On Friday night Arsenal play the first leg of their FA Youth Cup final against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, with the return leg at home on Monday.

Arsenal have put together an impressive run so far. The highlight was probably beating Liverpool at Anfield, but hopefully the team can make more memories with a couple more wins to pick up the trophy now.

The first leg is live on ITV4, with kick-off at 19:45 on Friday. Then Arsenal.com will stream the home game at the same time on Monday.

If you haven’t been following the run so far, here’s the lowdown on some of the stars of the campaign, who could be making the step up to the next level at the club very soon:

Emile Smith Rowe

Emile Smith Rowe
  • Age: 17
  • Position: Left Midfield/Left Wing/Central Midfield

Smith Rowe is one of the most promising players in the u18s at the moment, so much so that he’s actually made just as many appearances for the u23s this season, despite his age.

The Croydon-born youngster joined the Hale End Academy in 2010, aged nine.

He has an eye for goal, but is also a good creator and a tricky dribbler. At the moment Reiss Nelson, a year older, is ahead of him in terms of first-team opportunities.

If Smith Rowe keeps up his performances though, it won’t be long until he gets a chance.

The winger got a taste of success with the England u17s in 2017, winning the World Cup in October. He appeared three times in the competition, scoring once and providing an assist in the semi-final.

Here’s his goal from the Youth Cup semi-final:

2017/18 stats

  • Premier League 2 (u23s): 9 appearances, 1 goal, 2 assists.
  • U18 Premier League: 5 appearances, 3 goals.
  • FA Youth Cup: 5 appearances, 4 goals, 2 assists.
  • Overall: 19 appearances, 8 goals, 4 assists.

Tyreece John-Jules

Tyreece John-Jules
  • Age: 17
  • Position: Centre-forward

John-Jules started the season with the u18s, but he’s starting to make a name for himself in the u23s as well. As large part of that is thanks to his performances in the FA Youth Cup.

Undoubtedly, the young striker’s main attribute is his goal scoring.

He scored the winner in extra-time at Anfield to knock out Liverpool, then scored again in the next round as Arsenal beat Middlesbrough 3-2. He only missed out on the quarter-final thanks to a harsh red card in his previous league game. But he returned for the semis to score again in the first-leg.

John-Jules has been with the academy since the age of eight, and we recently spoke to him about his progression through the youth teams and taking inspiration from the likes of Reiss Nelson and Eddie Nketiah this season.

With Nketiah getting first-team chances, and Chuba Akpom and Stephy Mavididi out on loan, these next few months could be the 17-year-old’s chance to prove he’s ready for the step up.

2017/18 stats

  • Premier League 2 (u23s): 7 appearances, 4 goals.
  • U18 Premier League: 6 appearances, 4 goals, 1 assist.
  • FA Youth Cup: 5 appearances, 3 goals.
  • Overall: 18 appearances, 11 goals, 1 assist.

Trae Coyle

Trae Coyle
  • Age: 17
  • Position: Attacking midfield

Coyle made a lot of progress this season after a tough start. The 17-year-old spent the early part of the campaign out with injury, and didn’t immediately hit his stride after recovering.

Since then though, he’s really pushed on. He got an assist on his u23 debut in December, and Arsenal named him in their updated Premier League squad in January.

As well as that, he is consistently performing well for the u18s. Although he’s get to grab a goal or assist in the cup, he has seven goal contributions in seven league games so far. Even when he isn’t scoring or assisting, he still adds a lot to the young side’s play.

Hopefully he can get on the score sheet in the first-leg of the FA Youth Cup final.

Reiss Nelson’s opinion

“We’ve got so many talented youngsters in our ranks, but the ones who have really stood out to me are Trae Coyle at No 10 and Xavier [Amaechi] on the wing, who has also made a couple of under-23 appearances.”

2017/18 stats

  • Premier League 2 (u23s): 2 appearances, 1 assist.
  • U18 Premier League: 7 appearances, 5 goals, 2 assists.
  • FA Youth Cup: 5 appearances.
  • Overall: 14 appearances, 5 goals, 3 assists.

Xavier Amaechi

Xavier Amaechi
  • Age: 17
  • Position: Winger

Amaechi joined Arsenal at the age of 12 from Fulham FC. He’s a boyhood fan of the Gunners, so he definitely has the club at heart.

The winger is fast, carries the ball well, and he’s good in 1v1 situations.

He’s also a creative player, and admitted recently that he looks up to Mesut Özil. The 17-year-old hasn’t had the chance to train with the German so far, but at the rate he’s going it won’t be long.

Amaechi’s best performance of the season so far came in Arsenal’s first match in the Youth Cup, when he scored both of the goals in a 2-1 win against Sheffield Wednesday. He also got a couple of assists in the second-leg of the semi-final though.

A special mention also has to go to his goal and general showing as the u18s demolished Tottenham 6-0 late last year.

Nelson’s opinion

“We’ve got so many talented youngsters in our ranks, but the ones who have really stood out to me are Trae Coyle at No 10 and Xavier [Amaechi] on the wing, who has also made a couple of under-23 appearances.”

2017/18 stats

  • Premier League 2 (u23s): 7 appearances, 3 assists.
  • U18 Premier League: 4 appearances, 4 goals.
  • FA Youth Cup: 6 appearances, 4 goals, 3 assists.
  • Overall: 17 appearances, 8 goals, 6 assists.

Folarin Balogun

Folarin Balogun (Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images)
  • Age: 16
  • Position: Centre-forward

Still just 16 years old, Balogun wasn’t initially part of the Youth Cup run, only making the bench. However, the striker has been on fire with the u18s in the league all season.

After four goals and two assists in three league games in January/February, it was no surprise to see him finally get a start against Colchester United in the cup quarter-final.

As usual, he made the most of that start with a goal, Arsenal’s fourth on the night. Then, earlier this month he got his first u23 goal, scoring a crucial equaliser in injury time after coming off the bench against Liverpool.

Powerful and clinical, the young striker is just unlucky the Arsenal academy have Nketiah and John-Jules in the u23s. Otherwise he’d surely have played more than the 192 minutes he has this season for the top academy side.

Given his age, he’ll get plenty more chances in the coming years.

Nelson’s opinion

“Flo Balogun is like a young Eddie Nketiah up front because he gets into good positions and always scores goals.”

2017/18 stats

  • Premier League 2 (u23s): 7 appearances, 1 goal.
  • U18 Premier League: 14 appearances, 9 goals, 3 assists.
  • FA Youth Cup: 3 appearances, 2 goals.
  • Overall: 24 appearances, 12 goals, 3 assists.

Bukayo Saka

Bukayo Saka
  • Age: 16
  • Position: Winger

Saka is the youngest of the six, having only turned 16 this season, but he’s already having a big impact.

The youngster has two goals and two assists in his appearances so far in the Youth Cup, including scoring the equaliser and assisting the winner in extra-time after coming off the bench at Anfield.

He bagged a brace as the u18s demolished Tottenham 6-0 in November, and he’s managed nine goal contributions in his last eight league games, so he’s really on a good run.

The schoolboy winger has a great understanding of the game, and an eye for a final ball. He is also very strong technically, and versatile, as he’s played as a defender for England.

Nelson’s opinion

“I really like Bukayo Saka as well. He’s still young but is doing the business for them, including that really good goal at Anfield. He’s definitely one for the future.”

2017/18 stats

  • U18 Premier League: 13 appearances, 6 goals, 4 assists.
  • FA Youth Cup: 6 appearances, 2 goals, 2 assists.
  • Overall: 17 appearances, 8 goals, 5 assists.