After Monday’s proposed fixture against Leicester City was ravaged by rain, Arsenal U21s will be hoping that the same fate does not befall their game against Manchester United, which is scheduled to kick-off at 7pm this evening at Boreham Wood’s Meadow Park.
It is not currently clear whether the game will go ahead, but Arsenal’s youngsters will be desperate to take to the field, especially as they haven’t played at this level since being thrashed 5-1 by Sunderland 18 days ago.
Steve Gatting’s side will be eager to demonstrate that the Sunderland defeat was an abnormality, especially given that they went unbeaten for their first six fixtures of the season, winning four of them.
Lukas Podolski is lacking match practice, but, with the German set to be involved in some capacity when the first-team face Chelsea on Monday, he’s unlikely to be involved tonight, but some members of the senior squad could still feature, with Ryo, Emmanuel Frimpong and Gedion Zelalem all candidates to be inclusion.
Benik Afobe, meanwhile, is back available again after missing the Sunderland game with a slight hamstring problem, meaning that Chuba Akpom may start the game on the bench. Zak Ansah and Zach Fagan are still sidelined, whilst Julio Pleguezuelo is doubtful having not yet fully recovered from injury.
With their chances of featuring for the first-team in the near future ranging from slim to non-existent given that Arsene Wenger has a large number of players at his disposal, many of Arsenal’s youngsters will instead be seeking to earn themselves a loan move in the January transfer window, with tonight’s encounter, if it goes ahead, the perfect opportunity to impress an array of scouts.
Afobe, Thomas Eisfeld and Kristoffer Olsson are three players who would benefit from such a spell, whilst others, such as young full-backs Tafari Moore and Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill, are aiming to establish themselves as regulars at this level.
Arsenal are currently seventh in the 22-team U21 Premier League, although the table is skewed somewhat, with the Gunners having played four games fewer than some of their immediate rivals. Manchester United sit in fifteenth place, and have handed run-outs to the likes of Darren Fletcher, Wilfried Zaha and Fabio in recent weeks, but it is questionable whether players of that ilk will be involved tonight given that their senior side are facing West Ham United in the Premier League tomorrow.
A late strike from Hector Bellerin secured victory for Arsenal when these sides met at Underhill last season, with the United side that day including Adnan Januzaj, who has since gone on to establish himself as a key part of the first-team squad at Old Trafford.
His story demonstrates that, if you are talented enough, then the progression from U21 football to the Premier League can occur very quickly indeed.
subs: Iliev, Boateng, Olsson, Kamara, Akpom.