Arsenal have been handed a home tie against either Torquay United or non-league Chipstead in the 3rd Round of the FA Youth Cup, which will take place at Boreham Wood’s Meadow Park before December 21st.
The Gunners have won the prestigious competition seven times in their history, most recently in 2009, but, since that triumph they haven’t progressed past the Fifth Round stage. Last season they saw off the challenges of Newcastle United and Fulham at Underhill, but eventually exited to a spirited Everton side at the next stage.
This season there will be considerable competition for places in the side. Here’s the lowdown on who could feature in each position.
With Deyan Iliev no longer eligible to play in this competition, Josh Vickers could be called upon to start in goal if the fixture does not clash with his loan commitments with Canvey Island. If Vickers is unavailable, then recent signing Matt Macey is likely to take his place, with first-year scholar Ryan Huddart another option.
Young professional Leander Siemann is an option to start at right-back, but, provided that he is fully fit, England U17 international Tafari Moore should be selected.
Stefan O’Connor has established himself as a regular for both the U21s and U19s despite still being in the early months of his scholarship, so seems certain to be involved in this competition as well. Elliot Wright will also be in contention, but Julio Pleguezuelo, who joined in the summer from Barcelona, is set to be involved.
Arinse Uade’s chances of earning a professional deal at the club appear to be diminishing, whilst Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill, in contrast, has already trained with the first-team on several occasions.
Second-year scholar Glen Kamara has made more appearances at youth level for Arsenal than any other player so far this season and seems a certainty to start. He may face some competition, however, from Alfred Mugabo, depending on whether the latter is back to full fitness by the time the competition gets underway. Renny Smith could make the bench, but his opportunity to shine in this competition will come next season.
Jack Jebb, a player who possesses considerable experience of youth-team football, is set to start alongside Kamara.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles is another first-year scholar who has made tremendous strides so far this season and is likely to be rewarded with a start on the right-wing. Jamaal Raage, meanwhile, will be hoping to recover from injury in time to make the bench.
Central attacking midfield
Gedion Zelalem is already part of the first-team squad at the age of 16, but injuries have dictated that is yet to make his competitive debut for the senior side. The supremely talented midfielder should be heavily involved in the Youth Cup campaign. Dan Crowley, another player of much promise, is likely to be on the bench.
Alex Iwobi earned an unexpectedly early call-up to the first-team squad earlier this season and will hope to use the Youth Cup as another opportunity to prove his credentials to Arsene Wenger and the coaching staff. Tarum Dawkins will be in contention to make the bench.
Chuba Akpom has already played, albeit fleetingly, in the Premier League, but is still expected to lead the line in this competition, with Austin Lipman, who is on a flexible loan at Boreham Wood, a more than able deputy.
Possible Arsenal FA Youth Cup team:
subs: Macey, Siemann, Mugabo, Crowley, Lipman