After being held to a 2-2 draw in their FA Youth Cup semi-final first leg, our under-18s welcome Blackpool back to Emirates Stadium on Monday night with a place in the final up for grabs.
Read on for our preview of the game:
THE STORY SO FAR
There’s still plenty of work to be done at home after last month’s reverse tie at Bloomfield Road.
We twice took the lead through Tyreece John-Jules and Xavier Amaechi but were pegged back each time, and Trae Coyle’s missed penalty left the tie in the balance going into Monday evening’s clash.
The comfortable manner in which we reached this stage of the competition should give us plenty of confidence, though.
Prior to last month’s first leg, we had scored 13 goals in just four FA Youth Cup matches this season, starting with an Amaechi-inspired 2-1 win over Sheffield Wednesday.
Liverpool were the next to fall, courtesy of John-Jules’ extra-time winner in front of the Kop, before we beat Middlesbrough 3-2 in the last 16 to set up a quarter-final clash against Colchester United.
It was after half-time in Essex that we really showed our class. Emile Smith Rowe struck twice, including a stunning free-kick, before Bukaya Saka, Flo Balogun and Amaechi scored as we hit five goals past Colchester during an irrepressible second-half blitz.
If we are to book our place in the final, we will need to channel a similarly clinical performance in front of goal on Monday night.
While we may be the favourites on paper, Blackpool will certainly fancy their chances after last month’s draw.
The Seasiders have already caused an upset in this season’s competition - they came from behind to beat Blackburn 3-2 in the final five minutes of their quarter-final at the start of March - and the way they twice rallied down from a goal behind against us will give them a big boost.
Dylan Sumner was an influential figure in the middle of the park and showed desire to power home Blackpool’s first-leg equaliser, before captain Ben Jacobson completed their comeback from close range.
Ultimately, though, Monday’s visitors were indebted to a heroic performance by Craig Thordarson. The teenage keeper made a string of saves to keep his side in the tie during a lively first leg, including a brilliant stop to deny Saka from close range. Kwame Ampadu’s side will be hoping he’s not on top form at Emirates Stadium.
ONE TO WATCH
John-Jules is making a name for himself in this competition. A natural finisher, the England youth international has already scored three goals in four FA Youth Cup appearances this season.
He reacted quickest to slam home from six yards out in the first leg and will be one players, alongside Amaechi and the returning Smith Rowe, that Blackpool will be desperate to keep quiet.
John-Jules is also gaining a reputation as a scorer of big goals. Not only did he score that crucial extra-time winner against Steven Gerrard’s Liverpool during our fourth-round tie at Anfield, the lively forward also netted in our under-23s’ Premier League International Cup semi-final win over Villarreal last week.
A key part of our youth setup since he was just eight years old, John-Jules has matured into a prolific marksman who will be looking to add to his 15 goals in 20 appearances across all competitions this season.
FOLLOW THE ACTION
Tune into Arsenal.com and the App from 6.35pm (UK time) on Monday, April 16 for LIVE coverage of our FA Youth Cup semi-final second leg against Blackpool.
Our live video stream of the game is free to view for all Arsenal Members. Click here to register for FREE Digital Membership.
The show starts at 6.35pm (UK time) with Russell Hargreaves and Max Jones on commentary from 7pm. Highlights will be available after the match.
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