By Tony Attwood
Tonight it is Arsenal v Fulham at the Emirates and I’m pleased to say I am able to pop along with Ian and his sons – not something I can’t often do, living out in the wilds of Northamptonshire and the fact that many games are behind closed doors.
Quite what sort of team we will have out I am not sure because Arsenal Under 19s won the Durban International Cup in South Africa, (beating PSV Eindhoven 2-1 in the Final) just under a week ago, so that will presumably remove some players from contention – including maybe Yassin Fortune, who scored the winning goal in the final.
On the other hand these are young men who want to play every game, so maybe we will see some of them. The sort of team we were putting out in Durban included
Huddart, O’Connor, Chatzitheodoridis, Dasilva, Eyoma, Osei-Tutu, Mourgos, Pileas, Donovan, Zelalem, Sheaf, Hinds, Fortune, Willock.
Alex Iwobi however was not there and will, I think be in the squad tonight. But others are of course now out on loan, such as Maitland-Niles, Akpom and Crowley.
The rules for the under 21 league are…
- Clubs are only allowed to field three outfield players over the age of 21, plus the goalkeeper is also permitted to be over 21.
- Each club must host at least three league matches at their main stadium during the course of the season, which helps to enhance the matchday experience for the young players and fans.
Last season was a disappointment for the under 21s and that means we are again in the second division of the under 21s league – not where we expect to be.
But things did pick up towards the end with Iwobi scoring seven in the under-21s’ last five games, and then going on to play in Asia.
The league finished like this
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|3||Derby County U21||22||12||4||6||39||20||+19||40|
|4||West Bromwich …||22||10||7||5||37||27||+10||37|
|7||Aston Villa U21||22||8||3||11||25||36||-11||27|
|8||Brighton & Hov…||22||6||5||11||19||23||-4||23|
|11||Stoke City U21||22||4||6||12||23||50||-27||18|
So with the winning of the cup in Durban and that end of season upturn with three wins out of the last three, there is some hope.
The main reasons for the downturn seemed to be a complete reorganisation going on, and a policy in which successful youngsters were promoted ever more rapidly up through the ranks.
It was also be interesting to see if Ben Sheaf, the Arsenal centre forward who was player of the tournament plays tonight. And there is keeper Ryan Huddart, who was on the bench in the Champions League last year.
Plus there is the aforementioned Yassin Fortune, yet another striker whose arrival was totally overshadowed by all the excitement about Jeff Adelaide – the two players arrived together from Lens. Fortune can play out wide or in the centre. He is 16, but there is nothing in the rules to say he can’t play for the under 21s.
Krystian Bielik and Gedion Zelalem could also be playing. But let’s not get too carried away too quickly as some of the newcomers are still settling in. These include
Vlad Dragomir who signed from ACS Poli Timisoara for £71,000, Dragomir was the Romania Under-16 captain is predominantly a central midfielder but can also play on the left. Arsenal.com says he is “quick, comfortable on the ball, both dribbling and passing, and loves to get forward.”
Then there is the “versatile central midfielder”, Agyei-Tabi who can also play wide.
Tolaji Bola has already played twice for England, under 16s and he has been playing at Hale End since the age of eight.
Charlie Gilmour is a central midfielder and another Hale End graduate, and the list goes on and on. I can’t make any comment because I simply haven’t seen most of them play but whichever team turns out tonight, that is going to give us a clue as to how the under 21s squad is progressing.
Fulham were relegated last season from the top division. Here is their record for last season…
|12||West Ham United U21s||22||5||2||15||20||43||−23||17|