Spurs under 23’s versus Arsenal: (match preview)
Our under 23’s return to PL2 action on Friday evening after an 11 day break, as Wayne Burnett’s side welcome bitter rivals Arsenal to the Lamex stadium. After losing their last PL2 match to Brighton, Burnett and his coaching staff will be hoping that we can bounce back by getting a positive result against Freddie Ljungberg’s side. The ‘ Gunners ‘ sit two points above Spurs in the table in eighth place, after accumulating 20 points from 15 games. In many ways tomorrow’s match will be a relegation six pointer for both sides however, it will also be about pride. And if the reverse fixture at the Emirates stadium back in August was anything to go by, then Friday’s match should be a fiercely competitive North London derby. Arsenal’s form over recent months has been a bit hit and miss to say the least. Although the ‘ Gunners ‘ recorded a hugely impressive 5-1 victory over Manchester City they have also suffered some quite humiliating defeats to both Derby County and Blackburn Rovers, and their form this season has been pretty erratic, and this has resulted in them being where they are in the league table. When at full strength Ljunberg’s side have the capability to play any team off the park. With the attacking talents of Bukayo Saka, Eddie Nketiah, Xavier Amaechi and Joe Willock just some of their most exciting attacking players. The current PL2 Division One champions are also pretty good in other departments. Arsenal could also be bolstered by the inclusion of Spanish defender Julio Pleguezuelo (22) and American midfielder Gedion Zelalem (22) for Friday’s match. Both players have been involved with Freddie Ljunberg’s side during recent matches. Some may remember former Barcelona player Pleguezuelo from the reverse league fixture, after he got young Troy Parrott sent off late on in the game. Ljunberg’s side like to play a high energy passing game, much like Unai Emery’s first team. However, they seem to focus on the wingers a lot and I have noticed this at both under 18 and 23 level this season. They like to work the ball out to the likes of Saka and Amaechi on the flanks and while both of them are unpredictable wingers, they like to work the ball into the penalty area. This style of play caused us a lot of problems in our 2-1 defeat to the ‘ Gunners ‘ right at the beginning of the season.
It will be interesting to see what side Wayne Burnett will pick on Friday evening, following our 2-0 defeat to Brighton in our last match. I would imagine that creative midfielder Paris Maghoma will return to the side for the North London derby along with TJ Eyoma who missed out last time as he was suspended, but other than that I assume we will see quite a similar team, with a few under 18’s included in the match day squad. Due to our lack of options up top, 17 year old Ireland under 19 international Troy Parrott should lead the line for the second consecutive PL2 game. Friday evenings match is likely to bring a sizeable home crowd to Hertfordshire to support our youngsters, as there are no first team matches this weekend. This will be a very big game for both sides but it will also provide Wayne Burnett’s lads with a good opportunity to test themselves against one of the best teams in the league. As always I will be reporting on Friday’s match, and my in-depth match report of the game will be out on Saturday night. I would like to wish Wayne Burnett’s lads all the very best of luck for what promises to be a fascinating game of PL2 football.
My predicted lineup: (4-2-3-1) Austin, Okedina, Tanganga (c), Eyoma, Hinds, Marsh, Oakley-Boothe, Tracey, Maghoma, Roles, Parrott.
Subs from: De Bie, Lyons-Foster, Cirkin, Duncan, Bennett.
Injured/unavailable: Jonathan Dinzeyi, Jamie Reynolds.
Doubtful: Alfie Whiteman, Rodel Richards, Dilan Markanday, Phoenix Patterson.
Previous meeting: Spurs 1-2 Arsenal.
My score prediction: Spurs 4-2.
My one to watch: The ‘ Gunners ‘ left winger Bukayo Saka was a thorn in our under 18’s side during our recent FA youth cup fourth round tie against the ‘ Gunners ‘ at Meadow Lane, last month. Saka who is an England under 18 international has already featured for Arsenal’s first team on a couple of occasions so far this season. The speedy and extremely skilful winger who is also capable of playing at wingback, is a very unpredictable winger who likes to come inside and test the goalkeeper from just outside the penalty area. Saka has scored four goals from 15 PL2 appearances this season.