Arsenal u23s kick off the new Premier League 2 season with a match against Blackburn Rovers on Monday night.
Arsenal u23s are travelling up to Blackburn for their first competitive fixture of the season, after a second-place Premier League 2 finish in 2018/19.
Whilst the u23s have lost a few key players to the first team and transfers, such as Bukayo Saka, Joe Willock, Xavier Amaechi and Eddie Nketiah, they’re also gaining a number of players from an u18 side that won the u18 Premier League south division last season.
That includes prolific scorer Folarin Balogun, u18 captain and pass-master Matt Smith and confident centre-back Harry Clarke, among others.
The Blackburn match is at 19:00 on Monday, 12th August 2019. It’s being held at the Leyland County Ground, for those that wish to attend.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like the game will be streamed, though we’ll update this article if that changes. The highlights will be on Arsenal Player a day or two after the game though, and the Arsenal Academy Twitter account should provide live updates.
Let’s have a look at our predicted team for the match.
Predicted Lineup (4-3-3)
In the absence of any evidence to the contrary, we’ll assume Steve Bould is going to stick with the 4-3-3 that worked so well last season and got some good results in pre-season too.
James Hillson has travelled, and with Arthur Okonkwo’s continued absence, Hillson seems most likely to start. Tom Smith is also available as an alternative.
Rob Holding is going to continue his comeback from injury by playing some minutes, according to Unai Emery in his press conference on Sunday. Zech Medley is his most likely partner after he joined the first team on tour in pre-season.
Last season’s u18 centre-backs Harry Clarke and Mark McGuinness will both be pushing for games after their promotion to the u23s this summer.
The full-back positions are becoming a bit of a problem, with Dominic Thompson leaving on a permanent deal and Jordi Osei-Tutu going on loan. Thankfully, left-back Tolaji Bola is back from injury, and Zak Swanson can fill in at right-back.
James Olayinka has travelled, and he’s likely to join Robbie Burton in dropping back to the u23s after a promising first-team pre-season. Matt Smith and Jordan McEneff are both candidates for the third midfield role, but Smith is the more experienced of the two.
With Ben Cottrell playing for the u18s at the weekend, he’s presumably set to miss this one, though his recent performances have been good enough to earn him more u23 appearances.
Amaechi is gone, Saka travelled with the first team on Sunday, so Monday’s front three is certain to look very different to last season.
Trae Coyle has travelled, and he’ll start on the left, but Arsenal will probably have to use Tyreece John-Jules out wide on the right in lieu of any real alternatives. John-Jules played the position a few times last season, so that shouldn’t be a major issue.
Folarin Balogun is likely to complete the front three, after six goals in his last three games in pre-season. With his electric pace, he could easily shift out wide instead of John-Jules if necessary.
Hillson; Swanson, Holding, Medley, Bola; Olayinka, Smith, Burton; Coyle, Balogun, John-Jules