FA Youth Cup- Quarter-Final
Arsenal v Everton
Emirates Stadium, 7pm kick-off. * In the event of a draw after 90 minutes this game will go to extra-time and penalties if necessary.
Arsenal U18s have been in scintillating form in this season’s FA Youth Cup so far, progressing to the Quarter-Finals by scoring a total of twelve goals and conceding just once in the three previous rounds. They do not need telling, however, that Everton, the side who killed their dreams in this competition last season, will provide their most challenging test to date, whilst the fact that the game is taking place at Emirates Stadium will add an extra sense of importance to the occasion.
Three goals in quick succession at the start of the second-half helped Everton towards a 4-2 victory over the Gunners at Underhill in the Fifth Round last season, meaning the likes of Hector Bellerin, Kristoffer Olsson and Serge Gnabry were denied the chance to achieve success in this prestigious competition.
Some of the key components of last season’s side are still intact, however, with Chuba Akpom in line to start despite playing 90 minutes for his loan side Coventry City at the weekend. In the continued absence of the injured Dan Crowley, meanwhile, Jack Jebb should be entrusted with the task of playing accurate passes into Akpom’s path, whilst full-backs Tafari Moore and Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill are adept both defensively and going forwards.
Arsenal’s biggest threat in this competition this season has come from their wingers, with Ainsley Maitland-Niles finding the net in every round so far, whilst Alex Iwobi has also been mightily impressive on the left flank. Gedion Zelalem should also be involved for his first start at Emirates Stadium, whilst if there is a concern about this team then it is at the heart of the defence, with Leander Siemann, who doesn’t exactly inspire much confidence, likely to start if Stefan O’Connor is still unavailable.
In edging past a spirited Charlton Athletic side in the last round Arsenal relied heavily on the tremendous reflexes of their goalkeeper Josh Vickers, who made some outstanding saves to keep the opposition at bay. He is likely to be regularly called upon tonight against an Everton side, who, in reaching this stage, have dispatched of Brighton & Hove Albion, Birmingham City and Sheffield United.
Midfielder George Green is one of their key players, along with striker Courtney Duffus, who has already featured for Everton’s U21 side.
Arsenal’s youth teams have been successful on every occasion that they have played at Emirates Stadium, but, in order for that run to continue, they will need to overcome a considerable obstacle in Everton. There is much to look forward to for the Arsenal youngsters in the near future, with this game swiftly followed by the U21 Premier League Cup Semi-Final against Reading and the hugely anticipated UEFA Youth League tie away to Barcelona.
They just have to take matters one game at a time, though, and with the pain of last year’s defeat still raw for those who were involved, it seems certain that Steve Gatting’s side will be especially determined to progress tonight.
There are some strong sides left in this competition, with Newcastle United, Chelsea and Liverpool all having made it to the last eight, but if Arsenal’s youngsters can replicate the first-team by dispatching of Everton in the Quarter-Finals, then they will be extremely confident of going all the way.
Possible Arsenal team:
subs: Huddart, Uade, Dobson, Dawkins, Lipman.