Several members of the Arsenal first-team squad have already represented the U21 team so far this season, with Abou Diaby, Francis Coquelin, Joel Campbell and Emiliano Martinez all having played for Steve Gatting’s side in the early weeks of the campaign.
They are likely to be joined in that regard this week by Theo Walcott, who is pencilled in to make his first appearance since January when Blackburn Rovers U21s visit Meadow Park on Friday evening. According to reports, Walcott could play an hour of the fixture, and whilst his inclusion will see one of the youngsters demoted to the bench, it will be a great experience for some of the club’s prospects to play with such a high-profile player.
It’s easy to forget now, but there was a time when Walcott himself relied on Reserve games for match practice early in his Arsenal career before going on to establish himself in the first-team. Arsenal made an excellent start to the current U21 campaign before a depleted side lost to Newcastle United last time out.
If Walcott features against Blackburn despite only returning to full training on Monday, then it wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect fellow winger Serge Gnabry to do likewise. Gnabry has also been out of action for a prolonged period, having not featured since the Champions League game away to Bayern Munich in March. Having made a breakthrough into the first-team squad last season, the German will be eager to re-establish himself in Arsene Wenger’s plans.
Friday will be busy for the club’s youngsters, with the U18s also facing Tottenham Hotspur earlier in the day. Striker Kaylen Hinds is doubtful for that fixture because of injury. With so many senior players out injured, meanwhile, manager Arsene Wenger may select some youngsters to train with his first-team squad.