By Declan Taylor
Arsenal are the Premier Academy League champions after Rhys Murphy’s second-half strike settled this fiery Final at White Hart Lane on Sunday.
After a promising season in all competitions Steve Bould and his boys now have tangible reward for their endeavours thanks to the striker’s close-range strike after 50 minutes.
Luke Ayling’s dismissal in the 72nd minute made for a grandstand finish but the Gunners held on to claim their title.
There could be no better preparation for Friday’s FA Youth Cup Final first-leg against Liverpool at Emirates Stadium.
Bould made two changes to the side that secured their place in the Final with victory against Manchester City last week. Murphy, who emerged from the bench to hit the Eastlands winner, replaced Sanchez Watt in attack.
The returning Henri Lansbury, fresh from a loan-spell at Scunthorpe, replaced the other goalscorer in Manchester, Cedric Evina.
Of course, the midfielder’s last action in red-and-white before his move was in the FA Youth Cup Fifth Round against Sunderland. That night the 18-year-old had notched two penalties in a comfortable 4-0 victory at the Stadium of Light.
This time, slightly closer to home, Lansbury was deployed on the right-hand side of the Gunners midfield quartet.
Gilles Sunu had already forced a smart stop from Oscar Jansson in the 13th minute when the England youth international went close to making his presence felt with the game’s first chance.
Jay Emmanuel-Thomas found Lansbury with a deft chip to the back post but the midfielder’s side-foot volley was tipped round the post.
The fierce rivalry between the two clubs is clearly not lost down the age groups. The opening stages were frantic and sometimes over-zealous – in fact, the referee produced his yellow card three times in the opening 26 minutes.
Francis Coquelin went within an inch of opening the scoring five minutes before the break but his firm downward header was hacked clear from beneath the bar.
A minute later, Lansbury was in the thick of it again. This time, after seizing on some hesitant Spurs defending, the young Gunner planted his low strike the wrong side of Jansson’s post.
There was no let-up after the interval and they would not have long to wait for their breakthrough.
Sunu, typically full of tireless running up front, fizzed a low cross into the danger area and there was Murphy - who else? - to fire into the roof of the net from close range.
Sunu almost picked out Craig Eastmond with a similar cross 10 minutes later but the ball just evaded the onrushing right-back.
Emmanuel-Thomas was next to go close. The captain slalomed into the area but saw a low effort blocked by Jansson’s leg. Spurs centre-half Steven Caulkner was then forced to nod the looping rebound off the line.
Arsenal looked like the only team capable of victory but Ayling’s second bookable offence in the 72nd minute gave the hosts some much-needed impetus.
Eastmond almost turned a hanging delivery past Wojciech Szcesny before Adam Smith slammed a searing half-volley inches wide.
The sending off had forced Emmanuel-Thomas into central defence alongside Kyle Bartley and the captain brilliantly cleared Andros Townsend’s testing delivery with Jon Obika lurking.
Unsurprisingly, Tottenham were asking all the questions but in the end, the Gunners went closest to claiming the second goal.
First Lansbury slid an angled effort wide from just inside the area then Frimpong crashed a right-foot thunderbolt off the underside of the crossbar in stoppage time.
Spurs threw everything, including keeper Jansson, forward in search of their equaliser but the Gunners held on to win the League at White Hart Lane
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