With Aston Villa still having yet to play a single game since their kids did them proud in the FA Cup against Liverpool, it’s no doubt given Dean Smith plenty to think about heading into the second-half of this season.
The Villa boss saw his club’s academy talents really take the game to the reigning Premier League champions, and whilst they eventually succumbed to a 4-1 defeat, it was no reflection of their efforts.
And in central midfield, debutant Arjan Raikhy really held his own as he came up against the likes of established Champions League winners like Jordan Henderson and Georginio Wijnaldum.
The 18-year-old won four out of his seven ground duels, with only centre-back and captain for the night Dominic Revan winning more with five. Raikhy showed he could put his foot in and not be intimidated by the array of glittering stars on the opposite side to him, making two tackles as well – again, only Revan and fellow centre-back partner Mungo Bridge had more with three.
And writing his post-match ratings for The Birmingham Mail, Ashley Preece said: “I thought Raikhy was excellent. Pinched possession off Liverpool on numerous occasions to start attacks and worked tirelessly for the team. A proper No8 this kid is who’s still playing for Villa’s under-18s. A proud night for him and his family, that’s for sure. The teenager’s got a great future in the game.”
Co-founder of fan group, Punjabi Villans, Ricky Cheema raved: “Listen, Raikhy won so many supporters being on that pitch. They all played out of their skins, matched Liverpool to the 60th minute. I’d say when Raikhy came off the game changed but that’s another question!
“Honestly, it was incredible. It was ground-breaking, that’s what it was. Ground-breaking to see a lad play at the top level. So may it continue. This is the start and he played in our beloved claret and blue. It’s just poetry.”
With reports in recent days and weeks claiming that Villa will allow Conor Hourihane to depart the club on loan in this January transfer window, and Marseille midfielder Morgan Sanson could join, it’s looking like all change in the engine room.
What’s undoubted is that there’s nothing more satisfying for a football fan than seeing ‘one of your own’ make their mark on the first-team, and with Smith looking to revamp his midfield area with Hourihane’s departure and Sanson’s arrival, there’s a real opportunity for Raikhy to be brought into the fold more often too.
As a new signing Sanson would understandably bring some hype with him, but Villa should keep more than a close eye on Raikhy too.