Checkatrade Trophy preview: Coventry City v Arsenal
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An Arsenal U21 side are set to kick-off their first-ever campaign in the Checkatrade Trophy against Coventry City in Group E. Read on for Layth Yousif’s in-depth preview of the match at the Ricoh Arena on Wednesday evening.
Arsenal face the Sky Blues in a group also containing League Two side’s Forest Green Rovers and Cheltenham Town.
Mark Robins’ City beat Oxford United 2-1 in League One on Sunday, but have had a challenging start to the new season after picking up one other win from their opening eight matches – conceding nine goals so far and have failed to score in four games this term.
However, their 22-year-old Sierra Leone striker Amadou Bakayoko could prove a handful against the young guns, after starting his career in Dutch youth football.
The 6ft 3in former Walsall forward has been hailed for the quality of his link-up play and his skill in holding the ball up with his back to goal.
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Arsenal head to the West Midlands with players from Freddie Ljungberg’s U23 side in excellent form having won their last two games in Premier League 2 against London rivals.
Following a 1-1 draw at the Emirates against Brighton in the third week of August which was marked by Reiss Nelson’s spectacular last minute curler in his last match for the club before his loan spell to Bundesliga side Hoffenheim, the junior gunners beat West Ham 3-2 at a wet and windswept London Stadium.
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An Eddie Nketiah brace aided the side in East London before goals from Joe Willock and Tyreece John-Jules ensured a 2-1 win over Tottenham Hotspur in N5 two weeks ago.
With Nelson departing Xavier Amaechi has a golden opportunity to shine in the Checkatrade along with other starlets such as defensive midfielder Charlie Gilmour, tough centre-half Danny Ballard, lively forward Tyreece John-Jules along with U23 captain Julio Pleguezuelo and possibly Emile Smith-Rowe as well as possibly Nketiah.
The side will join U21 teams from Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea in the forthcoming competition which starts in September and will feature the 48 League One and League Two clubs.
The format is designed to give the country’s leading young footballers the opportunity to gain experience of first-team football, while also providing EFL Clubs with an opportunity to attract new audiences and additional revenue in a competition that has long provided League One and League Two Clubs with a chance of silverware.
The first round of group stage fixtures is scheduled to take place in the week commencing Monday, September 3 with all of the Arsenal U21 group stage matches played away from home.
The invited teams were selected based on their final league position at the end of the 2017-18 season. The first 16 were invited to take part, and then subsequent teams – with Category One Academy status – invited as required.
Apart from Arsenal the other Premier League teams include Newcastle United, Brighton and Hove Albion, Southampton, Chelsea, Stoke City, Everton,
Swansea City, Fulham, Tottenham Hotspur, Leicester City, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Manchester City, West Ham United, Middlesbrough, West Bromwich Albion.
A number of minor rule changes have been confirmed for 2018-19 with EFL clubs now being given the opportunity to name players who are out on loan at National League Clubs, while invited teams will only be able to name two players over the age of 21 and with more than 40 first team appearances.
The group stage consists of sixteen groups of four teams with each group to contain one invited team.
Groups are formed to minimise overall travel for EFL clubs and fans with invited U21 teams to play all group games away.
Clubs will be awarded three points for a win, one point for a draw, In the event of a drawn game after 90 minutes, a penalty shoot-out will be held with the victorious team gaining an extra point.
Top two clubs qualify from each group, while round two and round three remains regionalised with group winners at home against a second-placed team from a different qualifying group.
The quarter-finals will be drawn without geographical restrictions and if scores are level after 90 minutes, all knock-out rounds will be decided by penalties except for the final, which will have extra-time and then penalties
For invited teams such as Arsenal they must have six players from 11 in the starting line-up at U21 level as at June 30 in the preceding season.
The Gunners may only include two players on the teamsheet aged over 21, who have made 40 or more senior appearances – measured as at June 30 in the preceding season.
A senior appearance will be defined as having played in a professional first-team fixture. A non-playing substitute does not count.
Player eligibility for EFL clubs will see four qualifying outfield players from 10, with a club allowed to field any eligible goalkeeper in the competition.
A qualifying outfield player will be classed as anyone who started the previous match, any player who is in the top 10 players at the club in terms of making the most starting appearances in league and domestic cup competitions that season.
It can also be a player with 40 or more first-team appearances in their career or a player on loan from a Premier League Club or any EFL side,
No player can appear for two different teams in the competition.
Follow Arsenal reporter Layth on Twitter @laythy29 for updates from the Ricoh and for his comprehensive coverage on all levels of the club.