By Giuseppe Muro
The Reserves return to Underhill on Wednesday night as they look to arrest a run of five games without a win when they entertain Liverpool.
With the second string playing their home fixtures at the London Colney training ground over the winter period, Neil Banfield will name a much-changed side from the one that saw off Blackpool the last time they graced the Barnet turf.
Since then the goalscorers on that mild September evening, Jay Emmanuel-Thomas and Gilles Sunu, along with the likes of Craig Eastmond, Benik Afobe and Gavin Hoyte have all left on loan as a new crop of youngsters have bedded their way into the team.
Despite Arsenal’s push for the title stuttering of late, Banfield’s boys remain four points clear at the summit of the Premier Reserve League South and he is confident they will be there come April.
“I’ve given the players a little challenge, in the next four games if we can get three wins then we could pinch the title,” the manager told Arsenal.com. “We will definitely be going for it and hopefully we can get a win under our belts tonight.
“I think the team is playing quite well to be honest, we’ve had patches where we’ve really played well. [But] at the end of the day, you have got to win games. We’ve got to make sure that our possession of the ball gets turned into making some chances.
“We’ve got to continue with our game, and with the way we play, because that’s our signature at this Club. The ideology of the way we want to play. But within that, you have got to win. That’s part of making a top-class player, it’s being a winner.
“If you look at our passing stats, we out-pass everyone, but we’ve got to pass bravely sometimes. From box-to-box we are doing quite well, but it’s the two boxes that make the difference and that’s where, I’d say, we’ve let ourselves down in the last few games.
“There are circumstances, we’ve changed the side around and we are quite younger, but they are just excuses. We should be going out there and transferring our good possession into goalscoring opportunities and not conceding silly goals.”
The visit of Liverpool is something of a landmark for Banfield, who is facing the Merseyside side for the first time in his six-year tenure as manager of the second string.
With the Reds comfortably clear at the top of their Reserve section with just two defeats to their name this season, he knows it will be test for his players. But one they should relish.
“Liverpool are probably one of the biggest clubs in the country and it will be a big game for the lads tonight,” admitted Banfield. “They have got some really good young players and I’m looking forward to it.
“For me, it’s the ideal way of developing young players - training with the best and playing against the best. This season there has been a vast improvement in the quality of games. It’s been a good season for seeing how our young players come up against these sides and matching you up against the best in the country.”
George Brislen-Hall misses out through injury so Martin Angha is expected to start at left back and make his full debut at this level.
Ignasi Miquel will continue to captain the side and, after his debut goal against Newcastle last week, midfielder Josh Rees will maintain his place in the starting XI.
Arsenal.com will bring you live text commentary from the game and Arsenal TV Online subscribers can view match highlights 'on demand' from Thursday afternoon.Copyright 2017 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source