Last night’s Premier League International Cup fixture at home to Reading represented the final opportunity for members of Arsenal’s U23 side to stake a claim for involvement in next week’s last Europa League group stage fixture at home to BATE Borisov.
With Arsenal already qualified as group winners in the Europa League and given that they are in the midst of a hectic schedule, there is a possibility that more youngsters than usual will be afforded opportunities to impress against the Belarusian side.
Two Arsenal youngsters certainly made strong cases for call-ups with their displays against Reading as Ben Sheaf and Josh Dasilva caught the eye.
Arsenal were unable to break down a resolute Reading side, with the game ending goalless, but it was still an eventful encounter and the young Gunners were grateful for several interventions made by Sheaf, who was excellent as part of a three-man defence.
Now extremely comfortable at centre-back having previously been a midfielder, Sheaf is superb in possession and relishes pushing forwards to support the attack.
Arsene Wenger is well aware of Sheaf’s potential having given him his senior debut against Red Star Belgrade earlier in the season and the former West Ham United youngster will hope that he will be involved against BATE.
Another prospect who deserves to feature in that game is Josh Dasilva.
Like so many of Arsenal’s youngsters, Dasilva has been used in various positions but he now finally seems to have found his true calling as a central midfielder.
Strong physically and excellent technically, the England youth international has been outstanding at U23 level in recent weeks as he has provided the perfect link between defence and attack.
Previously Dasilva was a little rash with his decision making but he is now much more assured and has benefited greatly from being involved in several first-team training sessions this season, when he was often deployed as a left wing-back.
Vlad Dragomir, meanwhile, has also been impressive of late but he didn’t see too much of the ball against Reading as he was playing at left wing-back due to the presence of several other creative players in the side.
With the intensity of the Europa League fixtures set to be upped considerably in the knockout stages, the encounter against BATE could be the final occasion in the competition this season when a host of youngsters form part of the matchday squad.
Sheaf and Dasilva have certainly played themselves into contention to start that game and it will be intriguing to see how they fare if they are indeed selected.