The 2023 FA Youth Cup final pits Arsenal and West Ham United against each other at the Emirates Stadium on Tuesday (7.00 pm).
Seeking their eighth title and first since 2008/09 when they beat Liverpool 5-3 on aggregate, the Gunners come into proceedings on the back of a 2-2 draw away to Leicester City.
With only Chelsea and Manchester United conquering the competition more often, Arsenal will be looking to close the gap under Jack Wilshere’s stewardship.
Wilshere’s on-field performance inspired the London outfit to their last FA Youth Cup title in 2009, and the 31-year-old will be keen to bring the trophy back to north London as a coach.
As highlighted by the former midfielder in his recent interview with the Daily Mail, leading Arsenal’s U18s in the final will be one of the best experiences of his life.
Standing between him and this flattering reward will be a West Ham side that thumped Leicester 3-1 in the build-up to this fixture, bolstering the club’s bid to win the prize for the fourth time.
The Hammers’ first success in the competition dates back to 1963 when they ousted Liverpool, while they last took home the trophy in 1999 courtesy of a 9-0 demolition of Coventry City across two legs.
Arsenal will have to beat the odds to replicate the 2009 feat as they go into this encounter as betting outsiders, stuck fourth from the bottom in the Premier League South.
Wilshere’s side slumped to a clear-cut 2-0 defeat to their upcoming title challengers in league football earlier this month, a result that forms part of their underwhelming five-game winless league run (D1, L4).
However, the Gunners proved they’re capable of pulling off upsets by ousting runaway Premier League North leaders Manchester City in the semi-finals.
Following a 1-1 draw in regulation time, Myles Lewis-Skelly slotted home the 120th-minute winner to catapult Arsenal to the title decider against the odds.
But after losing their last three competitive meetings with West Ham by an aggregate score of 9-1, Wilshere’s side may have to overcome a psychological barrier to triumph in front of the home crowd.
West Ham’s outrageous form in the lead-up to the final will inspire confidence in the visiting camp ahead of their first appearance in the FA Youth Cup since Joe Cole and Michael Carrick helped them lift the trophy in 1999.
Kevin Keen’s men have won their last three competitive outings via multi-goal margins, netting a whopping 11 goals in that run while conceding only two in return.
And while the senior team have experienced a season they’d want to forget in a hurry despite bolstering their survival hopes with three wins in the last five Premier League matchdays, another exciting young generation could restore glory to West Ham’s famous youth academy.
Keen’s vintage crop, led by the up-and-coming forward Divin Mubama, swept Southampton aside in the FA Youth Cup semi-finals 6-1, with the 18-year-old sensation bagging a hat-trick.
Mubama is not the only West Ham youngster that should be under the spotlight on Tuesday.
The Hammer’s leading goalscorer Callum Marshall looks to maintain his FA Youth Cup scoring spree, having netted in his last two appearances in the competition.
How could Arsenal line up?
(4-3-3): Alexei Rojas; Josh Robinson, Maldini Kacurri, Luis Brown, Josh Nichols; Michal Rosiak, Seb Ferdinand, Harrison Dudziak; Ismeal Kabia, Osman Kamara, Omari Benjamin.
How could West Ham United line up?
(3-4-1-2): Dondre Abraham; Josh Briggs, Billy Bates, Ezra Mayers; Gabriel Caliste, Tyron Akpata, Daniel Rigge, Emeka Adeile; Divin Mubama; Blaise Uwandji, Callum Marshall.
We Say: Arsenal 1-3 West Ham United
West Ham have reigned supreme this season and boast a significant advantage in recent H2H stakes.
We expect Keen’s side to stroll to victory at the Emirates.