U21s hoping to call upon big guns as West Brom clash kick-starts Elite Group

Having returned from their prolonged Winter break, Arsenal U21s will sample the matchday environment for the first time in 2013 tomorrow when they welcome West Bromwich Albion to London Colney for the opening fixture of the Elite Development Group, which contains the sides who finished highest in their respective categories in the first part of the campaign.

Arsenal coach Terry Burton used a wide array of players as his side, including several members of the first-team squad, as the U21s finished second in National Group One, an achievement which has earned them the right to compete with the likes of Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool over the next few months, in a bid to reach the play-offs and, ultimately, be crowned inaugural champions of the Premier U21 League.

The Gunners must first do battle again with West Brom, with the Midlands side having already beaten Arsenal twice in the first phase, including on Jack Wilshere’s comeback game at the Hawthorns. In the most recent encounter between the two sides, a superbly struck free-kick by Kristoffer Olsson was not enough to prevent the Baggies emerging from North London with all three points, and Burton’s side will be hoping for a more positive outcome when the sides meet again tomorrow afternoon, in a game that is not accessible to the general public.

Ignasi Miquel could be set for a return to face the side against whom he made his second-string debut four years ago.

Ignasi Miquel could be set for a return to face the side against whom he made his second-string debut four years ago.

With the first-team squad currently rather thin on resources, it seems unlikely that any senior figures will feature tomorrow, with the possible exception of midfielder Emmanuel Frimpong, who has been suffering from illness having only recently returned from a loan spell with Charlton Athletic which yielded mixed success. Craig Eastmond, Sanchez Watt, Conor Henderson and Daniel Boateng have also returned from spells elsewhere in recent weeks, but the quartet are all currently recovering from mid to long-term injuries sustained during their loan adventures.

As far as the other injury doubts are concerned, Ignasi Miquel should return to the side, whilst Serge Gnabry will face a late fitness test. Kyle Ebecilio remains out, but Jordan Wynter is closing in on a return. Arsene Wenger is likely to be present to watch the youngsters in action, and he will be particularly keen to assess right-back Hector Bellerin who, if reports are to be believed, could be elevated to the first-team squad as early as next season.

Zak Ansah will also be looking to get some valuable minutes under his belt, whilst Thomas Eisfeld, who perhaps as not been as readily involved in first-team proceedings as may have been anticipated, will also be seeking to prove his worth. Yassine El Ghanassy, on loan from Gent, is likely to be the principal West Brom threat, with the winger having performed admirably in both games against the Gunners so far this season.

Possible team:






subs: Charles-Cook, Hajrovic, Rees, Bihmoutine, Neita.


U21 Premier League- Fixtures:

Wed Jan 9- West Brom (H), Sun Jan 20- Southampton (A), Mon Jan 28- West Ham (H), Mon Feb 4- Liverpool (H), Mon Feb 11- Man Utd (A), Mon Feb 18- Wolves (H), Sat Feb 23- Tottenham (A), Sun Mar 3- West Brom (A), Mon Mar 11- Southampton (H)*, Fri Mar 15- West Ham (A), Thu Apr 4- Man Utd (H)*, Mon Apr 8- Liverpool (A), Mon Apr 15- Wolves (A), Mon Apr 22- Tottenham (H)*.

*- At Underhill.



  1. Will be interesting to hear how the Angha and Miquel partnership goes at the back. I haven’t seen Angha deployed at centre back much but he’s impressed at both full back spots. Hope the lads do well.

  2. Jeorge, the Arsenal website said that tomorrows game is behind closed doors at the training ground. I thought all U21 games at Colney were behind closed doors. Does this mean that the rest are not?

      1. Why don’t they want anyone attending? The whole point of the new u21 league is to make it a “bigger event/competition” than the reserves were – making it a better preparation for first team football. Liverpool and Man U televise live their games – but presumably not when playing the shy Arsenal away.

  3. Cheers Jeorge. I checked the website and the fixtures up until the beginning of March are all marked as behind closed doors.

  4. Very good line up on paper, especially going forward. The keeper & centre halves may be the weak links? Olsson is gonna be some player.

  5. Jeorge, who do you think, from the U21’s, has the best chance of stepping up into the senior squad during the second half of the season, if any?
    Gnabry and Eisfeld I suppose, but anyone else catch your eye?

    1. I think Martinez is on the verge of being promoted, once either Mannone or Fabianski leaves. Bellerin, as I mentioned in the article, could also be in the first-team soon, but that’s hugely dependent on Sagna moving on.

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