Tuesday night sees our under-18s take on Manchester City at Emirates Stadium, with a place in the FA Youth Cup final on the line.
Our Young Gunners will be hoping to be celebrating reaching the competition’s showpiece for the first time since 2017/18 come full-time, as they dream of following in Jack Wilshere’s footsteps and lifting the trophy, which would end a 14-year wait to get our name on the trophy again.
However, City head into this game on the back of a 13-game winning streak in all competitions, having knocked out Blackburn Rovers, Brighton & Hove Albion, Fleetwood Town and Oxford United, scoring at least three times in each tie.
How we made it to the final four
Our campaign began with a 6-0 thrashing of Millwall at Meadow Park in round three, before our first real test came at St James’ Park, where we were twice pegged back by Newcastle United before a late Osman Kamara strike eventually secured a 3-2 win.
We gave ourselves a mountain to climb when we fell two goals behind against Watford at Vicarage Road, but a remarkable second half saw us net four times without reply to move into the quarter-finals.
There, Cambridge United threatened to cause an upset when they took the lead but a goal from Amario Cozier-Duberry - who has scored in every round - as well as a last-gasp Michal Rosiak volley saw us progress once again.
City looking slick
Our opponents meanwhile have enjoyed a much-more routine route to the semi-final stage. Two goals from Jaden Heskey - son of former England star Emile - helped them to a 3-0 success against Blackburn in round three, when Rico Lewis captained the side before jumping up to first-team level.
A comfortable 4-1 success against Brighton & Hove Albion followed before Justin Oboavwoduo netted a hat-trick during a 5-0 thrashing of Fleetwood Town, while Will Dickson continued his own run of netting in every round by notching a brace in a 3-0 success over Oxford United in the last eight. All four ties were played at City’s home ground.
Ben Wilkinson’s team have lost just once since November, and have lost just three times all campaign in all competition as they aim to claim both the U18s Premier League North and Youth Cup this season.
From the dugout
Wilshere: “We’ve suffered a lot in this competition. We’ve come from behind a lot and we've had difficult moments in games, but why I'm so happy is that we get another go at the Emirates.
“We’ll get a chance to play in front of our fans again, and show them a little bit more. I don't think we've seen the best of the team yet.
“In Youth Cup, there's a chance that if you do well, your name is all of a sudden on Instagram and sometimes that can be the starting point. All of a sudden, people are looking out for you, and then on a Saturday you score a couple of goals and people go: ‘oh, that's Osman Kamara’, or ‘that's Omari Benjamin’.”
Can history repeat itself?
Back in the 2008/09 season, we set up a semi-final clash against City at Emirates Stadium thanks to a squad that would go on to amass over 3,000 professional appearances including Jack Wilshere, Kyle Bartley, Francis Coquelin, Luke Ayling and Henri Lansbury.
We had inflicted City’s first defeat all season by beating them 2-1 at the City of Manchester Stadium in the first leg the month before, and things got even better within the first minute when Sanchez Watt raced onto a long ball by Emmanuel-Thomas and fired home.
Wilshere would tuck home our second from the penalty spot before Bartley headed home a corner and Watt pounced on some hesitation in the City defence to add a fourth, in what would prove to be a 4-1 success as we headed into the final, where we would ultimately beat Liverpool to clinch the silverware.
How to watch
Viewers in the UK can stream the whole game for free on Arsenal.com and the official app. Coverage starts from 6.55pm ahead of a 7pm kick-off, with commentary provided by Max Jones and Nigel Winterburn.
Copyright 2023 The Arsenal Football Club Limited. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source.