Arsenal’s various development sides are not back in action until the New Year, so now is an appropriate time to assess how the young Gunners have been performing at various levels in the first half of the season.
Arsenal’s U21 side have enjoyed a rather positive string of results, with the heavy defeat at home to Sunderland earlier this month the only stain on an otherwise impressive record, with Steve Gatting’s side recording victories over Aston Villa, Wolves, West Brom and Blackburn. Jon Toral has been mightily impressive since returning from injury, whilst young full-backs Tafari Moore and Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill have established themselves as key components of the side in recent weeks. Arsenal currently sit seventh in the 22-team table but have several games in hand on many of the teams above them.
As far as the U21 Premier League Cup is concerned, Arsenal’s reward for their victory over Norwich City in the last round is a trip to face Fulham at Motspur Park early next month. Gatting is likely to name his strongest possible side for that fixture, meaning that Serge Gnabry could feature, depending on his first-team commitments. It is likely to be an intriguing encounter as Fulham currently sit top of the U21 Premier League.
Arsenal also secured progression to the next phase of the inaugural UEFA Youth League, meaning they will play Shakhtar Donetsk at Borehamwood in a single-legged tie in February. The young Gunners have been provided with an additional incentive given that they will face either Barcelona or Copenhagen away in the Quarter-Finals should they progress. Chuba Akpom, Kristoffer Olsson and Isaac Hayden, who have also featured fleetingly for the first-team this season, are likely to play a major part in this competition.
Arsenal’s FA Youth Cup campaign is also gathering momentum following the 5-0 demolition of Torquay United in the 3rd Round. Carl Laraman’s team will again face lower-league opposition in the next round, with a trip to take on Peterborough United currently scheduled for January 6th. Arsenal haven’t progressed past the 5th Round of this prestigious competition since they last won it in 2009.
The biggest concern surrounding Arsenal’s youngsters of late is the abhorrent sequence of results recorded by the club’s U18 side in the first half of the campaign, with the youngsters having not tasted success since the first game of the season, a run now stretching to 15 games, meaning they are rooted to the bottom of the table. They will be eager to change that as quickly as possible in the New Year, and, as is always the case, several schoolboys will continue to be bedded in to this level of football, with Kaylen Hinds, Chris Willock and George Dobson three players that are worth keeping an eye on.