FA Youth Cup preview- Semi-Final, 1st Leg- Chelsea v Arsenal

For all the criticism of the Arsenal youth system this season, and it has been considerable, there remains a genuine chance of Carl Laraman guiding the young Gunners to success in the FA Youth Cup for the first time since the much-lauded class of 2008/09.

There are still some considerable obstacles to overcome if that dream is to become a reality, however. Fulham, possessing the talents of Patrick Roberts and Moussa Dembele, are waiting in the Final, but, before then, Chelsea must be overcome in a two-legged Semi-Final, with the first assignment taking place at Stamford Bridge tomorrow evening.

Arsenal have already knocked Chelsea out of one youth tournament this season, prevailing in the U21 Premier League Cup, but the Blues have been involved in three of the past four Youth Cup Finals, winning the competition two years ago. They also dispatched of an Arsenal side containing Benik Afobe and Chuks Aneke at the Fourth Round stage in 2011.

Many of the Chelsea players will already be familiar to Arsenal. The likes of Jeremie Boga, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Izzy Brown, Andreas Christensen and Alex Kiwomya have been involved in numerous battles between the London rivals in the past few seasons, and there will be a further meeting between the two sides at U21 level later this month.

Arsenal’s list of talents is also lengthy. Dan Crowley, Gedion Zelalem and Chuba Akpom are the most prominent, but Chelsea should also be wary of wingers Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Alex Iwobi, who have been in impressive form in this competition this season. Goalkeeper Josh Vickers, meanwhile, has also impressed, with Arsenal negotiating their way past the varied threats of Torquay United, Peterborough United, Charlton Athletic and Everton to reach this stage.

Jack Jebb was particularly influential against Everton, but, with Crowley back from injury, Jebb will most probably be amongst the substitutes tomorrow night. None of the players who started Monday’s U21 victory over Manchester City are expected to be involved from the offset, with Julio Pleguezuelo and Leander Siemann set to be deployed at the heart of the defence.

Arsenal will undoubtedly seek to create as many chances as possible, but they will know that a draw would not be the end of the world, particularly when their stellar record of playing at Emirates Stadium is taken into account. With a place in the Final at stake, this two-legged tie promises to be an intriguing match-up between two of the country’s most prominent academy teams.

Possible Arsenal team:


Moore-Pleguezuelo-Siemann-Ormonde Ottewill


Maitland Niles-Crowley-Iwobi


subs: Huddart, O’Connor, Jebb, Dobson, Lipman.



  1. Most picks itself easily with everyone fit. Just a couple of tough calls.

    I expect they will go with Zelalem over Jebb, as suggested, but I’d quite like to see the reverse. Right throughout the club close selection calls never seem to go in favour of trying to ensure there’s enough size/strength in the team to first match the other side physically before looking to play, and with both Crowley and Zelalem starting we may well find it counts against us.

    Cracking prospects we all want to see play and do well, but if Jebb does offer that bit more protection (as well as being a good player himself with an awesome set-piece record) to back four it’d be wise to pick him and try ensure we make a solid start.

    As for Siemann over O’Connor I can only guess things have shifted slightly in recent times as I’d thought O’Connor was ahead of him most of season.

  2. JB – The keeper situation is intriguing me.v Obviously Huddart just signing a pro deal and being the only keeper available to the under 18s and fa youth cup for next season so he looks pretty much set for not season. But what of
    I am expecting to see Fabianski and Viviano depart with Martinez most likely to step to 3rd choice, but possibly both him and Macey head out on loan at different times.

    That would leave Iliev as the u21 keeper and vickers as YCL and U21 keeper. IOs thaqt how you see it? or do you think more will depart and arrive?

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