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.
— Papa John's Trophy (@PapaJohnsTrophy) January 6, 2022
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.