Arsenal made it through to the final of this season’s FA Youth Cup but matters didn’t exactly go to plan as they were thrashed 7-1 on aggregate by Chelsea, who won the competition for the fifth year in succession.
Next season the young Gunners will be especially determined to wrest the trophy from Chelsea’s grasp but they will have to do so without some of the standout performers from this campaign, including Emile Smith Rowe and Joao Virginia.
Here’s a look at how Arsenal could line up in the Youth Cup next season.
Virginia is still eligible to represent the U18s next season as an overage player, but the talented shot-stopper won’t be able to feature in the Youth Cup.
Arthur Okonkwo has been offered a scholarship deal at Arsenal but has yet to accept it, meaning Daniel Barden could be between the sticks with Tom Smith as his back-up.
Vontae Daley-Campbell showed some encouraging signs at right-back this campaign and will still be able to play in the Youth Cup next time around.
As far as the centre of the defence is concerned, Arsenal require an overhaul with Danny Ballard, Zech Medley and Joseph Olowu all stepping up to the U23s on a full-time basis, so Harry Clarke and Mark McGuinness, who featured in the U18s’ 9-0 loss to Tottenham Hotspur in the league recently, could be called upon, with Bayli Spencer-Adams an alternative option.
Left-back, meanwhile, is something of a problem position, with Dominic Thompson and Tobi Omole no longer eligible from next season. Schoolboy Mazeed Ogungbo could step up, but one possible solution would be to deploy Bukayo Saka there, with the starlet having regularly featured in defence for England at youth level despite mainly being a winger for Arsenal.
Matt Smith and James Olayinka are still available for next season’s tournament and seem likely to start at the base of midfield, with Trae Coyle possibly in the number ten position, while Republic of Ireland youth international Jordan McEneff will also hope to make the squad.
Tyreece John-Jules should lead the line, with Folarin Balogun and Xavier Amaechi, who both impressed this season, providing support from out wide.
Subs: T. Smith, McGuinness, Swanson, McEneff, Okoflex.
Other eligible players: Cottrell, Martin, Flaherty, Matthews, Dennis, Alebiosu, Azeez, Musah, Graczyk, Ogungbo, Okonkwo.