Arsenal's U21s discover opponents for first Checkatrade Trophy appearance

Arsenal's U21s have been drawn against Coventry City, Cheltenham Town and Forest Green Rovers in the upcoming season's Checkatrade Trophy.

The Gunners are in group E of the southern section of the draw with fixtures starting the week commencing Monday 3rd September.

The 2018/19 competition will be the first time Arsenal's U21s have competed in the Checkatrade Trophy, having previously rejected the opportunity to do so. They will join 15 other academy teams in the group stages.

About the competition

Previously the Johnstone's Paint Trophy, the style of the competition was changed in 2016/17 to include academy sides.

It was unfortunately marked with low attendances with many EFL club's fans taking badly to the format change.

The tournament was once a respected one, giving football league clubs the opportunity at a chance of silverware.

Instead, it is now seen as a way to integrate youth players into senior football.

There are 16 regional groups, each of which includes an U21 side. The top two in the group advance to the knock-out stages before advancing through the rounds in the north and south sections.

The respective winners of each regional section then face each other in the final at Wembley Stadium. Last season's winners were Lincoln City.

Arsenal will be taking on the inaugural winners of the competition since it's format change, with Coventry having won it in 2016/17.

There are different rules for EFL clubs compared to academies with the latter having to play at least six players who have featured at U21 level as of 30th June 2018. There can be at most, two players over the age of U21 in the squad.

Which Arsenal players could feature?

Those rules mean that a host of promising young Arsenal stars could feature in the competition. The likes of Reiss Nelson, Joe Willock and Eddie Nketiah may all be given a chance of gaining minutes against senior players but new manager Unai Emery may prefer for them to be used them in the Europa League.

The Gunners have a new academy boss too, with Per Mertesacker hanging up his boots and taking his place among the backroom staff. He is therefore expected to take charge of the team that play in the Checkatrade trophy.

Young full-back Jordi Osei-Tutu and the hotly tipped Emile Smith Rowe featured in the Gunners' pre-season match with Borehamwood recently and they are two more names who can be expected to play in the Checkatrade Trophy.

Xavier Amaechi, a player who impressed recently as Arsenal made it to the FA Youth Cup final is also likely to play a part.

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