An Arsenal under-21 side will vie with 48 senior sides from League One and League Two clubs as one of the 16 invited Academy sides to play in next season’s Checkatrade Trophy.
The young Gunners will join under-21 sides from Premier League rivals Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea in next year’s competition, which has been revamped in recent seasons to offer more competitive playing time to young players.
Speaking about the decision to enter a side, Academy manager Per Mertesacker said: “We’re pleased to be entering our Under 21s in the Checkatrade Trophy this forthcoming season.
“We feel it’s important to provide our young players with a variety of experiences in their development and we certainly felt that by entering the Checkatrade Trophy, the players will face different challenges from strong club sides.
“With many of the players in this age group destined to go on loan soon in their careers, the experiences from this competition can act as a very good link between academy and first-team football.”
EFL Chief Executive, Shaun Harvey, added: “Feedback from all levels of the game is indicating that the competition is starting to reap the benefits that we all envisaged at the outset of the revamp and I’m confident the format will continue to prosper with increasing support from clubs and their fans.
“The Checkatrade Trophy will continue to provide young players, from invited teams and EFL clubs alike, with a unique opportunity to experience first-team football and I look forward to seeing the stars of 2018/19 emerge as the competition progresses.
“Last season, we had the success of Lincoln City, who stated from the outset that the Checkatrade Trophy is a competition that they wanted to win. I was delighted for the club’s fans when they made it to Wembley for the first time in their history. Of equal significance will have been the financial return the club achieved from the competition, of over £500,000.
“The 48 EFL clubs from League One and Two all received a financial boost from the 2017/18 competition and I am confident the increasing profile, as evidenced once again by the inclusion of yet another of English football’s biggest names, will help to encourage more fans to get behind their team in this unique competition format.”
The full list of invited Under 21 sides is as follows: Arsenal, Newcastle United, Brighton & Hove Albion, Southampton, Chelsea, Stoke City, Everton, Swansea City, Fulham, Tottenham Hotspur, Leicester City, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Manchester City, West Ham United, Middlesbrough, West Bromwich Albion
The draw for the group stage will be undertaken in July with the first matches due to start w/c 3 September.
Arsenal’s under-23 and under-18 outfits enjoyed successful seasons last time out, here’s hoping a few more talents come to the fore under the leadership of Freddie – newly installed as under-23 head coach – and Per.