Saturday, February 24, 2024

Arsenal youngsters survive Youth Cup scare

The FA Cup is associated with giantkillings, but meetings between top flight sides and lower league teams at youth level tend to be scarce.

Arsenal’s youngsters survived a considerable scare in the FA Youth Cup this week, however, when they were pitted against Royston Town, whose senior team operate in the Evo-Stik League Southern.

An Arsenal side containing Gedion Zelalem, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Dan Crowley fell behind after just four minutes when Royston found the net through Joe Grossi.

Arsenal were without their first-choice central-defensive pairing of Stefan O’Connor and Julio Pleguezuelo, but the goal still came as a shock and Royston, who were backed by a vociferous set of travelling supporters at Meadow Park, sensed that they had a chance of winning the game.

Arsenal struggled to regain momentum immediately after conceding the goal, with Royston closing them down at every opportunity. The young Gunners eventually managed to work their way back into the game, however, courtesy of two goals from striker Stephy Mavididi before the break, and eventually prevailed 2-1.

The game served as a lesson to Arsenal, though, that they won’t have things all their own way in the Youth Cup this season.

In the previous round they edged through against Reading after their opponents missed an opportunity to equalise from the penalty spot with the last kick of the game.

The second-half performance against Royston was more befitting of an Arsenal side as they passed the ball around neatly and created chances with increasing regularity, helped by Crowley becoming more heavily involved in proceedings.

Krystian Bielik, the club’s only acquisition so far in this transfer window, watched from the stands against Royston and could feature in the latter rounds of this competition should Arsenal progress further.

Arsenal have been handed another home tie in the Fifth Round, although the visit of Crewe Alexandra, who are renowned for their impressive academy, shouldn’t be an easy task.

If they manage to navigate their way past that hurdle, however, then matters will start to become interesting, with a potential trip to the Etihad Stadium awaiting in the Quarter-Finals. The draw for the last eight was made yesterday and the winner of the Arsenal v Crewe tie will travel to face either Manchester City or Stoke City, providing an additional incentive for Frans De Kat’s side to succeed.

After the way that events unfolded on Wednesday night, however, they will be wary that even reaching that stage won’t be without its complications.

Jeorge Bird is the author of  Follow him on Twitter @jeorgebird


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Gedion Zelalem should sub in against Brighton tommorow. Wonderful young talent right there, might have another Fabregas-like future star in our hands!


Not after playing today, he won’t.


Zelalem looked ok in the game,but looks like team was set up to play mostly through Crowley and his willingness to get involved was impressive, his passing range and accuracy really impressed me


Crowley is the player in the youth squad I’m desperate to see make the step up. I don’t watch the youth games, but I read the write ups and he is always mentioned in glowing terms.


it will be interesting to see how Crowley copes at first team level, as he is a bit of a ball hogger at youth level, somehow I’d expect he would not get away with this in senior games. Zelalem has incredible vision and passing range, he looks so much better when he has senior players around him, he can spot and play the pass, but at youth level our forwards do not make the runs that a senior forward will and does. Arsenal lucky that their first goal stood, I thought Mavididi fouled the defender, but he hit a fine… Read more »


Interesting interview with Wenger, where he mentions the youngsters most likely to step up.

Akpom he says is ready now, and also names Maitland-Niles, Zelalem, Stefan O’Connor and Martinez. No mention of Crowley.


He’s been injured recently I think and he’s not our number 10 for no reason. Plus he’s only been at the club for a year and a half.


Calm down, I just said there was no mention of him.


Calm down, he only gave a fair explanation of why he failed to get on Wenger’s list…


Calm down….just calm down


Is this the Liverpool site that I’ve wandered onto?

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