Arsenal U18s made it through to the FA Youth Cup final for the first time in nine years with an emphatic 5-0 victory over Blackpool at Emirates Stadium tonight.
With the tie finely poised at 2-2 from the first leg, Arsenal knew that they had to produce an impressive display to set up a final clash with Chelsea and they did just that, with goals from Folarin Balogun, Danny Ballard, Robbie Burton, Emile Smith Rowe and Matt Smith seeing the young Gunners prevail 7-2 on aggregate.
Arsenal were in inspired form as they cruised past Blackpool and it could be a trophy laden conclusion to the campaign at youth level, with the U23s top of the league and also through to the final of the Premier League International Cup.
Here’s an assessment of Arsenal’s five best performers from tonight’s game.
Emile Smith Rowe
The starlet has undergone the successful transition from winger to central midfielder this season and he was at the very heart of Arsenal’s excellent display.
Smith Rowe set the tempo with some excellent passes, while he frequently pushed forwards with ease and won a penalty, which he scored, off the back of a sensational run that bamboozled the Blackpool defence.
A sprightly attacker, Balogun is perhaps best suited to playing as a centre forward, but he is also capable of playing out wide and he thrived on the right flank tonight.
Possessing pace and flair in abundance, the Hale End product frequently got into dangerous attacking areas and he set Arsenal on their way to victory with an early goal.
Amaechi may not have got on the scoresheet himself but the exciting winger further enhanced his burgeoning reputation with a stunning display.
The architect of Arsenal’s first two goals, Amaechi’s speed and clever dribbling proved much too difficult for Blackpool to deal with.
The Wales youth international may not be as hyped as some of his team-mates but perhaps he should be, with this performance demonstrating Burton’s calmness on the ball.
Burton broke up play effectively and regularly played short, snappy passes to his team-mates as Arsenal dominated proceedings against an admittedly lacklustre Blackpool side.
A tall centre-back who joined Arsenal last season after leaving Chelsea, Medley was assured defensively on this occasion and helped his side to build up play from deep.
Medley will especially relish the opportunity to face his former club in the final of the competition, with the first of the two legs set to take place at Stamford Bridge next Friday.