Arsenal’s quest for a trophy at youth level continued this week, with a 3-1 victory over Everton at Emirates Stadium earning the U18s a place in the Semi-Finals of the FA Youth Cup.
Everton, who eliminated Arsenal at the Fifth Round stage last season, were a difficult obstacle to overcome, but Arsenal eventually prevailed courtesy of a brace from Jack Jebb, who scored with a penalty and a sublime free-kick, in addition to a strike from the hugely impressive Chuba Akpom.
Arsenal’s opponents in the last four will be Chelsea in a two-legged affair, meaning the young Gunners will get to experience playing at Stamford Bridge as well as making another appearance at Emirates Stadium. Chelsea, who prevailed past Newcastle United this week, can call upon several promising talents of their own, including striker Izzy Brown, meaning the two ties are likely to be entertaining encounters.
Arsenal have already knocked Chelsea out of one youth competition this season, the U21 Premier League Cup, and Steve Gatting’s team will resume their participation in that tournament tomorrow when they take on Reading in the Semi-Finals. The first team’s current injury problems will probably deprive Gatting of the likes of Carl Jenkinson and Ryo, who featured in previous rounds, but it should still be a strong side. Arsenal lost to Reading in the league recently so will be seeking to avenge that defeat, whilst also seeking to claim the honour of being the first team to win this new competition.
Once that game is over, attention will immediately turn to Tuesday’s UEFA Youth League encounter in Barcelona. The game, which will be broadcast live on Eurosport, should provide something of an indication regarding just how close the Arsenal academy is to competing with those around Europe. Having beaten Inter Milan last season, Arsenal’s youngsters have already proven that they are capable of seeing off big names, but Tuesday’s game will be especially intriguing as both youth set-ups are renowned for schooling their players to play possession football.
One Arsenal youngster enjoyed a memorable week, with Isaac Hayden making the bench for the first-team’s game away to Bayern Munich in the Champions League. Hayden, who can play at centre-back or as a defensive midfielder, has been included in the first-team squad on several occasions this season and made his senior debut in the Capital One Cup win over West Bromwich Albion. The 18 year old, who has been capped by England up to U19 level, will be hoping for a permanent promotion to the first-team next season, although he may well be sent on loan first to further enhance his development.
Image by Kieran Clarke