Our under-18s have the chance to be crowned champions of the U-18 Premier League on Tuesday night when they face Derby County in the national final at Pride Park.
THE STORY SO FAR
Ken Gillard’s side have already come out on top in the southern division this season, winning 20 of their 22 league outings - but they’ll be keen to go all the way on Tuesday for the first time since the league’s inception in 2012.
We find ourselves in promising form ahead of this final, having won each of our last 12 league fixtures. This is a run stretching back to late November, meaning we’re yet to drop a single point in 2019.
It’s no surprise therefore that we’ve scored more goals (86) and conceded fewer (23) than any other under-18s side in the country this season.
Folarin Balogun remains our top scorer with 24 goals in 18 league appearances, while Matt Smith is our top creator, assisting 14 times.
The Rams booked their place in the final on Saturday when they were crowned champions of the U-18 Premier League north.
Derby have been top of the table for two weeks, but they were forced to delay their celebrations with second placed Liverpool having two games in hand. However, a 10-goal swing was all too much for the Reds to overcome on the final day of the season.
Justin Walker’s side won 16 of their 22 league outings this season, scoring 63 goals and conceding 27. We’re one of only two sides to have outscored the Rams at under-18 level.
Morgan Whittaker will be their greatest threat in the final third on Tuesday, having scored 18 goals and assisted 12 this season. Midfielder Jack Stretton has 10 goals and two assists to his name.
ONE TO WATCH
Given that Derby have the advantage of playing at Pride Park on Tuesday night, we’ll need Matt Smith to take control of the midfield and settle any early nerves.
Our captain is yet to miss a single minute of league action this season - and for good reason too.
The 18-year-old is capable of protecting our backline during spells of pressure, in addition to dictating play and popping up in the final third.
Give Smith time and space on the ball and he’s sure to unlock any defence at under-18 level.
FOLLOW THE ACTION
You can receive live updates by following our Twitter account @ArsenalAcademy
The game will take place at Pride Park with kick-off at 7pm (UK time).
Copyright 2019 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.