by Andrew Crawshaw
What? – The Premier League 2 will replace the Under 21 Premier League from the start of the 2016/17 season. According to the ‘powers that be’ the competition will have “a greater focus on a level of play in terms of technicality, physicality and intensity to bring players as close to first-team experience as possible.”
In order to achieve this the age limit for players has risen from U21 to U23 so all players born after 1 January 1993 will be eligible.
In addition for any game the club may field 3 outfield players plus a goalkeeper who are over age.
Who? – There are 24 teams in all taking part in the competition, they comprise the clubs who applied for Category one status in the Elite Player Performance Plan. There are 15 clubs from the Premier League and 9 from the Championship
The Clubs are split into two divisions of 12 with the finishing order of last season’s U21 tournament being the deciding factor as to which division each team starts in. Each club will play each other twice in the season (once home and once away). The team that wins Division 1 are champions, the bottom 2 get relegated to Division 2. The winner of division 2 get automatic promotion, the teams from places 2 to 5 go into a playoff competition for the second promotion place.
Where? – Each team must host at least three league matches at their main stadium during the course of the season and the training grounds or Academy venues may also be used for up to another three games in the season.
Teams in Division 1
Arsenal, Chelsea, Derby County, Everton, Leicester City, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Reading, Southampton, Sunderland, Tottenham Hotspur
Teams in Division 2
Aston Villa, Blackburn Rovers, Brighton & Hove Albion, Fulham, Middlesbrough, Newcastle United, Norwich City, Swansea City, Stoke City, West Bromwich Albion, West Ham United, Wolverhampton Wanderers
So who is likely to feature in our team?
The obvious players are those who are over 18 but not yet established as part of the First Team Squad or known to be out on loan. I make that a core of 10 players :-
Goalkeepers – Iliev and Huddart
Right Back – Chiori Johnson
Left Back – Tyrell Robinson
Centre Back – Marc Bola
Midfield – Ismael Bennacer, Aaron Eyoma, Ainsley Maitland- Niles and Gedion Zelalem
Forward – Chuba Akpom (although he may well become an established first team player very quickly)
Of the players who are still technically U18, I would expect the following to also be part of the PL2 squad
Right Back – Jordi Osei-Tutu
Left Back –
Centre Back – Krystian Bielik, and Kristopher Da Graca
Midfield – Ben Sheaf, Chris Willock, Vlad Dragomir, Marcus McGuane
Forward – Stephy Mavididi, Yassin Fortune, Edward Nkietah, Donyell Malen
Without players dropping down from the First Team Squad, I reckon we are short at CM and LB but there is still time for reinforcements to arrive.
When do the games start?
The season opener is this coming Friday 12 August at Meadow Park BorehamWood. Kick-off 19:00 when we play Reading. Entry is normally free so no excuses not to be there.
The second game is away to Man City on Friday 19th and on Friday 26th August we are at home to Liverpool at the Emirates again 19:00 kick-off (this one will probably cost a fiver).
A full fixture list is on Arsenal.com