After the disappointment of last week’s exits from high-profile cup competitions, things have taken a turn for the better for Arsenal’s youngsters in the past seven days.
The 5-3 victory over West Ham United at U21 level was particularly satisfactory, with Steve Gatting’s side demonstrating their considerable attacking capabilities, even if some of their defending left a lot to be desired. Chuba Akpom, back from his loan spell at Coventry City, scored a hat-trick, with Kristoffer Olsson also on the scoresheet. The biggest positive from an Arsenal perspective, however, was the goal scored by Zak Ansah, with the striker finding the net in his first appearance this season having made a successful recovery from a serious injury.
There were plenty of positives to take from the game for Arsenal, with the attacking midfield trio of Jon Toral, Thomas Eisfeld and Alex Iwobi combining to good effect, whilst Gedion Zelalem was more impressive than in most of his recent showings.
It would take a gargantuan effort for Arsenal to win the U21 Premier League at this stage, but, with several games in hand on most of their opponents, they still have an outside chance of achieving that lofty ambition. Their next assignment, intriguingly, sees them travel to White Hart Lane tomorrow night to take on Tottenham Hotspur.
It was also a good week for Arsenal’s U18 side, who thrashed Leicester City 5-0 on Saturday. Iwobi opened the scoring after being set up by Daniel Crowley, who made his comeback after almost three months on the sidelines. Schoolboy striker Kaylen Hinds, who featured in the UEFA Youth League earlier this season, added two goals, with a trademark free-kick from Jack Jebb and a well-taken goal from Stephy Mavididi completing the rout.
The U18s are also struggling in terms of their league position, but still possess a genuine chance of winning silverware in the FA Youth Cup. The Gunners have reached the Semi-Final stage of the competition for the first time since 2009, when they last lifted the trophy. Carl Laraman’s team will face Chelsea in a two-legged tie, with an additional sense of drama provided by the fact that the matches will take place at Stamford Bridge and Emirates Stadium respectively.
With several senior players out injured, meanwhile, Arsene Wenger has invited some of the club’s most promising youngsters to train with the first-team in recent weeks. Jebb has been involved in several training sessions recently following his impressive form of late, whilst winger Ainsley Maitland-Niles has also been called upon.