Arsenal face Derby in the U18 Premier League Playoff Final on Tuesday, in a match to decide the overall champions of the country this season.
After a run of 12 consecutive league wins to end the season, it was no surprise to see Arsenal’s u18 side finishing on top of the u18 Premier League south last month. However, in order to earn the crown of overall champions, they have to take on the winners of the north division, Derby County.
There have been plenty of star performers in the team this season. From Folarin Balogun scoring over 30 goals in all competitions to Matt Smith captaining the side from midfield and topping the assist charts.
Mark McGuinness and Harry Clarke have formed an impressive centre-back partnership at the back, whilst Trae Coyle and Ben Cottrell have shown some of their best form all season in the last couple of months.
In all honesty, you could go through every member of the team, as they’ve all played their part in a great campaign. There’s still one match left to go, though.
When is the game and how do I watch it?
The match will be played on Tuesday at 7pm (BST), in Pride Park, the stadium of Derby’s first team. However, if you can’t make it up to the ground, the club has confirmed the game will also be streamed on their website, app and Facebook page, with coverage starting from 6:30pm.
The bad news is that a few players have gone away on international duty, with the u17 European Championships kicking off last week. Sam Greenwood, Miguel Azeez and Yunus Musah have all played on a number of occasions for the Arsenal u18s, and none of them will be available for this final.
The good news is that some of the u23s will be able to drop down and fill in, given their season is already over. Tyreece John-Jules, Bukayo Saka, Xavier Amaechi and Arthur Okonkwo are all available for the game.
Greenwood’s position on the right wing can be filled by Amaechi, whilst Ben Cottrell can drop back into Azeez’s sitting midfield spot, leaving a gap for John-Jules to play behind the striker, as he has done on a number of occasions with the u18s.
That does depend on whether Cottrell is fit, however, after coming off late in the last league game against Fulham. If not, another u23 could fill in, as midfielder James Olayinka is still eligible at that level.
Okonkwo’s three clean sheets in four games with the u23s surely make him favourite to start in goal over Tom Smith, who has been filling in for the u18s recently. Bukayo Saka could possibly replace Trae Coyle, but there’s no need for him to do so given Coyle is available, so he’ll probably take up a spot on the bench.