Last night Arsenal beat Spurs 5-2 after extra time in the FA Youth Cup. A write up of the game can be found over on Jeorge Bird’s Arsenal Youth Blog. The win saw Arsenal progress to the fifth round of the competition – in which Arsenal made the final last year.
Arsenal’s victory in the competition over their North London rivals is even more impressive considering the likes of Emile Smith Rowe and Zech Medley were not involved despite being eligible.
For some time I have been thinking that during the sticky period, where Arsenal have struggled for a consistent line up and tactics, should Unai Emery have had faith in some of the youngsters, rather than swapping and changing his tactics to fit in whatever first teamers he had available.
We have struggled with width this season, due to a lack of natural wide man. In Xavier Amaechi and Bukayo Saka Arsenal have two teenagers with pace to burn and talent in abundance.
Amaechi was out injured until November, and Saka is just 17-years-old, but both could have contributed in recent weeks.
If the talent is there, age is nothing but a number, just like Matteo Gunedouzi has shown.
Could both have offered something out wide? Or at least been an option coming off the bench? I look at the West Ham game when we were crying out for width and pace. Had we bought the pair on in the 70th minute, I am sure they would have contributed.
Moving up a little older, Joe Willock and Ainsley Maitland-Niles have both spent a lot of their youth careers playing out wide. Could they not have been an option to offer us width on the wings?
And with emery struggling to play either Mesut Ozil or Aaron Ramsey for whatever reasons, could Willock have been given a shot in behind the striker? He offers the running from deep and goals that we have missed this season.
At the back we have seen Grant Xhaka and Stephan Lichsteiner both fill in at centre back. Why were they selected over Zech Medley?
Medley is raw at 18-years-old, but he is 6 4, quick and good on the ball. Alongside a senior partner (either Laurent Koscielny, Shkodran Mustafi or Sokratis has always been available), Medley could have been guided through the game.
Would it have been a better option to play a proper central defender at centre back even if he is raw? I think yes.
With Arsenal set not to buy anyone in January, Emery surely has to consider playing some of the youngsters who are natural in their positions, rather than continuing to chop and change and put square pegs in round holes?