Friday, December 2, 2022

Arsenal under-21s draw Wigan in EFL Trophy, must beat Chelsea first

Kevin Betsy’s under-21s will face Wigan Athletic in the quarter-finals of the Papa John’s Trophy if they get past Chelsea under-21s.

For those unfamiliar with its format, the English Football League Trophy, to give it its formal name, sees 48 teams from League One and League Two and 16 category 1 Premier League and Championship academy/under-21 sides face-off in eight groups split geographically between north and south.

The top two teams from each group then progress to a knockout stage which is where our youngsters are now.

While the competition has existed since 1983, its current set-up was introduced in 2016 with a view to giving promising Academy youngsters the chance to test themselves against senior pros.

So far, this year’s crop of young Gunners, led by Flo Balogun, Charlie Patino and Salah-Eddine Oulad M’Hand, has impressed. Despite losing 2-1 to Swindon Town and losing to Plymouth Argyle in a penalty shootout, a 4-3 win over Newport County was enough to set up a second-round tie with Ipswich, which we won 6-5 in another shootout.

Now comes a crunch derby with Chelsea, the only other under-21 side left. It’s taking place at Emirates Stadium next Tuesday at 7pm and tickets are on general sale, priced at £4 for adults and £2 for concessions.

Win that and the boys will only be two games from an early April trip to Wembley although Wigan, who are third in League One, would represent a daunting challenge.

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Bruce

May need them to beat Chelsea in the other cup, too

Okester

I think I’ll pop along to that puppy on Tuesday. Not seen much of Balogun or Patino, so should be interesting. Always fun to beat the Chelski no matter the age group!

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