England U19s and Arsenal striker stars in UEFA Youth League
Chuba Akpom says he is loving the chance to test himself against Europe’s best young players in the UEFA Youth League.
The England U19s international starred in Arsenal’s 4-1 defeat of Napoli on Wednesday evening - scoring two and creating another - and the young forward says the opportunity to play against teams from across the continent can only aid him and his teammates’ development.
Akpom said: “The UEFA Youth League is a definitely a good experience for us.
“Looking at the first team playing in the Champions League against some of the best teams around, and for us to play against their youth sides, it can only be a positive experience.
“Playing an Italian team is very different to playing a team from the Premier League - you have to adapt. I think we have an advantage because in England the football is quicker, so our tempo was good – we got out there tonight, started quick and it took them a while to get used to the speed of the game.”
Akpom opened the scoring from the penalty spot on 38 minutes, after Armando Anastasio brought down Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill.
Two goals in two minutes at the beginning of the second half from England U17s international Austin Lipman put the game out of reach of the Italians.
Napoli did pull one back through Gerardo Rubino, but Akpom added his second and Arsenal’s fourth to secure the points for the Gunners - to make it two wins from two in the competition so far this season.
Akpom may have had a hat-trick, but it was not to be – as Napoli keeper Contini Baranovsky saved his second penalty midway through the second half.
Speaking after the game though, the 17-year-old was in good spirits.
He said: “It was a good game today, I got two goals – I think I could have got a lot more, but it wasn’t to be. I think we played well as a team though and hopefully we can go away and do the same. The hat-trick wasn’t to be tonight, but hopefully next time out I can do better.
“This is my first game because before I was with the first team. I really enjoyed it, and the standard is very high and I think that when the standards are high it gets the best out of you.”
Akpom and Isaac Hayden, who also featured on Wednesday evening, have been named in Noel Blake’s 18-man England U19s squad
and will travel to Slovenia next week to begin their UEFA European U19 Championship qualifying campaign.
As well as the hosts, the Young Lions have been drawn in a group alongside Andorra and Switzerland - and will face all three between 10-15 October.
After last night’s man of the match display, Akpom will be joining the squad full of confidence.
He added: “I’m really excited and looking forward to going away with the England U19s. Last year I went with the 19’s as well so I have the experience now at that level. Hopefully we can qualify.
“We’ve got a good team and we’ve got Noel who is a great manager as well – so I’m really looking forward to it.”
Image courtesy of Arsenal FC