After declining the offer to participate in the competition for the last two years, it was announced this week that Arsenal will be involved in the Checkatrade Trophy next season in a move that should be hugely beneficial for the club’s youngsters.
It is easy to see why many supporters of League One and League Two clubs are staunchly opposed to the involvement of Premier League academy sides in the competition, as they feel it devalues the tournament and gives their own clubs less chance of receiving the lucrative financial reward that accompanies winning it.
However, from Arsenal’s perspective, this competition should provide a fantastic learning curve for the club’s youngsters, especially those that have only just stepped up to U23 football themselves.
Arsenal will field an U21 side in the tournament, which will effectively be the same as the U23 team that features in Premier League 2 given that most of the players involved in that age group tend to be between 17 and 20 years old.
This tournament will be especially useful for players who have just stepped up to second-string football in the past six months or so, with the likes of attackers Xavier Amaechi and Tyreece John-Jules as well as centre-back Danny Ballard set to be given the chance to test themselves against senior opponents.
It will also provide competitive game time, of sorts, for those youngsters who are close to the first-team but aren’t quite ready to break through just yet, such as Josh Dasilva and Jordi Osei-Tutu.
In effect, the Checkatrade Trophy will give Arsenal’s young prospects the opportunity to gain some of the benefits that would accompany going out on loan without actually securing a temporary transfer elsewhere.
Playing in actual stadiums, albeit in front of sparse crowds, should be helpful in the development of Arsenal’s academy players, while there is also the possibility of getting to Wembley and winning the trophy itself.
Arsenal got to the final of the Premier League International Cup, an U23 competition, last season, but the Checkatrade Trophy is much more along the lines of senior football and it will be intriguing to see how the club’s youngsters fare against competitive opponents.