Date: 22nd May 2009 at 5:21pm
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Well this isn’t the the big match up at the end of May that we were all hoping for, but nevertheless the true Arsenal kids are the subject of our attentions tonight. Wenger has received plenty of stick in recent weeks from the press, shareholders, my dog and cat, and rubbish blogs like Arsenal Action. But one thing Arsene should definitely receive praise for in this troubled time is his complete overhaul and renovation of our youth Academy. I think I can safely say, as a whole, this is the most talented group of youngsters we have ever had coming up. Gifted prodigies like Jay Emmanuel Thomas, Sanchez Watt, and Jack Wilshere would be making a strong first team push at many other Premier League teams. Steve Bould also should be on the receiving end of a big round of applause for the development of these youngsters. He has done a great job guiding these players in their quest to make the grade at Arsenal. In the Portsmouth game, recently, the entire bench was made up of reserve players.

The Reserve team has had it struggles in the reserve league this season, but in the cup they have been sterling. With the final being shown live on Setanta, many Arsenal fans will be able to see most of these players for the first time outside of the Carling Cup. Last year against Manchester United, large number of Gooners showed up at the Emirates Stadium for the semifinal against Manchester United. I hope there is a similar atmosphere there tonight.

Vital Quotes:

Wenger talked about some of the reserve players before the match.

“Jack Wilshere is already with us in the first team but there are plenty of players in there who could very quickly be in our first-team squad,” said Wenger.

Steve Bould is certainly confident in his troops. He had this to say: “I personally believe we`ve got the best players in the country – bar none – regardless of the result.

We`ve been a bit off-colour recently but I think they`re returning to their level. At Spurs [in the League Final] we did look something more like we did a few months ago. We looked like we`re getting back to something like we were all season.”

Arsenal Team News:

Bould has praised Henri Lansbury following his return from a loan spell at Scunthrope earlier in the year, where he scored 4 goals in 16 appearances from the midfield. The Englishman looks destined to start. The midfield will most likely consist of Lansbury, Jay Emmanuel Thomas, Frimpong, and Wilshere. Gilles Sunu and Sanchez Watt will probably start up front.

Player to watch: Jay Emmanuel Thomas

Thomas is the U-18 captain, and he featured in more games than any other player last season in the Reserves, with 37 appearances. He is also the co-leading scorer in the reserves this year with 12 goals. Look for him to dominate the midfield with his immense physical presence and silky skills on the ball.

Liverpool Team News:

I barely know the Arsenal reserve team players well, much less Liverpool. If any Pool fans want to add Liverpool team news to the preview, please post comments and engage in some banter below.

Player to watch: Thomas Ince

Thomas is the son of former Liverpool captain Paul Ince. He is an electrifying young left winger, and he will be looking to cause the Arsenal defense problems in the first leg.

Match Facts & Stats

Liverpool eliminated Arsenal last season in the fourth round of this competition.

Liverpool have won two of the last three FA youth cups.

Arsenal beat Man City, Spurs, Sunderland, and Wolves to get to the final.

Next Fixtures:

The second leg of this final is on Tuesday May 26th at Anfield.

If any of you local London Gooners don’t have any plans tonight, go out to the Grove and support the kids. Tickets are dirt cheap. I think they will go for about 5 pounds.

For those who can’t go to the match, it will be shown live on Arsenal TV or Setanta Sports.