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At last Arsenal reserves get a breakthrough (of sorts)

1.58K   //    04 Aug 2012, 12:21 IST

I’ve been arguing for some time that Premier League reserve teams should be able to play in the Football League, in the same way as happens in Spain, France, and Germany.  It is an idea that caught on a little, as Andre Villas Boas, when at Chelsea, suggested the same.  Naturally, he did not get an intelligent conversation back on this: the Football League called this “offensive”, but Everton manager David Moyes then revealed he tried to get Everton ‘B’ team to play in the Football Conference.

I have also suggested that since the English won’t play, the Scottish Third Division might be given a boost by having Arsenal Reserves in it, but on this one the footballing world has remained silent. The former France technical director Gerard Houllier said, “In England, you lose a lot of players between 18 and 21,” he said. “The two countries who are failing are England and Italy. I knew one or two players [when manager] at Aston Villa who did not have enough games to play at the top level. Between 18 and 20 there is nothing. In France when they don’t play on a Saturday, they can play for the reserves the next day.”

Arsenal have tried to compensate by using the loan system more and more vigorously, and we’ve often spoken here of the fact that Lorient is now increasingly looking like an Arsenal in the French League. But the reserves and youth team are taken as seriously as possible, and certainly more seriously than some clubs take the whole affair. Tottenham, Manchester City, QPR, Stoke for example have not played in a reserve league of late. ‘Arry pulled Tottenham out of all reserve competitions, and as for the others, I am not sure what they have been doing.

Up to last season, Arsenal played in The Premier Reserve League which started out in 1999 replacing the old Football Combination and the Central League. But no one was very happy with it and the format was re-organised time and time again. Also, because Arsenal tend to promote youngsters quickly and make great use of the loan system, they tended to use it as a chance for up coming players to experience competitive games, rather than going all out to win the league. While some clubs put unwanted members of their first team squad to play in the reserves, Arsenal never did this – using it totally for players who were over age for the Premier Academy League.

Now everything is changing. We now have the Barclays Under-21 Premier League, and there is the Next Gen knock out cup for teams across Europe. Suddenly, being a reserve is going to be a lot more fun.

Arsenal’s Under-21s will start this season with two fixtures at Emirates, against Bolton Wanderers on Monday, August 20 (kick-off 7pm) and Blackburn on Saturday, August 25 (kick-off 2pm). Teams can use three outfield players over the age of 21 and one over-age goalkeeper.

NextGen Series matches will be played at Underhill Stadium starting with Marseille on Wednesday, August 29 (kick-off 7pm). NextGen is in effect an Under-19 version of the Champions League (although teams are allowed to select up to three Under-20 players in their squad) with group stages followed by the knock out round from January onwards. Marseille are the first opponents to experience Barnet on August 29 (kick-off 7pm) before we play to Olympiacos on September 12.

Back in the new Reserve League, the 23 clubs have been divided into 3 groups. The top two teams in each group along with the two best 3rd place teams, will move into an ‘elite round’ of games to be played after Christmas. The other teams will then be divided up into 2 groups also for further games after Christmas.


Group A:
Arsenal, Blackburn, Bolton, Everton, Norwich, Reading, West Brom and West Ham.

Group B: 
Newcastle, Tottenham, Southampton, Stoke, Manchester United, Watford, Sunderland and Aston Villa.

Group C:
Fulham, Chelsea, Manchester City, Liverpool, Middlesbrough, Crystal Palace and Wolves.

Just so as you see the sort of players we are currently playing in our reserve side, here is the squad for saturday’s game: Chesham United v Arsenal, kick off 3pm.

1. James Shea
2. Hector Bellerin
3. Elton Monteiro
4. Zachari Fagan
5. Jernade Meade
6. Isaac Hayden
7. Jack Jebb
8. Kristoffer Olsson
9. Josh Rees
10. Philip Roberts
11. Nigel Neita
12. Martin Angha
13. Josh Vickers
14. Chuba Akpom
15. Alfred Mugabo
16. Samir Bihmoutine
17. Austin Lipman
18. Glen Kamara

Here are the details for the season proper…

Reserve Fixtures 2012/13
Mon, Aug 20Bolton WanderersUnder-21 Premier LeagueH19:00Emirates Stadium
Sat, Aug 25Blackburn RoversUnder-21 Premier LeagueH14:00Emirates Stadium
Wed, Aug 29MarseilleNextGen SeriesH19:00Barnet FC
Mon, Sep 3EvertonUnder-21 Premier LeagueH19:00Barnet FC
Wed, Sep 12OlympiacosNextGen SeriesATBCGeorgios Karaiskakis Stadium
Mon, Sep 17Norwich CityUnder-21 Premier LeagueH19:00Barnet FC
Fri, Sep 21West Ham UnitedUnder-21 Premier LeagueA19:00Old Ford Sports Ground
Mon, Oct 1West Bromwich AlbionUnder-21 Premier LeagueA14:00The Hawthorns
Thu, Oct 4OlympiacosNextGen SeriesH19:00Barnet FC
Mon, Oct 8ReadingUnder-21 Premier LeagueH19:00Barnet FC
Mon, Oct 22EvertonUnder-21 Premier LeagueA19:00St Helens RLFC
Thu, Oct 25MarseilleNextGen SeriesATBCTBC
Mon, Oct 29Blackburn RoversUnder-21 Premier LeagueA19:00Leigh RFC
Mon, Nov 5Bolton WanderersUnder-21 Premier LeagueA19:00Lancashire FA
Fri, Nov 9West Ham UnitedUnder-21 Premier LeagueH13:00London Colney
Thu, Nov 15Athletic BilbaoNextGen SeriesATBCTBC
Mon, Nov 19Norwich CityUnder-21 Premier LeagueA19:00Carrow Road
Fri, Nov 23West Bromwich AlbionUnder-21 Premier LeagueH13:00London Colney
Fri, Nov 30ReadingUnder-21 Premier LeagueA13:00Hogwood Park Training Ground
Thu, Dec 6Athletic BilbaoNextGen SeriesH19:00Barnet FC
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Writes the Uncovered column in the Arsenal programme, and chair of Arsenal History Society. Committee member of Aisa, ST holder, author of Making the Arsenal.
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