The draw for the third round of the FA Youth Cup was made yesterday, with Arsenal set to host Blackburn Rovers.
The teams met in the 2001 final, with Arsenal running out winners, and the young Gunners will be seeking to go all the way this time around.
To be eligible to play in the competition this season, players must have been born between September 1st 1998 and September 1st 2001.
That means that the following individuals can be called upon in the FA Youth Cup this campaign.
Tolaji Bola*, Josh DaSilva*, Vlad Dragomir*, Yassin Fortune*, Charlie Gilmour*, Donyell Malen*, Marcus McGuane*, Jordi Osei-Tutu*, Eddie Nketiah*, Kostas Pileas, Nathan Tella, Joe Willock
Joao Virginia*, Alex Crean*, Reiss Nelson, Josh Benson, Emile Smith-Rowe, Daniel Ballard, Dominic Thompson, Jay Beckford, Joseph Olowu, Nathan Tormey, Robbie Burton, Tobi Omole.
Trae Coyle, Arthur Okonkwo, Daniel Barden, Tyreece John-Jules, Xavier Amaechi, James Olayinka, Vonte Daley-Campbell, Mark McGuinness.
*= player has signed professional terms
With the above information in mind, here’s how Arsenal could line up in the FA Youth Cup this season.
Virginia seems certain to start, with recent signing Crean providing back up from the bench. If either player is unavailable then one of the schoolboy goalkeepers, Barden or Okonkwo, will be drafted into the squad.
Osei-Tutu is set to play in this position and has very little competition for his place in the side.
Olowu, who has been a regular for the U18s this season, is likely to be paired with Pileas. Ballard represents an alternative option.
Tolaji Bola is vastly experienced at U18 level and is due to be deployed at left-back. First-year scholar Omole is likely to be his deputy, with Thompson another possible choice.
McGuane and DaSilva have played regularly together at the base of the midfield over the past couple of seasons and the former could captain the side.
Gilmour needs to build up his match sharpness before he can be considered for regular action in this competition, while Burton and Benson will be seeking to make the bench.
Nelson is capable of playing on either flank or as an attacking midfielder but could be used on the right wing. The England youth international is already a key player for the U23s but should still feature in this competition, with Tella and Joe Willock hoping to be named amongst the substitutes. Beckford may have to wait until next season for his chance, while Tormey is recovering from a long-term injury.
Central attacking midfield
Dragomir is Arsenal’s standout starlet in this position and the Romanian, who has featured for the U23s recently, should start against Blackburn.
Arsenal have many options in this position, but it seems that Malen will be chosen.
Fortune is injured, while Smith-Rowe and Coyle are both extremely talented but it remains to be seen if they will be able to command a starting berth.
Nketiah, who has been prolific in front of goal for the U18s over the past couple of seasons, will lead the line, but it is a little concerning that Arsenal don’t have many other young strikers in this age group with the exception of schoolboy John-Jules.
Possible FA Youth Cup team
Osei Tutu-Olowu-Pileas-T. Bola
Subs: Crean, Ballard, Benson, Tella, Smith-Rowe.
Other squad members: Fortune, Gilmour, J. Willock, Burton, Thompson, Beckford, Tormey, Omole, Coyle, Barden, Okonkwo, John-Jules, Amaechi, Olayinka, Vonte-Campbell, McGuinness.