio Pleguezuelo and Siemann should also be commended for dealing adequately with the considerable attacking threat that Everton posed.
For the team as a whole, this was another commendable cup victory in a season that has been full of them. Progress has also been made in the UEFA Youth League and the U21 Premier League Cup, two competitions that are in their inaugural seasons, but the FA Youth Cup is the most prestigious trophy on offer to Arsenal’s youngsters, and they seem determined to seize their chance to lift it.
There are some stellar names remaining in the tournament, with Chelsea, Liverpool, Fulham and Newcastle United amongst those still to play their Quarter-Final ties, but Arsenal will be confident of further progression, particularly with tonight’s win extending the various youth teams’ 100 per cent record at Emirates Stadium to eleven games.
U21 players Semi Ajayi, Isaac Hayden, Kristoffer Olsson and Jon Toral joined the Arsenal first-team squad this morning for their final training session ahead of tomorrow night’s Champions League Last 16, 2nd leg tie away to Bayern Munich. Hayden could make the bench if Kieran Gibbs is unavailable.
Gedion Zelalem was not present as the midfielder was instead preparing for tonight’s FA Youth Cup tie against Everton at Emirates Stadium, whilst manager Arsene Wenger is without several players owing to injury, with Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey, Abou Diaby, Kim Kallstrom and Nacho Monreal all sidelined. Yaya Sanogo is doubtful, whilst there is also a concern over Gibbs, who sustained an injury on Saturday.
In addition, goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny is suspended following his dismissal in the first-leg, whilst Ryo Miyaichi is not registered to play in the Champions League, meaning Nicklas Bendtner could come into the squad. Laurent Koscielny trained this morning, suggesting the French defender should be available.
subs: Viviano, Jenkinson, Hayden, Flamini, Gnabry, Bendtner, Podolski.
FA Youth Cup- Quarter-Final
Arsenal v Everton
Emirates Stadium, 7pm kick-off. * In the event of a draw after 90 minutes this game will go to extra-time and penalties if necessary.
Arsenal U18s have been in scintillating form in this season’s FA Youth Cup so far, progressing to the Quarter-Finals by scoring a total of twelve goals and conceding just once in the three previous rounds. They do not need telling, however, that Everton, the side who killed their dreams in this competition last season, will provide their most challenging test to date, whilst the fact that the game is taking place at Emirates Stadium will add an extra sense of importance to the occasion.
Three goals in quick succession at the start of the second-half helped Everton towards a 4-2 victory over the Gunners at Underhill in the Fifth Round last season, meaning the likes of Hector Bellerin, Kristoffer Olsson and Serge Gnabry were denied the chance to achieve success in this prestigious competition.
Some of the key components of last season’s side are still intact, however, with Chuba Akpom in line to start despite playing 90 minutes for his loan side Coventry City at the weekend. In the continued absence of the injured Dan Crowley, meanwhile, Jack Jebb should be entrusted with the task of playing accurate passes into Akpom’s path, whilst full-backs Tafari Moore and Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill are adept both defensively and going forwards.
Arsenal’s biggest threat in this competition this season has come from their wingers, with Ainsley Maitland-Niles finding the net in every round so far, whilst Alex Iwobi has also been mightily impressive on the left flank. Gedion Zelalem should also be involved for his first start at Emirates Stadium, whilst if there is a concern about this team then it is at the heart of the defence, with Leander Siemann, who doesn’t exactly inspire much confidence, likely to start if Stefan O’Connor is still unavailable.
In edging past a spirited Charlton Athletic side in the last round Arsenal relied heavily on the tremendous reflexes of their goalkeeper Josh Vickers, who made some outstanding saves to keep the opposition at bay. He is likely to be regularly called upon tonight against an Everton side, who, in reaching this stage, have dispatched of Brighton & Hove Albion, Birmingham City and Sheffield United.
Midfielder George Green is one of their key players, along with striker Courtney Duffus, who has already featured for Everton’s U21 side.
Arsenal’s youth teams have been successful on every occasion that they have played at Emirates Stadium, but, in order for that run to continue, they will need to overcome a considerable obstacle in Everton. There is much to look forward to for the Arsenal youngsters in the near future, with this game swiftly followed by the U21 Premier League Cup Semi-Final against Reading and the hugely anticipated UEFA Youth League tie away to Barcelona.
They just have to take matters one game at a time, though, and with the pain of last year’s defeat still raw for those who were involved, it seems certain that Steve Gatting’s side will be especially determined to progress tonight.
There are some strong sides left in this competition, with Newcastle United, Chelsea and Liverpool all having made it to the last eight, but if Arsenal’s youngsters can replicate the first-team by dispatching of Everton in the Quarter-Finals, then they will be extremely confident of going all the way.
Possible Arsenal team:
subs: Huddart, Uade, Dobson, Dawkins, Lipman.
Chuks Aneke continued his impressive form by scoring both of Crewe Alexandra’s goals in their 4-2 defeat to Peterborough United. Aneke opened the scoring with an excellent strike and later found the net again from close range, taking his tally for the season to eleven league goals.
Wellington received a rare start as Real Murcia beat Real Jaen 2-0. The Brazilian had a shot saved in the 34th minute and then set up Alex Martinez for the game’s opening goal just after the break. He was substituted with six minutes remaining, with Murcia adding a second goal late on.
Damian Martinez was restored to the Sheffield Wednesday starting line-up for their 2-0 defeat to Yeovil Town. The Argentinian made a good save to deny Ishmael Miller, but he was later beaten twice by the same player. Benik Afobe was introduced for the final 21 minutes, but the striker failed to make an impact.
Chuba Akpom played the entirety of Coventry City’s 2-1 defeat to Colchester United. The England U19 international had a shot saved by goalkeeper Sam Walker.
Joel Campbell was introduced as a substitute with 18 minutes remaining as Olympiacos suffered their second league defeat in succession, losing 2-1 to PAOK.
Francis Coquelin came on for the last 14 minutes of Freiburg’s 1-0 defeat to Borussia Dortmund, whilst Johan Djourou played the whole game as Hamburg drew 1-1 with Eintracht Frankfurt.
Daniel Boateng was an un-used substitute as Hibernian drew 3-3 with Motherwell.
Ju-Young Park‘s Watford were not in action this weekend, with Ignasi Miquel‘s Leicester City also left without a fixture to fulfil. Josh Vickers, probably with Arsenal’s FA Youth Cup commitments in mind, was not involved in Canvey Island’s 2-0 victory over Hampton & Richmond Borough.
U18 Premier League- Game 23
Arsenal 0 West Ham United 3 (Bywater 5, Amoo 8, Onariase 86)
Arsenal U18s saw their recent good form come to an abrupt halt as they were beaten 3-0 by West Ham United at London Colney this morning.
Carl Laraman made three changes from the side that dispatched of West Bromwich Albion last week, with Alfred Mugabo, Kaylen Hinds and Marc Bola coming into the team, the latter making his first start of the season.
subs: Robinson (for Lipman, 59), Mavididi (for Dawkins, 65). Not used: Iliev, Kamara, Maitland-Niles.
Arsenal struggled to get going, with West Ham dominating from the off. The visitors took the lead with just five minutes on the clock after Jerry Amoo cut the ball back into the path of Kieran Bywater, who finished past Ryan Huddart in the Arsenal goal.
West Ham’s dream start then got even better, with Amoo capitalising on some static defending at a corner to double West Ham’s advantage.
Having awoken from their early slumber, Arsenal gradually began to assert themselves, but Huddart still had to be alert to deny Emmanuel Onariase from a corner.
Arsenal’s best chance fell to Hinds in the second-half, but the England U16 international couldn’t find the target with a volley from the edge of the area. Hinds later came closer with a free-kick, whilst West Ham’s Jordan Brown was denied a goal on his return to Arsenal by some resolute defending.
Arsenal struggled to carve out any more meaningful chances and West Ham merely confirmed their victory in the closing stages when Onariase headed in from close range.
It was a disappointing result for Arsenal given their recent performances, but Laraman is likely to change his entire starting line-up for Monday’s FA Youth Cup Quarter-Final against Everton at Emirates Stadium on Monday.
*Updates via @tommywathen
Promising goalkeeper Ryan Huddart has today signed his maiden professional contract with Arsenal, becoming the first member of this season’s group of scholars to commit his future to the club.
Signed from Charlton Athletic as a schoolboy, Huddart has developed well this season, with the shot-stopper making 15 appearances for the U18s to add to the two run-outs he received at that level last campaign. In addition, the England U17 international has made the bench in the U21 Premier League, the U21 Premier League Cup, the UEFA Youth League and the FA Youth Cup. He made his debut for the U21s as a substitute during the defeat to Colchester United in pre-season.
Huddart only turned 17 yesterday, with the promptness of his new deal highlighting just how highly regarded he is by the club, despite the fact that he has several other young goalkeepers ahead of him in Damian Martinez, Matt Macey, Deyan Iliev and Josh Vickers.
Given that there appeared to be no complications in Huddart signing his contract, it is a little surprising that Gedion Zelalem and Julio Pleguezuelo, who have been eligible to sign a professional deal since January, have not yet put pen to paper. Zelalem is already part of the first-team squad at just 17, whilst Pleguezuelo has established himself as a key component of the U21 side since joining from Barcelona in the summer.
It is expected that right-back Tafari Moore and the hugely promising midfielder Dan Crowley will be offered professional contracts when they turn 17 later this year, whilst winger Ainsley Maitland-Niles and centre-back Stefan O’Connor have both been hugely impressive this campaign. Renny Smith and Elliot Wright are the other current first-year scholars, with both players having featured regularly for the U18s.
The club are also no closer to making a decision on the respective futures of the remaining second-year scholars, although it is expected that Alex Iwobi, Glen Kamara, Josh Vickers and Tarum Dawkins will all be offered extended stays, with Alfred Mugabo and Arinse Uade facing a fight to prolong their Arsenal careers.
Arsenal’s youngsters have some important matches on the horizon, with games to come in the latter stages of the FA Youth Cup, UEFA Youth League and the U21 Premier League Cup in the next few weeks, but their preparations suffered something of a blow yesterday when an Arsenal U19 side lost 3-0 to their Vietnamese counterparts in a behind-closed doors friendly at London Colney.
Arsenal were without several players who were on international duty, but still fielded a side containing the likes of Ryan Huddart, Tafari Moore, George Dobson, Elliot Wright, Arinse Uade, Renny Smith, Glen Kamara, Chris Willock and Austin Lipman. Canadian trialist Caniggia Elva also featured, with the striker coming close to scoring.
Arsenal U18s face West Ham United on Saturday morning before taking on Everton in the FA Youth Cup at Emirates Stadium on Monday.
Joel Campbell- Costa Rica 2 Paraguay 1
Campbell scored Costa Rica’s first goal on the stroke of half-time, with the Arsenal loanee then being substituted at the break.
Yaya Sanogo- France U21 1 Belarus U21 0
Sanogo started and played the first 56 minutes as France continued their U21 European Championship Qualifying campaign with a victory over Belarus.
Carl Jenkinson- England U21 1 Wales U21 0
Jenkinson played the whole game at right-back, with Nathan Redmond’s goal edging England closer to qualification for the U21 European Championships.
Kristoffer Olsson- Malta U21 1 Sweden U21 2
Olsson emerged off the bench in the 74th minute to make his debut for Sweden at U21 level during their victory over Malta.
Deyan Iliev- Portugal U21 2 Macedonia U21 0
Arsenal goalkeeper Iliev was an un-used substitute as Macedonia U21s lost out to Portugal.
Thomas Eisfeld- Germany U20 3 Switzerland U20 2
Eisfeld made his first appearance for Germany for several years, with the midfielder playing the final 17 minutes of Germany U20s’ win over Switzerland.
Isaac Hayden, Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill- England U19 3 Turkey U19 0
Hayden played the whole game as a defensive-midfielder as England U19s eased to victory over Turkey, whilst Ormonde-Ottewill, who was a late call-up to the squad, replaced Matt Targett after 67 minutes to make his debut at this level.
Hector Bellerin- Spain U19 1 Netherlands U19 2
Bellerin gained more international experience as he was involved in Spain U19s’ defeat to the Netherlands.
Thomas Eisfeld had been waiting for this moment for three years. Last Tuesday it finally arrived as the midfielder learnt that he had been called up by the German U20 side for their friendly against Switzerland this week, ending his prolonged absence from the national team set-up.
Eisfeld could be said to have been in need of a boost. Despite scoring on his maiden start for the first-team in the Capital One Cup win over West Bromwich Albion in September and now appearing to be fully over the injury problems that plagued the early stages of his development, the 21 year old has struggled to receive much of a look in for the first-team and has had to watch on as his compatriot Serge Gnabry has made the breakthrough into the senior set-up.
A deadline-day signing from Borussia Dortmund in January 2012, Eisfeld immediately made his presence felt at Arsenal by finding the net with regularity, and his goalscoring record since joining the club has been mightily impressive as he has scored 14 times in 35 appearances for the U21 side to date, operating in numerous positions across the attacking line and even, on occasion, as a striker.
Now, though, Eisfeld is approaching a pivotal stage in his development. His contract expires at the end of next season and, with an abundance of creative players ahead of him in the first-team squad (Jack Wilshere, Mesut Ozil, Santi Cazorla and Tomas Rosicky are the most prominent), he will certainly have his work cut out to earn an extended stay.
Given his situation and the fact that he surely has little new to learn from second-string football, it was rather surprising that Eisfeld didn’t join the likes of Benik Afobe and Chuba Akpom in heading out on loan in January. He may well go on temporary transfer next campaign, with his performances elsewhere likely to dictate whether he will still be at the club in two seasons’ time.
A hard-working player with good movement, concerns have arisen regarding Eisfeld’s tendency to drift out of games, offering the impression that if he fails to score then he contributes little else, which, for a midfielder, is not exactly ideal. His performance level certainly seems to have picked up somewhat in recent weeks, though, as he impressed for the U21s away to Reading at the Madejski Stadium, a ground where he made his first-team debut last season.
Two years on from joining Arsenal, Eisfeld has just two competitive appearances for the first-team to his name, and the fact that he has not been called regularly to train with the senior side this season indicates that he still has some way to go in order to make a breakthrough.
His call up to represent Germany, however, for whom he hadn’t featured since U17 level, just goes to show that sometimes, if you are patient and put in enough hard work, you will eventually get your reward, even if you didn’t anticipate it.
Chuks Aneke set up a goal, missed a penalty and struck the crossbar during an eventful afternoon for the 20 year old as Crewe Alexandra drew 1-1 with Swindon Town. Aneke stepped up to take the spot-kick after the ball had struck Ryan Harley’s arm, but he sent his effort well over the target. The midfielder then struck the crossbar in the second-half before finally receiving a reward for his endeavours when he teed up Vadaine Oliver to equalise.
Chuba Akpom started and came close to scoring as Coventry City drew 0-0 with Shrewsbury Town. The striker shot just wide early on and was eventually replaced with 72 minutes gone.
Daniel Boateng made his debut for Hibernian, with the defender coming off the bench in the 71st minute during his temporary side’s 3-1 defeat to Dundee United.
Joel Campbell played the whole game as Olympiacos suffered a surprise 3-0 defeat at home to Panathinaikos, whilst Johan Djourou couldn’t prevent Hamburg from losing 1-0 to Hertha Berlin.
Josh Vickers was involved in an entertaining encounter as Canvey Island beat Carshalton Athletic 3-2 in a game that saw two penalties and two red cards.
Ju-Young Park was an un-used substitute as Watford trounced Blackpool 4-0, with Ignasi Miquel again not being called upon for Leicester City, who beat Charlton Athletic 3-0. Benik Afobe remained on the bench throughout Sheffield Wednesday’s 1-0 victory over Middlesbrough, whilst Damian Martinez was left out of the squad entirely.
Francis Coquelin wasn’t involved as Freiburg drew 0-0 with Hertha Berlin. Wellington was named amongst the substitutes for Real Murcia’s game against Numancia this evening.