It has been confirmed that Arsenal U18s will face Reading in the 3rd Round of the FA Youth Cup, with the tie to take place at Boreham Wood’s Meadow Park on Friday December 19th.
Last season Arsenal enjoyed their best run in this competition for several years as they reached the Semi-Finals, but they were unable to get the better of Chelsea in a two-legged encounter. Reading traditionally have a very strong academy, and they knocked Arsenal out of the U21 Premier League Cup last season, but this season their U18 team has struggled and they sit second bottom of the South Group.
Here’s a summary of who could play for Arsenal in each position in this competition this campaign.
Ryan Huddart is the established first-choice goalkeeper for Arsenal U18s, with the tall shot-stopper having gained first-team recognition recently after he was named on the bench in the Champions League. Finnish goalkeeper Hugo Keto should receive his international clearance in time to be named amongst the substitutes against Reading. However, if he is unavailable, then schoolboy Brad House will be second in command, with George Phillips another option.
Although he has often played as a left-back for England at youth level, Tafari Moore is most at home at right-back and should start in that position against Reading. Chiori Johnson, who has made a good start to the season, is an able deputy. Jonatas Centeno may have to wait until next season to get his chance in the Youth Cup.
Arsenal have several options at the heart of the defence. Julio Pleguezuelo has barely played this season because of injury, but the Spaniard is closing in on a return and should be available to face Reading. He should partner Stefan O’Connor, who is now a major part of Arsenal’s U21 team. There are back-up options, too, in Elliot Wright and George Dobson. Kristopher Da Graca is still out injured.
Marc Bola has started the last two games for Arsenal U21s at left-back and the Hale End product is likely to fend off competition from summer signing Ilias Chatzitheodoridis to start in that position against Reading.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles has been converted into a deep-lying midfielder this season and he seems set to continue in that position alongside Renny Smith. Savvas Mourgos is still adapting to the English game and may not be considered for inclusion. Ben Sheaf may be named amongst the substitutes.
Maitland-Niles’ move into central-midfield could see Chris Willock, who is usually deployed on the left flank, move over the right wing. Aaron Eyoma is an alternative option.
Kaylen Hinds is set to miss out through injury, so Gedion Zelalem could return to his preferred central attacking midfield position. Harry Donovan will hope to make the bench after an impressive start to the season.
Dan Crowley has often been used on the left wing this season and could continue in that position against Reading. Tyrell Robinson will hope to feature at some stage.
Stephy Mavididi will be seeking to rediscover his scoring touch in the build-up to the Reading game. Schoolboy Joshua Da Silva should be involved next season.
In all, Arsenal should be able to field a rather strong side for this fixture. The starting line-up will effectively be Arsenal’s UEFA Youth League side, bar Alex Iwobi.
Possible Arsenal Youth Cup team:
T. Moore-Pleguezuelo-O’Connor-M. Bola
subs: Keto, Dobson, Sheaf, Johnson, Robinson.