Pre-Match Report

Under-21s: Arsenal v Man United

Chuba Akpom
Chuba Akpom

Arsenal Under-21s will be looking to end 2013 on a high when they play Development League champions Manchester United at Meadow Park on Friday.

Steve Gatting's side have finished the year strongly with just one defeat this season, which came in their last game at home to Sunderland.

After Monday's game against Leicester City was postponed, the young Gunners will be eager to end the year on a positive note as they try to close the gap on league leaders Fulham.

One of the shining lights of 2013 has been the goalscoring form of Chuba Akpom. The 18-year-old has scored nine goals at under-21 level in the calendar year and was rewarded with a place on the pre-season tour to Asia before featuring in the first-team squad during the early part of this campaign.

Gatting took over from Terry Burton in February, the under-21s' league record is P19 W8 D5 L6. In the early stages of Gatting's reign, the team struggled for consistency but, after a tough pre-season, their form has dramatically improved.

Like Arsenal, United have played seven games in the league so far and sit 15th with 11 points. Both sides have games in hand on the teams directly above them and will expect to be challenging at the top in the new year.

The Gunners came out on top the last time these sides met with Hector Bellerin, now on loan at Watford, scoring a last-minute winner at Underhill.

But the Red Devils went on to claim the league title, beating Spurs 3-2 in the final. Warren Joyce has a talented squad at his disposal with the likes of Wilfred Zaha, Fabio and the returning Darren Fletcher looking to force their way into David Moyes' squad.

James Wilson is likely to retain his place after netting for United in their 2-0 win over Blackburn at the start of the month. The young forward already has a goal to his name against Arsenal this season after scoring United's second in their 2-1 win over the under-18s in September.

For the Gunners, Benik Afobe and Akpom will both be vying for a place up front. Elsewhere, Emmanuel Frimpong and Ryo are likely to return in midfield.

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