Arsenal U23s ready for final despite selection problems


It has been an eventful season for Arsenal at youth level, but it isn’t finished quite yet, with the U23s still having to take on Porto on Tuesday at Emirates Stadium in the final of the Premier League International Cup.

Securing further silverware to add to the Premier League 2 title would cap off a fantastic season for the U23s both in terms of trophies won and minutes played by youngsters in the first-team.

If they are to be successful against Porto, however, then Steve Gatting’s side will have to cope without the services of some important members of their squad who are on international duty at the U17 European Championship.

No fewer than seven Arsenal players are at the tournament, with Xavier Amaechi, Tyreece John-Jules (pictured), Folarin Balogun, Vontae Daley-Campbell, Bukayo Saka and Trae Coyle representing hosts England, while Jordan McEneff is with the Republic of Ireland.

Aside from Saka and McEneff, the five other players have all featured for the U23s this season, with Amaechi and John-Jules in particular having established themselves as important players for Gatting’s team, meaning that their presence will be missed against Porto.

Another factor that Gatting will have to consider when naming his side is that some of the most high-profile youngsters could be needed for the first-team in the final few games of the campaign.

Reiss Nelson, Joe Willock and Eddie Nketiah are all on the cusp of the squad, while it isn’t beyond the realms of possibility that Emile Smith Rowe and Jordi Osei-Tutu could be involved in some capacity for Arsene Wenger’s side before the conclusion of the campaign.

It could well be the case, then, that Arsenal U23s will find their resources rather depleted for this crucial fixture, which would certainly make it much more difficult for them to prevail.

Arsenal should, though, welcome back goalkeeper Deyan Iliev, who is back in training wearing a protective mask after receiving a kick to the face against Swansea City last month.

U23 regulars Josh Dasilva, Vlad Dragomir, Tolaji Bola and Zech Medley should also start against Porto and for some of these players it could be their final game at this level before they head out on loan next campaign.

Despite this not being the most conveniently-scheduled game, Arsenal U23s will still be determined to prevail and conclude the season in positive fashion.

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


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Can’t be easy playing with a depleted team. Such things as team chemistry cannot be overlooked. Let’s hope that they pull it off… COYG!

Andy Mack

If I were Gatting then I’d be asking AW if I could have all the U23s from the 1st team squad for this game, rather than have them playing in the ‘dead rubber’ PL games. Having the youngsters win silverware can only be a good thing for their development and for AFCs future.


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