Spurs under 18’s versus Arsenal: (match preview)
A long time has past since Arsenal broke our under 18’s hearts back in January, after they knocked them out of the fourth round of the FA Youth Cup, on a bitterly cold night in Hertfordshire. Over three months on from that crushing 5-2 defeat our high flying under 18’s have the chance to get Arsenal back when they play them tomorrow, in a huge league game at the ‘ Gunners ‘ London Colney training centre. Tomorrow’s match really is a title decider for John McDermott’s side, who are undefeated in the league this season after 18 matches. Arsenal lead the Premier League South by just one point although they have played one game more than the young ‘ Lilywhites ‘ who still have a game in hand. Both teams have had excellent seasons and although our bitter rivals aren’t unbeaten in the league they have been in excellent form all season. Ken Gillard’s exciting Arsenal team have won all ten of their home league matches their seasons, and the free scoring ‘ Gunners ‘ have been in frighteningly good form of late scoring an astonishing 25 goals from their last five league games. After putting in an impressive performance on Saturday to overcome a well structured Fulham team 4-0, the wonder boys of Hotspur Way will go into tomorrows huge match with just as much confidence and belief as the hosts. They will also most likely field a stronger side for the match, something which I am sure the ‘ Gunners ‘ will also do. I would expect Arsenal to include under 23 regulars Bukayo Saka, Xavier Amaechi and Tyreece John-Jules, two of those players featured in the FA Youth Cup defeat earlier in the year. McDermott’s side on the other hand could well include Troy Parrott, J’Neil Bennett and Paris Maghoma for tomorrow’s game. Both sides will be taking this match extremely seriously and for both sets of players it will be viewed as a must win game. After tomorrow’s match Arsenal have two more remaining league fixtures against both Reading and Fulham respectively. Going on their recent form Arsenal will probably win both of those matches. A draw tomorrow would still be a good result for Spurs however, Gillard’s side will view it as a game which they must win if they want to win the league. With the likes of Balogun, Saka and Amaechi expected to play I can see Arsenal really going for us tomorrow right from the start of the match.
This current Arsenal under 18 side are a very, very good team and their quality has really shown during our two previous encounters with them this season. During the reverse league fixture last November we defeated them 3-2 in a tight and highly dramatic game at Hotspur Way, after falling behind early on to a fine goal from Folarin Balogun. However, the FA Youth Cup fourth round tie ended in us losing 5-2, although it wasn’t a game which we deserved to lose after having been the better side for the majority of normal time. Arsenal like to play fast attacking football, and they love to play with width. Utilising the skill and speed of wide men Bukayo Saka and Xavier Amaechi who are both England under 18 internationals. Arsenal have great quality all over the pitch, and I really like their two commanding centre halves Mark McGuinness and Bayli Spencer-Adams as well as intelligent attacking midfielder Sam Greenwood and central midfielder James Olayinka. Tomorrow’s game is a massively important one for our title challenging side but I am sure that they will have the team spirit and the quality to stun their bitter rivals. I would like to wish John McDermott’s side all the very best of luck for what promises to be a fascinating game of football. I am predicting a high scoring affair!
My predicted lineup: (4-2-3-1) De Bie, Okedina, Lyons-Foster, Binks, Cirkin, White, A.Shashoua (c), Markanday, Maghoma, Bennett, Parrott.
Subs from: Oluwayemi, Statham, Walcott, Cooper, Clarke.
Injured/unavailable: Jeremie Mukendi, Maximus Tainio, Jamie Bowden, Enoch Asante.
Doubtful: Rodel Richards, Phoenix Patterson, Troy Parrott.
Previous meeting: Spurs 2-5 (AET).
My score prediction: Spurs 4-3.
My one to watch: The ‘ Gunners ‘ top scorer at this level this season is their 17 year old centre forward Folarin Balogun. The second year scholar has been in red hot form for Ken Gillard’s side, scoring 23 goals across all competitions so far this campaign. Balogun is a speedy striker who is a very clinical finisher, he also has excellent off the ball movement.