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All Guns Blazing: Arsenal’s youngsters sense their chance of FA Youth Cup success

PUBLISHED: 08:26 26 February 2016 | UPDATED: 08:26 26 February 2016

Hugo Keto makes a save in the penalty shoot out during the FA Youth Cup tie (Photo by David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

Hugo Keto makes a save in the penalty shoot out during the FA Youth Cup tie (Photo by David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

2016 The Arsenal Football Club Plc

With glory having eluded them for far too long, there is a growing sense of belief that this could finally be the season in which Arsenal regain the FA Youth Cup.

The young Gunners have certainly had to work arduously in the competition so far. After overcoming West Bromwich Albion and Swansea City, they were taken to penalties by Coventry City at the Ricoh Arena and prevailed, with goalkeeper Hugo Keto performing the remarkable feat of saving three spot-kicks in the shoot-out.

That set up a quarter-final tie against Liverpool at Emirates Stadium next Friday night (March 4), with the Reds also renowned for having a stellar youth set-up.

For many of Arsenal’s starlets, this is their final chance to win the prestigious competition as they will not be eligible to participate next season.

There is a strong spine to the team, starting with Keto in goal and going to Krystian Bielik, who has been deployed mainly at centre-back this season. In midfield Ben Sheaf and Ismael Bennacer both offer a useful mixture of silk and skill, while there are an abundance of attacking options to select from, with Jeff Reine-Adelaide, Donyell Malen, Chris Willock, Stephy Mavididi, Kaylen Hinds and schoolboy Reiss Nelson all capable of causing problems.

Arsenal’s strength in depth at this level is such that talented players such as Yassin Fortune and Vlad Dragomir, as well as the Under-18s’ top scorer in the league, Eddie Nketiah, haven’t even made the bench in the Youth Cup this season.

They may well get their chance to shine in the competition next campaign, but for now the focus is very much on the current crop.

Liverpool won’t be an easy side to overcome, and the tie will be of particular importance to two members of their squad, with Ovie Ejaria and Mich’el Parker both graduates of Arsenal’s Hale End academy system.

Arsenal will have to be at their absolute best to progress, but their cause will be helped in that many of the players who will be representing the club against Liverpool have already featured prominently at Under-21 level.

With Arsenal largely struggling in this competition in recent years (bar the run to the semi-finals in 2013/14) there is a chance for this side, many of whom have progressed through the ranks together, to conclude their spell as Under-18 players in the best way possible.

Follow me @jeorgebird

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