FA Youth Cup

Arsenal to face Tottenham in FA Youth Cup Quarter Final

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Arsenal will face north-London rivals Tottenham in the FA Youth Cup quarter-finals after Spurs saw off Plymouth at Home Park last night.

The Gunners have already seen off Aston Villa, Wolves and Sunderland in the competition this season and will fancy their chances of going all the way for the first time since the back-to-back successes of 2000 and 2001.

However, the visit to White Hart Lane isn’t likely to be a straightforward one as Tottenham currently sit top of group B with 37 points from 16 games, just one less than Arsenal.

This is likely to be the first experience of a North London derby at under-18s level for many of the youngsters although several of them have already featured against Spurs for the Reserves.

FA Youth Cup Quarter-final draw:

Birmingham City v Ipswich Town/Watford

Manchester City v Norwich City

Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal

Liverpool v Bolton

Should the Gunners progress then they will face either Norwich or holders Manchester City in a two-legged semi-final before a potential re-union with Liverpool in the final after crashing out at the Fourth Round stage at Anfield last season.

Bould hopes for ‘happier times ahead’ in the Cup

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So, last night’s nights result wasn’t exactly as hoped, but the performance wasn’t a total letdown. For instance, Wojciech Szczesny played well in goal and Rene Steer whipped in some decent crosses, whilst Kieran Gibbs came close with a couple of efforts. Unfortunately for Szczesny, after he made a fantastic save the ball found it’s way to Steven Irwin whose shot deflected off Rene Steer’s arm into the back of the net.

On the other hand, some of the defending was poor but it has to be said Liverpool had attacking flair in abundance, with the likes of David Amoo and Martin Pourie constant threats.

Randall, Barazite and Watt squandered further chances before Szczesny made another excellent save down to his right. Then Arsenal’s misery was capped off with James Dunne’s dismissal eleven minutes from time.

Afterwards Steve Bould admitted that his side could have played better and that James Dunne’s sending off wasn’t the cleverest thing in the world. He also acknowledged that this was many of the lads’ last chance to win the Youth Cup but stated that he feels the next crop of kids have the potential to be even better. Only time will tell if the likes of Freeman and co. fulfil it.

Youth Cup dreams up in flames

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Arsenal’s hopes of winning the 2008 FA Youth Cup, a competition they came so close to winning last season went up in flames as they lost 1-0 to Liverpool at Anfield.

In truth, it was always going to be a tough task. Missing the likes of Henri Lansbury and Jack Wilshere in midfield, it was hard to see where Arsenal’s opportunities were going to come from. Nacer Barazite’s return was a boost, but in the end it wasn’t enough.

In the first-half, the Gunners came close through Gilles Sunu and Gavin Hoyte, but they were both denied by Liverpool ‘keeper Dean Bouzanis.

Arsenal kept going forward but struggled to create chances and in the end they were made to pay when Steve Irwin’s deflected effort found the back of the net.

Arsenal could have gone even further behind.Liverpool’s David Amoo was a constant threat making bombing runs and dinking in shots from various angles, one such effort hit Szczesny and bounced off Rodgers and on to the crossbar, luckily Gavin Hoyte was on hand to mop up.

Steve Bould tried to change things by bringing on Jay Thomas and Thomas Cruise, but in the end it was a step too far for Arsenal’s young guns.

Arsenal: Szczesny, Ogogo, Steer (Cruise) , Dunne, Hoyte, Rodgers, Watts, Randall, Sunu (Thomas 71), Barazite, Gibbs. Unused subs: Shea, Nordtveit, Bartley.

Have the u-18s got what it takes?

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So now we have it. A face-off between two of the best academies in the country in the Fourth round of the FA Youth Cup. Arsenal came so close to meeting Liverpool in last season’s competiton but were denied by a late Manchester United goal in the semi-final at Old Trafford. Now they finally go head to head at Anfield tonight.

Liverpool’s youth squad is very different to the side that has won the last two competitions back to back. There are lots of younger lads in their academy now, but they are no less talented. The likes of striker David Amoo for example, cannot be ignored. And then there is the fact that Liverpool have home advantage and there’s sure to be a few of their supporters in the ground cheering them on. Even at this level, the prospect of playing at Anfield is very daunting indeed.

On the Arsenal side of things, it seems we are without Henri Lansbury, who has a glandular problem. Also Rui Fonte is out for three weeks with a broken nose, and Jack Wilshere is out too. On the plus side, we should see Nacer Barazite back, but the absence of Lansbury is key. Not only did he score a hat-trick in the last round but many of our passing moves flow through him and he is difficult to close down.

Paul Rodgers says the entire squad wanted to draw Liverpool, which says something about the immense self-belief and determination of the lads.

On the transfer front, rumours persist about Edin Dzeko, whilst it also appears that we are considering the option of QPR youth ‘keeper Liam O’Brien, who played for the u-18s on Saturday. Luke Freeman and Sam Byles also made their debuts in that game.

So, with kick-off nearing all we can do is hope for a result and it’s hard to predict an Arsenal win, but anything is possible in football.

Transfer rumours and speculation as attention turns to Anfield

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Picture from: SkySports

There’s been a lot of news concerning transfers today with only three days left before the transfer window shuts. One player that we have been linked with is Edin Dzeko, who was reccomended by first-team coach Boro Primorac. He’s twenty-one, he’s a striker and he’s likely to cost a lot of money, so it’s difficult to see it happening. However, with the squad short on numbers at the moment, Wenger may be tempted to buy, but given his reluctance to spend big cash on players, the chances of this deal taking place are minimal.

Another player we have been linked with is Piet Velthuizen.  He’s also 21 years old and he’s a Dutch goalkeeper. With Fabianski roughly the same age and Mannone waiting in the wings, it’s unlikely to happen although he could join in the summer.

There’s also speculation about players leaving the club, and Norwich boss Glen Roeder says that he has first refusal on an Arsenal youngster, which is believed to be Armand Traore. This story broke earlier this month and whilst it could be him, Mark Randall could be a possibility to go there as well.

The u-18s travel to Anfield tomorrow to take on Liverpool in the Fourth Round of the FA Youth Cup. This is going to be a real test of character for the lads and it’s difficult to predict anything other than a Liverpool win, but we beat Man.Utd last year, so who knows what to expect. As I have mentioned before, this is a fantastic chance to win the Youth Cup for us because if we get through, we have Sunderland in the next round and Man.Utd are already out of the competition, although Chelsea are still a threat. The u-18s are in poor form going into this game, having lost against Portsmouth last week, and then again to Ipswich on Saturday. But this is the Cup, and League form counts for nothing. At least we have Barazite back from injury and hopefully Lansbury and Gibbs will feature too.

Check how the youngsters out on loan got on this weekend. There’s more on Carlos Vela here.

Thanks for reading and there’ll be more tomorrow including a full preview of the Liverpool match.

Five-star display for Arsenal

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Arsenal thrashed Burnley 5-1 in the 3rd Round of the FA Youth Cup on Friday night. A hat-trick from Henri Lansbury, plus strikes from Mark Randall and Kieran Gibbs set up an enticing 4th Round tie with Liverpool later this month.
 It wasn’t the best start, however, for the Gunners as they went behind in under two minutes after some poor defending. However, Arsenal bounced back and Lansbury drew Arsenal level on 13 minutes after Burnley struggled to clear. Henri was to have a fantastic game and was involved in the second goal as well, laying on the ball for Mark Randall to score. Mark then crashed a header against the bar as Arsenal seized the initiative. Just before the break Kieran Gibbs effectively sealed the tie with a sweet strike from a tight angle. Gibbs played with more freedom tonight and performed much better than he did on Monday for the reserves. Perhaps he saves his best for the big occasions, having performed well against Man.Utd last year and also against Inter in pre-season. Burnley tried their hardest to get back into the game, but their hard work was to no avail. Lansbury and Randall linked up well once more, this time Henri finished from Mark’s pinpoint cross. Lansbury completed the rout, and his hat-trick, towards the end of the game to seal a fine performance from the young Gunners. Merseyside awaits, and considering we were without the likes of Merida, Barazite, Nordtveit and Murphy makes the result much, much sweeter.
 Arsenal: Szczesny, Ogogo, G.Hoyte (Bartley), Dunne, Steer, Rodgers, Randall, Fonte, Watt (Sunu), Gibbs (Thomas), Lansbury. Subs not used: Shea, Cruise

Burnley preview- Do Bould’s boys have what it takes?

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So, the day has finally come. The FA Youth Cup tie against Burnley which was postponed last month because of a waterlogged pitch at Accrington Stanley FC is taking place tonight. A lot has changed since then; Fran Merida and Vincent van den Berg have both gone out on loan, so we will be without them. However, the good news is that we don’t have to play James Shea, as Wojciech Szczesny has recovered from his dislocated finger. It looks as if Gilles Sunu will feature at some stage, although he looked a little rusty in the Reserves on Monday. Havard Nordtveit is unlikely to be risked after such a long time out and Rhys Murphy is still missing too. Of course, we are still without Barazite as well. The team should be mainly similar to last year’s squad, with a few alterations. This is what I think it could be, although we’re still waiting for official team news from both sides.
—————-Szczesny————-
-Ogogo—–Rodgers——G.Hoyte (c)———Steer
-Watt——Lansbury—–Dunne———–Gibbs
———-Sunu—————–Fonte
subs: Shea, Emmanuel-Thomas, Cruise, Wilshere, Ramussen
Now, I’m not too sure whether it’ll be Watt or Wilshere on the right-wing, but whoever plays will have to be at their best because I’m telling you now, this game is not going to be easy. These night games have more of an atmosphere, the crowd becomes intimidating and the players have to react. The ball is in Burnley’s court and we have to grab it and run because if we give them any kind of incentive, then they are going to take it with both hands. What I am worried about is going forward and our attacking threat. Without the creative influence of Fran or Nacer, we will struggle to create chances and that is one of the reasons why I would start Wilshere ahead of Watt, because he can whip in crosses from midfield and his scoring rate for the u-18s this season has been phenomenal. Murphy is a big loss too but we will just have to cope with whoever is out there on the pitch for us, and have no excuses if we fail.
 The way we went out of the Youth Cup last season was very unfortunate. We led 1-0 from the first leg and after Murphy had scored, I thought we had done it, but it wasn’t to be. Paul Rodgers admits he still has nightmares about that day and is looking to put things right this time around.
Of course, there’s the added incentive of facing Liverpool if we get through. But we’ll think about that later as we have to concentrate on tonight’s game first.
To be honest, I’m not confident at all going in this game, especially after the Reserves match on Monday, where we struggled to create chances. However, if we start off well, then we should win this one. The Academy league season has gone well so far, but we did lose that game to Ipswich on a cold week-day night, and I’m worried that tonight’s game could be a similar situation.
Just a note that Jonas Ramussen has been added to the Arsenal.com squad list. So, does that mean he’s playing tonight?
Perhaps, but whatever happens keep the faith and thanks for reading. 

Be afraid. Be very afraid

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Liverpool thrashed Wycombe Wanderers 5-0 in the 3rd round of the FA Youth Cup last night. What on earth has that got to do with Arsenal, I hear you ask. Well, the grim reality is, if we were to beat Burnley as expected and progress into the 4th round of the Youth Cup, then we would have to have to face Liverpool, who are the current holders, at Anfield. Now how scary is that?
 
Speaking of the Burnley game, well a new date has been announced, and the game will take place on Friday 11 January, 2008 at Accrington Stanley FC. While the delay will be disappointing for some, the extra time means that Wojciech Szczesny is likely to be ready ahead of James Shea, whilst the likes of Rhys Murphy and Havard Nordtveit should have recovered from their long-term injury worries by then. Another bit of news concerning fixtures is that the Reserves game with Tottenham Hotspur, set to take place on 11 February is due to be re-arranged due to the first-team game with Blackburn, which is also scheduled for that date.

Is James Shea good enough for Arsenal?

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I have a major concern as to whether we will progress beyond the early stages of this season’s FA Youth Cup. We may be adept in the attacking and defensive areas, but in terms of goalkeepers we have a bit of a problem. Wojciech Szczesny is currently out injured with a dislocated finger, so we have no choice but to play James Shea, a 16-year old Islington born ‘keeper who signed a scholarship with the club early this season. Some people may not see this as a problem, but I do. James made his u-18s debut earlier this season against Crystal Palace and let in a couple of goals, which wasn’t much of a problem as we still won anyway. However, last week against Norwich his bad positioning and failed deliveries let us down somewhat. He is a good shot-stopper from close range, but his kicking is inaccurate and needs a lot of work. Having said that, if he wasn’t a decent player then he wouldn’t be at Arsenal in the first place, so lets hope he proves me wrong when we eventually do come to play Burnley in the 3rd Round of the FA Youth Cup.

Burnley game called off, Wenger considers Mputu

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Firstly, the FA Youth Cup 3rd Round tie that was due to take place at Accrington Stanley tomorrow has been called off due to a bad pitch. Details on when the fixture will be played are yet to be announced, but it will have to take place before December 15. We were handed more bad news today when the 4th Round draw was announced. It was revealed that we will have to take on either Wycombe Wanderers or Liverpool if we get through. With all due respect to Wycombe, travelling to Anfield to take on Liverpool, who are the current holders, is a rather daunting prospect.

 

In other news, Arsene Wenger has been talking about the option of signing Tresor Mputu, the 20 year-old Congo striker who has impressed whilst on trial recently. He [Mputu] has qualities, but he has never played in Europe,” said Wenger at his pre-match press conference. “In the middle of a season, to buy a guy from Congo and think he will give you something more is a little bit optimistic.”