Monday, January 4, 2010

Assessing The Young Irons and Young Guns From The West Ham-Arsenal FA Cup Match

The FA Cup never fails to bring romance back into the game of football. In classic David versus Goliath fashion, Leeds United relived moments of their past glories by shocking a strangely subdued Manchester United. That win brought about feelings of "can do" while approaching the subsequent FA Cup 3rd round match of the weekend, West Ham United versus Arsenal. Could West Ham do what Leeds had done to the Mighty Reds?

Well for about 65 minutes, West Ham were working hard to preserve a lead given by a well-taken first half Diamanti goal. It was inevitable really, as much as the workrate and effort was close to herculean (especially from Behrami!), West Ham could not sustain that kind of energy throughout the 90 minutes. And so in the last 25 minutes, the Hammers were pinned too deep in their half and were repeatedly chasing shadows as Arsenal finally penetrated the stout defence that West Ham had put up. Replacing two young potential stars with two experienced international (Diaby and Nasri) definitely tipped the balance in Arsenal's favour.

More interestingly was that this FA Cup 3rd round match allowed us to catch a glimpse of what's in store for the future as both teams blooded the youth. Young players who could be key players for their respective clubs in the next few years. Here, I want to assess their capability and readiness for the Premier League based on their performance in this game.

West Ham Young Irons
Frank Nouble - England's U-19 striker
Built like a barn house, he has the physical presence and strength to deal with Premiership defences. Unfortunately, in this match, he was no match for the experience of Gallas and Vermaelen. Looked great at times shielding the ball with his back against goal, but ran out of ideas (due to inexperience, perhaps) while he tried to link up play. A bit hesitant to shoot at goal initially, but did worry the Arsenal central defensive partnership briefly in the second half.

Still a work in progress. Not ready yet for the Premiership. Needs to work on technique and game awareness.

Fabio Daprela - Switzerland's U-19 left back
The young Swiss gave the best performance out of the young Irons on show. Tall, athletic and powerful, he contributed significantly on the left flank, supporting the attack and keeping Jack Wilshere quiet. A few mazy runs could have ended better if Daprela shown a little bit more maturity and composure. Looks good enough to be given a Premiership start.

Herita Ilunga have serious competition for the left full back berth. With Ilunga's current hamstring injury, Fabio Daprela is ready for the step up on the evidence of this display.

Junior Stanislas - England's U-21 midfielder
I have seen Junior Stanislas a few times already this season in Premier League matches. From what I have seen of this young Englishman, he has the potential to be an effective Premiership player. He has shown he can score goals at the top level. Although naturally right-footed, he has shown versatility and tactical appreciation by doing a job on the left side of midfield. That was where he started against Arsenal.

Still a bit raw right now, next year could be the breakout year for Stanislas. His natural ability hardened by this season's experience under his belt could enable him to develop into a right midfielder of importance for West Ham.

Freddie Sears - England's U-21 striker
Touted as the next Tony Cottee, he was hardly in the game last night when he came on as a substitute for Frank Nouble. Called back from Crystal Palace in the new year, he could feature in some matches considering the lack of striking options available to Gianfranco Zola. Known to be a prolific scorer in U-18s and reserve team, he should be looking forward to contribute positively to West Ham's relegation battle.

Arsenal Young Guns
Jack Wilshere - England's U-21 midfielder
Considered as the bright young hope of England's future, Wilshere showed glimpses of his confidence and attacking threat in the first half. He looked comfortable on the ball, with ability to dribble and ghost past defenders. Seem to crumble a little bit under some heavy tackling by Fabio Daprela though.

Looks an outstanding prospect, however he will need to grow physically to cope with the demands of Premiership football.

Aaron Ramsey - Wales' international midfielder
Without a doubt, the most impressive of the youngsters on display. He started the move in which he scored the equalizing goal. Just like Cesc Fabregas before him, Aaron Ramsey is already a big game player at the age of 19! He is destined to lead the Arsenal midfield for years to come.

Pure Premiership class.

Fran Merida - Spain's U-19 midfielder

I was most excited at seeing Fran Merida starting this match. However, the Spaniard was disappointing. Quite clearly, the pace and hard tackling proved too much for his liking. Although held in extremely high esteem within Arsenal, he does not look suited for the Premiership and on the evidence of last night's FA Cup match, he will struggle. Though sorry to see him go, he could be best suited back in the Spanish La Liga.

Will not be staying in the Premiership much longer.

A great match not only because of the passion and intensity of an FA Cup match but also a nice insight to what the future holds for both West Ham and Arsenal.

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