After what seems like an awfully long wait, Arsenal’s youngsters will find themselves back in the familiar surroundings of Boreham Wood’s Meadow Park tomorrow night for the annual friendly fixture against Ian Allinson’s side.
Much has changed since Arsenal’s last game at the venue, with several long-serving youngsters having departed on a permanent basis, whilst Ainsley Maitland-Niles has gone out on loan and a clutch of promising players from abroad have been added to the club’s youth set-up.
One player who falls into the latter category, Jeff Reine-Adelaide, will be seeking to make a substantial impression tomorrow night as he looks to build upon his impressive debut against Bristol Rovers last weekend.
A confident winger who was plucked from Lens’ academy, Reine-Adelaide has already drawn praise from manager Arsene Wenger and was perilously close to travelling with the first-team squad for their trip to Asia. Although he is eligible to represent Arsenal at U18 level, Reine-Adelaide seems set to play the majority of his football this campaign for the U21s and he will be looking to cement the right wing position as his own.
Against Bristol Rovers Reine-Adelaide formed part of an exciting attacking quartet which was also comprised of Hale End products Kaylen Hinds, Tyrell Robinson and Stephy Mavididi. There will be plenty of competition for places ahead of tomorrow night’s game, with Chris Willock and Jon Toral likely to drop down from the first-team squad.
Chuba Akpom, Alex Iwobi and one of Dan Crowley and Gedion Zelalem are likely to remain with the senior side ahead of the Emirates Cup, but, otherwise, the group that features against Boreham Wood will form the basis of Steve Gatting’s squad for the new season.
It says something about the rapid change that occurs at youth level when the most experienced player in the current U21 team is Glen Kamara, a player who only signed scholarship terms three years ago. Gatting was without several players for the win over Bristol Rovers, with Tafari Moore, Stefan O’Connor and Chiori Johnson all lacking fitness, whilst there are also question marks about the availability of Isaac Hayden, Wellington and Krystian Bielik. George Dobson is set to complete a move to West Ham United this week.
As the season progresses the composition of the U21 team is likely to get even younger, with several players from the U18 squad being drafted in to cover those who are either with the senior side or out on loan. Indeed, Kostas Pileas and Vlad Dragomir, two of the other new signings, were on the bench against Bristol Rovers, whilst much is expected too of forward Yassin Fortune.
Arsenal’s performances and results in this traditional friendly against Boreham Wood have been mixed down the years, but with an exciting new side at his disposal and Reine-Adelaide at the forefront of proceedings, Gatting will be hopeful of leading his side to victory.