Arsenal decided to rest three of their stars in the u23s on Monday, presumably with the Europa League in mind, as the young Gunners drew 0-0 with Blackburn Rovers.
Emile Smith Rowe, Julio Pleguezuelo and Eddie Nketiah all sat out of the trip to Ewood Park yesterday. Losing one of the key creators in the team, the captain and the chief goalscorer probably didn’t help the u23s much, as they battled to a draw.
From the looks of things, all three are being saved for the Europa League squad to face FC Vorskla on Thursday.
Emile Smith Rowe
Smith Rowe had a fantastic pre-season, with impressive performances against Boreham Wood, Atletico Madrid and PSG. He had a bit more trouble against Chelsea, and ended up rejoining the academy teams afterwards. Nonetheless he’s clearly a massive talent.
Now might be Smith Rowe’s chance to get a competitive appearance under his belt for the senior side. He’s been in great form for the academy, scoring three goals in five games from midfield.
Similarly, Pleguezuelo is finally knocking on the door of the first-team. The 21-year-old defender has had to wait for his chance, but after impressing in the opening u23 games of the season, it seems like he might finally get it.
Pleguezuelo captained the side to recent wins over West Ham, Tottenham and Coventry City, even scoring a header and assisting a goal for Nketiah in those fixtures. With Nacho Monreal and Hector Bellerin in need of a rest, the youngster may be required to fill in at full-back for the team.
We all know about Nketiah by now. He burst onto the first-team scene with a couple of goals against Norwich City in the League Cup last season, and impressed again in his pre-season minutes this year.
The 19-year-old is doing what he does best at the moment, scoring four goals in his last five youth appearances for club and country. He also spent some of the international break training with the England first-team after a call up to fill in.
If Nketiah gets a chance, don’t be surprised to see him on the score-sheet by the end.