FA Youth Cup
Arsenal v Fulham
Underhill Stadium, kick-off 7pm.
This tie was highly anticipated as soon as the draw was made after both Arsenal and Fulham were highly impressive in dispatching of their respective 3rd round opponents. That excitement may have subsided somewhat after the tie was re-arranged on four occasions owing to inclement weather in North London over the past fortnight but, with the snow having finally dissipated, it is hoped that the game will finally go ahead tonight.
One problem that the many postponements have caused for both sides, but for Arsenal especially, is that many players will be lacking match sharpness, especially after the league fixture with Middlesbrough at the weekend also fell victim to the weather. Thankfully, coach Steve Gatting has almost his whole complement to choose from after Hector Bellerin and Jon Toral pulled out of international duty with Spain’s U18s in order to be available for this fixture. Serge Gnabry, who has not played for two months owing to a back problem, will face a late fitness test to determine whether he can play any part in proceedings.
Arsenal comfortably swept aside Newcastle United in the previous round with a stylish performance, and success this evening, if it is to come, will be hugely reliant on the pace down the right flank of Bellerin and Anthony Jeffrey, who were the Gunners’ star performers in that game. Left-back Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill will also be expected to regularly join the attack, whilst it is hoped that Jack Jebb, operating behind lone striker Chuba Akpom, will be a more influential figure this time around.
Fulham beat Middlesbrough 6-4 in the 3rd round, and the likes of George Williams and Muamer Tankovic will provide a significant threat to Deyan Iliev in the Arsenal goal. More information about both sides can be found here. A home tie against either Everton or Plymouth Argyle awaits the winners in the next round, and everybody connected with the youth set-up at Arsenal is hopeful that the side can go on a lengthy run in this season’s competition, having not progressed past this stage since they last won the trophy four years ago.
Back then, Jack Wilshere, Emmanuel Frimpong and Francis Coquelin provided a tenacious and skilful midfield, whilst Jay Emmanuel-Thomas was always capable of scoring a decisive goal at important moments. It is that ability to turn matches which could prove pivotal this evening, as a much tighter affair is expected than the Newcastle game.
Six members of the side expected to start tonight will not be eligible for next season’s competition, providing an extra incentive for success. The battle against the elements has finally been won. Now it is time for battle to take place on the pitch.
Arsenal- 4-2-3-1- Iliev; Bellerin, Fagan, Hayden, Ormonde-Ottewill; Mugabo, Olsson; Jeffrey, Jebb, Toral; Akpom. Subs: Vickers, Siemann, Iwobi, Lipman, Kamara. Doubtful: Gnabry.
Fulham (possible)- Oberschmidt, Donnelly, Arthurworrey, Passley, Sambou, Roberts, Hyndman, Woodrow, Tankovic, Williams, Evans.