We aim to get our hands on the FA Youth Cup for the eighth time in our history on Tuesday night when we take on West Ham United in the final at Emirates Stadium in a 7pm kick-off.
After guiding his team through an extraordinary run to the showpiece that has seen us bag last-gasp winners and complete big comebacks, Jack Wilshere is hoping his side can claim the prize for the first time since 2009 when he was playing himself.
Wilshere could follow in Pat Rice’s footsteps and lift the trophy as both a player and a manager as a Gunner, but we’ll face a tough test against his former side, who have already claimed the U18s Premier League South title this season by winning 18 of their 21 matches.
Our road to the final
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 as well as a late Michal Rosiak volley saw us progress to the semis where Myles Lewis-Skelly’s 120th-minute header saw us edge past Manchester City 2-1 after extra-time to book our spot in the final.
Hammers going for the Double
Managed by former club stalwart Kevin Keen, the young Irons progressed to the semi-finals without playing on home turf. They defeated Sheffield United in the third round 3-1 with Divin Mubama netting twice, who five days later would make his Premier League debut against us at the Emirates.
An 89th-minute strike from George Earthy beat Burnley, before Mubama again got a brace in a 4-1 win against Stoke City, but extra-time was required to see off Ipswich Town with by a 4-2 scoreline.
Finally West Ham received a home draw for the semi-final, and they made the most of the occasion at the London Stadium by thrashing Southampton 6-1 with Mubama bagging a hat-trick to help his team reach their first final since 1999.
Who to keep an eye out for
Cozier-Duberry is our leading scorer in the competition this season with five goals to his name, and before the semi-final had netted in every round. Right-back Rosiak has also bagged four goals in five appearances, including a free-kick in the previous round against Manchester City, while Omari Benjamin has hit 13 goals at under-18 level this term,
Ethan Nwaneri was handed a first-team debut by Mikel Arteta in September, Reuell Walters has made our Premier League bench in recent weeks and Lewis-Skelly has impressed in midfield during the cup run.
As for the opposition, with eight goals in five games, Mubama is the competition’s top scorer this season, while his fellow striker Callum Marshall has 20 in 21 outings across all competitions and captain Gideon Kodua reached 13 by scoring in the Hammers’ 2-0 league success over us earlier this month.
Earthy and Lewis Orford pull the strings in midfield with the latter also hitting double figures for goals this term, and defenders Kaelan Casey and Oliver Scarles made their first-team debuts in the Europa Conference League game against Romanian side FCSB in November.
Our history in the competition
We have reached our 10th final as we aim to taste success for the eighth time - only Manchester United and Chelsea have won the Youth Cup more times than us.
Our first success came back in 1965/66 when we beat Sunderland with Rice and Sammy Nelson starring, and then five years later we triumphed again when we got the better of Cardiff City. We would have to wait until 1987/88 for the next victory which came at the expense of Doncaster Rovers when Rice was in charge, and then six seasons later he led us past Milwall in the final to claim the trophy again.
Under Don Howe’s management, we recorded back-to-back wins in 2000 and 2001 when we were convincing victors over Blackburn Rovers and Coventry City, before Wilshere’s side tasted glory eight years later. We last reached the final back in 2017/18 where a side containing Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka were beaten by Chelsea.
Our last success
It was 14 years ago that we last had our name etched on the famous piece of silverware after a convincing display across two legs saw us blow away Liverpool 6-2 on aggregate.
The hard work was done in the first leg at Emirates Stadium when Gilles Sunu put us in front before Wilshere converted a penalty. Future Sweden international Alexander Kacaniklic pulled one back for the Reds, but second-half strikes from Sanchez Watt and skipper Jay Emmanuel-Thomas put us firmly in control.
At Anfield, another Sanchez strike all-but secured the trophy, and while Lauri Dalla Valle equalised on the night, an own goal by Daniel Ayala ensured we won the second leg to cap off an incredible campaign.
This season’s FA Youth Cup is open for players who were born on or after 1 September 2004, and before 1 September 2007, meaning anyone born between this period is eligible to play in the final.
The game will go to extra-time and penalties if required. Goalline technology or VAR is not in operation. Each team can name seven substitutes, with three to be used during the 90 minutes, with an additional one allowed in extra-time.
How to watch
If you can't make it to Emirates Stadium, then you can stream all the action on our homepage from 7pm.
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