Arsenal have once again opted not to have an U21 team enter into the Checkatrade Trophy.
- Revamp of the competition allowed Premier League and Championship teams to enter youth teams
- Arsenal refused to enter a team last season
- Manchester City, Spurs, and Everton have entered team for next season’s competition
The Checkatrade Trophy, formerly known as the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, underwent a significant revamp last season to allow U21 sides from clubs with Category A academies to participate.
Arsenal were amongst the clubs eligible, but opted not to enter a team last season. They’ve done the same again for the next season’s competition.
Arsenal are not the only major side to not enter a team, as Manchester United and Liverpool have also chosen not to.
Meanwhile, Chelsea, Manchester City, Tottenham and Everton have decided to enter U21 teams.
The idea behind this is that the clubs’ best youth players will have the opportunity to gain invaluable experience against professional League 1 and League 2 clubs.
Each academy team will be drawn into a group with three other Football League teams, ensuring at least three games against professional opposition.
This would be a big step-up from the infrequent and often uncompetitive U23 and U18 fixtures.
While this all sounds good on paper, in practice there are a few issues to consider, a few of which may be responsible for Arsenal not entering a team.
One issue is the scheduling of the competition, with games clashing with international youth fixtures.
With players away on international duty or out on loan, Arsenal may feel they’re not able to field a competitive team.
There have been tweaks to competition format that would allow greater flexibility in scheduling, which is said to have encouraged City and Spurs to enter teams.
It’s possible that Arsenal are monitoring how the competition fares with these new changes.
The format change caused controversy as Football League clubs felt the introduction of youth sides diluted the competition’s competitiveness and would result in small crowds.
Last season’s final between Coventry and Oxford, though, was played in front of a crowd of 75,000 at Wembley, which has seemingly dispelled those doubts, at least for now.