The Wood round off their 2023 pre-season with the annual visit of Arsenal, who will once again put out an XI against the National League side. Hale End enjoyed another successful year of development for their youngsters who finished seventh in Premier League 2, with the side looking for another strong year with the title in their sights. The Wood are returning of their first win of pre-season with a 3-0 win against Potters Bar Town and will be looking to end the summer in-form.
IN FOCUS: Arsenal XI
Arsenal XI will consist of players from the Under-21s and Academy players from their renowned Hale End academy. The academy teams plays in the highest youth league possible, Premier League 2, and finished seventh out of 14 teams. The club also competes in the FA Youth Cup and UEFA Youth league competitions. Former Arsenal captain Per Mertesacker is the current academy manager.
Previously known as the Reserves, is the highest-level squad withing the Hale End setup. They train at the Arsenal Training Centre and play the majority of their home games at the Home of the Wood, Meadow Park, but have played at the home of the first team, Emirates Stadium. It is one of the most successful academy setups in England, winning seven FA Youth Cups together with six Premier League Academy titles altogether. Most notable players in the current team to graduate to the first team are Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe, Eddie Nketiah and Reiss Nelson.
The youth setup has been in place since 1887, known as Royal Arsenal FC which was essentially the reserve team of Arsenal, but operated as a a youth team from 1893-94 season known as Arsenal “A” team.
2022-23 SEASON REVIEW
Arsenal U21 side is the most senior side in the youth setup and competed in the Premier League 2 for the 2022-23 season. Finishing seventh with a record of 8-10-8 (W-D-L) from 26 games was a some-what disappointing season for one of England’s most prestigious academy’s. Top scorer for the Gunners last season was Charles Sagoe Jr, who managed six goals in 26 games from the left-wing.
The Arsenal Under-18 side competed in the U18 Premier League South for the 2022/23 campaign where they only managed 11th place out of 12 spots, finishing with a record of 6-5-11 (W-D-L) from 22 games.
Academy players to feature for the senior side this season included Reiss Nelson, Eddie Nketiah, Emile Smith Rowe, Bukayo Saka and Ethan Nwaneri, with the latter making his debut aged 15, after playing Under-16 football last year.
ONE TO WATCH: CHARLIE PATINO
Charlie Patino, is an English central midfielder who rose quickly through the ranks at Arsenal, featuring for the under-18 side at only the age of 14. He has been seen as one of Hale Ends most promising youth prospects, with the head of Scouting at Arsenal saying he is the “best player who has ever walked through the doors at Hale End”. He signed his first professional contract in October 2020, and made his senior Arsenal debut in December 2020 against Sunderland and scored the final goal of the 5-1 win. On 9 January 2022, he was a starter in a 1-0 FA Cup third-round loss to Nottingham Forest.
He spent last season on loan at Blackpool FC with senior game-time at the centre of his development. In his time in the second division, he played 37 games, scoring three as the Tangerines finished second-bottom, and relegated to League One.
HAVEN’T WE MET BEFORE?
The Wood’s final pre-season friendly of 2022 ended victorious against an Arsenal XI, with a Danny Elliott strike five minutes from time to succumbing the visitors to a 3-2 loss, following an end-to-end affair.
The opener came from a Zak Brunt delivery meeting Fyfield at the back post who broke the deadlock with a bullet header, however Edwards got on the end of Nathan Butler’s low cross to equalise mere seconds after the break.
Butler would be involved once more when he showed good strength to get to the byline playing a low cross into the danger area which was cleared as far as Sagoe Jr who fired into the back of the net to give Arsenal a 2-1 lead just after the hour-mark. This was cancelled out a little over ten minutes later though, with Danny Newton getting down the left before sending a low cross into the path of Rees, the former Arsenal academy player opened his body up to calmly slot the ball into the bottom corner. It got even better for the Wood, with George Williams getting down the right flank with his low cross being converted by Elliott to send the Wood Army into raptures.
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