Arsenal Under-21s will be looking to continue their unbeaten start to the league season when they host Aston Villa on Tuesday.
The Gunners have made an impressive start to the campaign, registering three wins and two draws from their opening five games. Steve Gatting’s side currently sit ninth in the Under-21 Premier League table but they have played four times less than leaders West Ham United. A win on Tuesday evening could see them climb as high as fifth.
It will be the first time Gatting’s side have played a league game at Boreham Wood this season after staging their first two home games at Emirates Stadium. But the majority of the squad were involved in the two Youth League games played at Meadow Park in October so there should be no problem acclimatising to new surroundings.
The Gunners have built a solid base at the back this season, conceding just three goals so far. Gatting’s side have recorded clean sheets against Blackburn Rovers, West Bromwich Albion and high-flying Fulham which have seen some notable displays from the likes of Stefan O’Connor, Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill and new signing Semi Ajayi.
Despite getting off to a slow start to the season, Aston Villa will certainly test Arsenal’s defensive resolve on Tuesday after they thrashed Newcastle 6-2 at the start of the month. The Villa youngsters went all the way in last season’s NextGen series, beating Arsenal’s conquerors Chelsea 2-0 in the final at Lake Como. But the new format of this season’s Youth League meant the Midlands side missed out on European competition.
Dan Crowley, formerly of Villa, moved to north London in the summer. The 16-year-old playmaker put in a string of eye-catching displays in pre-season before picking up an injury that kept him out for three months. Crowley returned to action for the under-18s against Southampton on Saturday and could be in line for a place in the squad against his old club.
The under-21s play their next four league games at home and will no doubt see this as a chance to prove they can challenge for the title - if they win all four games in hand they go top.
But these games will also provide further opportunities for the slightly more experienced academy players to prove their worth. Players like Isaac Hayden and Chuba Akpom have featured in Arsène Wenger’s senior squads, while Hector Bellerin and Kris Olsson have also made their first-team bows.
This is an exciting time to be part of the Arsenal academy; a pathway into the first team appears to be there for the taking.Copyright 2014 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 12 Nov 2013