Today sees the Arsenal youth team visit Anfield, 20 years after the memorable and most dramatic of all title winning games in the history of English football.
Arsenal hold a 4-1 lead from the first leg, a game in which they withstood some early Liverpool pressure but then dominated the game. Liverpool were fortunate to escape from the Emirates with a 4-1 deficit.
Unless Liverpool have an inspirational start to the game, Arsenal will have too much for Liverpool. Arsenal will remain focused and will not allow Liverpool back into the task.
Emmanuel-Thomas will lift the FA Youth Cup and this will be just reward for the boys who have been playing together for several years and for most of them this will be their last opportunity to win the FA Youth Cup. Next season the boys will take the step up to regular reserve team football.
It is ironic that in the season that we have re-introduced our famous 1989 away kit, it is left to the youth team to visit Anfield and lift silverware in front of the Kop. Arsene Wenger has spoken about the conveyor belt of youth emerging from Hale End academy and tonight we will see the youth team stamp their domination on youth football.
Arsenal’s youth team face Liverpool tonight in the 1st leg of the FA Youth Cup at the Emirates. Arsenal won their Academy division and then went on to win the Academy title beating Manchester City in the semi-final and arch-rivals Tottenham in the final at White Hart Lane 1-0, thanks to a goal from Rhys Murphy.
Tonight’s game will be played in front of a large crowd and is also live on Setanta Sports.
Arsenal welcome back Henri Lansbury after a successful loan spell at Scunthorpe United. The experience he gained at Scunthorpe will help Lansbury both tonight and next season. Lansbury appeared 16 times and scored four goals, his appearances included a Wembley final, when Scunthorpe lost 3-2 to Luton Town in the Jonhstone Paints trophy.
Jack Wilshere should also be available following a not very successful European under-17 tournament for England. Wilshere has made 8 appearances for the first team and scored his first senior goal in the Carling
Emmanuel Frimpong, Jay Emmanuel-Thomas and Francis Coquelin were all on the bench for the Premier League game against Portsmouth. Not far behind these players are striker Gilles Sunu centre back Kyle Bartley. These seven boys are very close to first team football.
“Jack Wilshere is already with us in the first team but there are plenty of players in there who could very quickly be in our first-team squad,” Wenger said.
“I have seen this team a few times and I like not only their quality but their attitude as well.
“There is something in there that shows they have personality and not only talent. I believe they will win.
“They are still a bit young but not for one player could you say ‘you will not make a career’.”
The Arsenal FA Youth cup team have scored 19 goals whilst conceding six. Let’s hope tonight sees them take a giant step towards the pinnacle of youth football
How good is the next crop of youngsters coming through the ranks at Hale End and London Colney? We have been waiting for OUR golden generation of youngsters for some time, the club has invested millions in training young boys and hoping they will be the real deal. We have had several false dawns, namely the back to back FA Youth cup winning teams of 2000 and 2001.
The current crop of youngsters is being used for both the Academy tem and in recent weeks they have been mainstay of the Reserve team. Reserve football has shown the boys the next step along their development path. They have often encountered team full of first team players.
The pinnacle of any youth player is the FA Youth Cup and they dispatched the current holders Manchester City with consummate ease in the semi-final. They now face Liverpool in the final.
The Arsenal team consists of mainly English players, with only Sunu, Coquelin and Szczezny being the non-English players. The belies the claim made by many that our youth squad is crammed with kids form all over the world. The same cannot be said for Liverpool.
There are several players in this squad that will do well next season in the reserves and Carling Cup team, namely Wilshere, Freeman, Frimpong, Emmanuel –Thomas, Coquelin, Bartley, and Sunu, whilst Benik Afobe (16 years old) is causing quite a stir. Over the next three to four seasons I hope we see these boys start to establish themselves in the first team squad. That would put an end to the constant sniping aimed at Arsenal and Arsene Wenger over the lack of English players coming through the ranks.
The first leg of the final is on 22 May 2009 at the Emirates with tickets available to members for £3 adults and £1 concessions. The game is also live on Setanta Sports. The return leg takes place on Tuesday 26 May 2009 at Anfield.
Arsenal’s youth team took a massive step towards the FA Youth Cup final when they beat Manchester City 2-1 at the City of Manchester Stadium. Arsenal were trailing 1-0 at half time, but in the second half Arsenal turned the game around.
Late goals by captain Jay Emmanuel-Thomas and Gilles Sunu ensured that Arsenal are favourites to reach the cup final, where they will probably face Liverpool. The second leg will be played at the Emirates on 22 April. Prices will be very advantageous and Arsenal will be expecting a crowd in the region of 40,000.
The Arsenal team that faced Manchester City was:
James Shea ; Craig Eastmond, Luke Ayling, Kyle Bartley, Thomas Cruise ; Sanchez Watt, Emmanuel Frimpong, Francis Coquelin, Jay Emmanuel-Thomas (c), Jack Wilshere; Gilles Sunu
Missing from the above team are Henri Lansbury who is on loan at Scunthorpe United, and Rhys Murphy who is injured. Apart from Coquelin and Sunu, all the players were British.
On Saturday Arsenal’s under-18 team played and beat Fulham 5-1. The team that played Fulham did not include one of the FA Youth Cup team. Included in that team were seven schoolboys. The under-18 team is virtually guaranteed of winning their Premier Academy League.
Arsenal have a very large pool of talent at under-18 level. The problem from Arsene and the other coaches is how to keep these players happy at Arsenal. The production line at Hale End is working wonders; let us hope that the likes of Frimpong, Emmanuel-Thomas, and Afobe will become regulars in the first team within the next 5-8 years.