ARSENAL KIDS AT COBHAM

By Philip Rolfe
Mar 20th, 2008

On Easter Sunday teatime millions around England will tune in for Sky’s Grand Slam Sunday as Chelsea take on Arsenal. By way of fate, the fixtures man has decreed that 48 hours earlier on Good Friday at Cobham, the two Under 18 teams will face off in what should be a game of the highest quality.

It promises to feature a weakened Chelsea team by virtue of the fact that the usual key names will be weary from a euphoric night in Birmingham on Wednesday. A 3-2 win at Villa Park put the Blues into the FA Youth Cup Final for the first time in 47 years. But with this game scheduled for just 36 hours after the game, it’s quite probably too much to expect to see any of the youngsters who’ve achieved such a brilliant feat to play, and so the challenge of playing a tough Arsenal team falls to other players.

Players who made their Reserve debuts on Monday night, perhaps. In the 2-0 win at Derby, Fabio Borini and Daniel Philliskirk both scored to mark their first outings at that level and should be right in contention for a place on Friday. Jordan Hibbert and Jordan Tabor both also played and should join the likes of Billy-Joe King, Nikki Ahmed and Frank Nouble in the team for what should shape up to be a team similar to the one that lost to Watford last weekend.

Arsenal are always a tough proposition at youth level. Whilst the team (shockingly) doesn’t feature many Carling Cup appearance holders, it is a very talented team in with a chance of finishing top of the table and winning the trophy should they do well in their games in hand. They opened the season with a 3-1 victory over Chelsea and in avoiding defeat in both fixtures last season, they’ll fancy their chances.

The star of their season has undoubtedly been midfielder Jack Wilshere. Much like our very own Nouble and Jeffrey Bruma, Wilshere entered the season as a schoolboy 15 year-old unable to become a scholar until the end of the season. From his central midfield berth, he has returned an incredible 11 goals in 12 games. His form in the second half of the season has tailed off somewhat, as has his appearances, but Nacer Barazite also has 11 goals and is pressing for a first team squad place.

Their form in 2008 though has been indifferent, with only one league win since the turn of the year and a surprising elimination from the FA Youth Cup. Some of the younger players have been getting a look ahead of the likes of Murphy and Lansbury, and so their side could be just as inexperienced as Chelsea’s, which would make for a very intriguing prospect.

This fixture last season finished 2-2, with Morten Nielsen and Sam Hurrell scoring, but having their goals cancelled out by Rhys Murphy and a late Kieran Gibbs stunner. The match takes place at Chelsea’s Cobham training ground with an 11am kick-off. Entry is free and encouraged. The nearest public transport is Cobham and Stoke D’Abernon Station, where you will then be able to ask a Chelsea security guard for directions from Platform 2. A full match report will follow on CFCnet.

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