The past seven days have encompassed several ups and downs for various members of the Arsenal youth system, and could end on a high if Hector Bellerin features for the first-team tomorrow against Blackburn Rovers in the FA Cup. With Carl Jenkinson suspended there have been suggestions this week that the 17 year old right-back, who joined from Barcelona at the start of last season, could make his senior debut for the club against the Championship side.
The Spaniard is set to be included in the squad, although it is currently unclear whether he will start the game. There has been less luck, however, for his close friend Jon Toral, who also arrived in North London from Barcelona. The classy midfielder has demonstrated glimpses of his talent since joining the club, but has also spent much time out due to injury, and is currently back in Spain after undergoing an operation which is likely to keep him out for a sustained period.
Neither Bellerin or Toral featured on Monday as the U21s drew 2-2 with Manchester United in an engaging encounter at Altrincham FC. England youth international striker Chuba Akpom scored both of Arsenal’s goals, the first of which was particularly memorable as he beat an opponent with an instinctive piece of skill before firing past Ben Amos to open the scoring. Akpom, indeed, could have made it 3-2 in the second half when he glanced a header just wide when well placed, but a draw was perhaps an accurate result given the performances of both sides. That scoreline leaves Arsenal with just two points from their first three fixtures in the U21 Elite Group to date, with their next fixture coming away to Tottenham Hotspur next Saturday at the latter’s training ground.
The U18s, meanwhile, continue to struggle in the league, although, on this occasion, their 2-0 defeat to Blackburn Rovers can be attributed largely to inexperience. New U18s coach Carl Laraman, who was appointed following Steve Gatting’s promotion to the U21s, handed out several debuts to unfamiliar schoolboys, with Kaylen Hinds particularly impressing after emerging off the bench. Another young side is likely to be named against Manchester City tomorrow, with the FA Youth Cup Fifth Round tie against Everton at Underhill to come just two days later.
Last weekend also saw Spanish centre-back Ignasi Miquel make his first Premier League appearance of the season. The 20 year old filled in at left-back on several occasions at various points last campaign, but has struggled with injury this time around. However, Miquel was called upon for the final five minutes against Sunderland and didn’t disappoint as the Gunners held on for victory at the Stadium of Light. It is possible that Miquel will feature in some capacity against Blackburn tomorrow as he looks to cement his status as the club’s fourth choice centre-back, although there is also the chance that the former Cornella player could experience his first loan spell before the end of the campaign.