Pre-Match Report

Under-21s: Fulham v Arsenal - Preview

12/13: FA Youth Cup - Arsenal 2-1 Fulham - Anthony Jeffrey

A quick glance at the squad for the Capital One Cup tie at West Bromwich Albion should be all the Club's youth prospects need to find the motivation to keep up their focus in games and training.

Hector Bellerin, Isaac Hayden, Kris Olsson, Alex Iwobi, Thomas Eisfeld, Serge Gnabry and Chuba Akpom were all included in the 18-man travelling party for the tie at the Hawthorns as Arsene Wenger continued his policy of blooding the next generation of talent in the competition.

Six of the seven youngsters featured in the win, with Eisfeld netting in normal time and Olsson and Akpom scoring in the penalty shoot-out. The fact that they were in the squad at all demonstrates that the Club’s hierarchy are taking notice of performances at under-21 and Youth League level.

There have been plenty of those so far this season.

Steve Gatting’s second string were unfortunate to let a two-goal lead slip at Stoke City on the opening night of the season but channelled the frustration of two points dropped at the Weaver Stadium into producing good performances which yielded wins at Blackburn Rovers and at home to West Bromwich Albion.

Form has been good in Europe too, with Iwobi and Gnabry excelling as the under-19s won 4-1 in Marseille last week. A tough pre-season looks like it could have long-term benefits for the young Gunners who have, in the main, looked solid at the back while carrying a significant threat going forward.

Next up for the under-21s is a trip to Motspur Park to take on Fulham. Kit Symons’ side have also started the season well and top the Under-21 Premier League table ahead of Thursday’s game - having beaten Manchester City and FA Youth Cup winners Norwich City on their way to collecting 13 points from their first five matches.

The game presents a tough task for Gatting’s youngsters, and with the majority of those involved at the Hawthorns unlikely to be available, the coach could be forced to name an extremely young side.

The teams produced an absorbing FA Youth Cup fourth-round meeting at Underhill last season. Anthony Jeffrey and Muamer Tankovic exchanged goals before Austin Lipman struck the winner in the second period of extra-time.

After the match, Gatting praised the team’s “good team spirit, mental strength and character”.

Arsenal will need to show that again on Thursday if they are to continue their fine form. If they do, there is no reason why appearances won’t follow at a higher level in the future.

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