Could Cottrell make his debut? The Arsenal youngsters with a chance of featuring in the Europa League this season

Arsenal submitted their B-List for the Europa League yesterday, with a host of youngsters being included.

Here’s an assessment of which prospects are most likely to feature in the competition this season.

With regards to first-team players, Bukayo Saka has impressed to such an extent that he may even be rested for some of the Europa League group games.

Eddie Nketiah is often called upon as a substitute in the Premier League and will hope to start the majority of the club’s games in Europe.

For Reiss Nelson and Joe Willock, who have been on the periphery of proceedings so far this campaign, the Europa League will be vital for them to make an impression as they look to convince Mikel Arteta that they deserve further playing time.

Emile Smith Rowe, meanwhile, is continuing to work his way back to full fitness following injury and will hope to receive some run-outs.

Now comes the interesting part, with a host of U23 players hoping that they can feature in the competition.

It is worth noting that clubs are now permitted to make five substitutions per game and name 12 players on the bench, which boosts the chances of U23 players being involved.

Arsenal have a large first-team squad, but four senior players – Sokratis, Mesut Ozil, Gabriel Martinelli and William Saliba – have been left out of the Europa League squad for the group stages.

In addition, the likes of Calum Chambers and Pablo Mari are still working their way back to full fitness following injury, so opportunities could open up for others.

Goalkeepers Karl Hein, James Hillson and Arthur Okonkwo are all eligible to feature. However, with Bernd Leno, Alex Runarsson and Matt Macey ahead of them, it seems unlikely that any of the young shot-stoppers will be called up unless there is something of an injury crisis.

Left-back Joel Lopez is still finding his feet in the U23s and is just back from injury, but it isn’t beyond the realms of possibility that he could make the bench at some stage.

Ryan Alebiosu, meanwhile, has shown that he can play as a right-back or a winger. It is perhaps a little early for him to be heavily involved with the first-team but his hard-working nature could endear him to Arteta.

Ben Cottrell appears to be the U23 player in with the best chance of making his debut in this competition. The creative midfielder is also capable of filling in on the left side of the defence and could be used at some point, especially if Arsenal qualify for the knockout stages with games to spare.

Another midfielder who many people will be eager to see involved is Miguel Azeez. The England youth international is still establishing himself in the U23s and must improve the defensive side of his game, but his quality, and in particular his passing range, is undeniable, and it would not be a surprise if he was to get a call up.

Then there is Folarin Balogun to consider. Under normal circumstances it would appear a near-certainty that the striker would make his competitive debut in this competition, but he has yet to commit his future to the club.

Despite his contractual situation, though, Balogun has started to train with the first-team more regularly in recent weeks, so he could be involved, although he finds himself behind three senior strikers in the pecking order.

Jordan McEneff has also been included. Despite being one of the older players in the U23 squad he isn’t guaranteed a starting berth for Steve Bould’s side. He still has a chance of getting on the bench for the first-team as the campaign progresses, especially given that he can play in midfield or out wide.

In summary, Cottrell seems the most likely to feature out of the U23 players, with Azeez also having a good chance of making his debut. Balogun, Lopez, Alebiosu and McEneff will also hope for chances.

It does have to be taken into consideration, however, that Saka (who was subsequently quickly promoted) is the only player from the U23 squad that Arteta has played in a competitive game so far. Arteta has named the likes of Matt Smith, Zech Medley and Tyreece John-Jules on the bench for competitive games but they didn’t come on.

With Arsenal facing a packed schedule, Arteta may eventually elect to give some youngsters an opportunity, and it will be intriguing to see what transpires.

2 comments

  1. Our smallest European squad in years just 30 outfield players, with 21 able to be selected for the match day squad there will surely be some youngsters involved, but in the latter stages, I am expecting Runarsson to get a debut.

    Runarsson
    Cedric Luiz Gabriel Kolasinac
    AMN Elneny Willock
    Nelson Nketiah ESR

    Leno
    Bellerin
    Tierney
    Ceballos
    Partey
    Xhaka
    Saka
    Pepe
    Willian
    Aubameyang
    Lacazette
    Macey

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