Progress of youngsters halted by cold snap and injuries


Arsenal’s youngsters have endured a rather stop-start beginning to 2013 after their FA Youth Cup Fourth Round tie with Fulham was re-arranged for a fifth time yesterday due to an icy pitch at Barnet’s Underhill Stadium.

The club’s coaches and playing staff are growing increasingly frustrated at the situation, but it is hoped that the game will finally go ahead next Tuesday evening, with both sides keen to play the game as soon as possible due to potential fixture congestion. The winners of that game, when it eventually does go ahead, will host either Everton or Plymouth in the next round, meaning that the Gunners have a real opportunity to go on a lengthy run in a competition they last won in 2009.

Many of Arsenal’s youngsters haven’t played for two weeks or more due to games being cancelled, but the U18s are back in action tomorrow as they travel to face Middlesbrough, with coach Steve Gatting likely to hand run-outs to many members of his Youth Cup squad. There is also an U21 fixture against West Ham on Monday, in which several players who recently returned from loan spells, such as midfielder Conor Henderson, are expected to feature.

Another player who has recently seen a loan deal come to a conclusion is Chuks Aneke, who has spent the majority of the season so far with Crewe in League One. Aneke has caught the eye at the Alexandra Stadium, weighing in with a fair share of goals and assists, and is currently mulling over whether to extend his deal with Crewe for a further month or seek a fresh challenge elsewhere, possibly at a Championship club.

The midfielder, 19, is now reaching a point in his career where such decisions could have a potentially huge impact on his future career, with Arsene Wenger continuing to monitor his progress carefully with regards to whether he could eventually step up to the first-team squad.

Further players could well head out on loan before Thursday’s transfer deadline, with the likes of Thomas Eisfeld, Ignasi Miquel and Martin Angha, who all have first-team appearances for the club under their belts, prime candidates to do so. Meanwhile, several players returned to the club over Christmas having picked up knocks whilst on loan, with the likes of Craig Eastmond, Sanchez Watt and Daniel Boateng all currently receiving treatment on injuries.

Serge Gnabry and Jernade Meade, meanwhile, would likely be challenging for a place in the matchday squad were it not for injuries they picked up last month. Gnabry is particularly keen to make a swift return as he is eligible for the aforementioned Youth Cup tie with Fulham.

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

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