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Arsenal win through in the under 21 league cup

By Tony Attwood

We are used to seeing Arsenal reserves and youth teams doing well in their leagues – but not this season.   Here’s the league table for the under 21s.  It is a 22 team league, and here’s the top 12.









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1 Fulham U21 12 8 4 0 25 15 10 28
2 Liverpool U21 11 7 1 3 34 21 13 22
3 Chelsea U21 12 6 4 2 32 19 13 22
4 Sunderland U21 11 6 3 2 25 17 8 21
5 West Ham U21 12 6 3 3 23 18 5 21
6 Man City U21 11 6 1 4 23 16 7 19
7 Southampton U21 12 6 1 5 21 22 -1 19
8 Bolton U21 13 5 3 5 25 25 0 18
9 Man Utd U21 11 4 4 3 18 12 6 16
10 Norwich U21 12 5 1 6 17 17 0 16
11 West Brom U21 13 5 1 7 22 29 -7 16
12 Arsenal U21 10 4 3 3 17 18 -1 15

The under 18s league is even worse.











1 Fulham U18 17 11 3 3 49 26 23 36
2 Chelsea U18 16 10 3 3 43 18 25 33
3 Tottenham U18 15 10 2 3 42 26 16 32
4 Aston Villa U18 17 9 5 3 36 26 10 32
5 West Ham U18 17 9 4 4 33 20 13 31
6 Norwich U18 19 8 3 8 29 32 -3 27
7 Reading U18 16 8 2 6 32 32 0 26
8 Southampton U18 18 7 5 6 31 32 -1 26
9 Leicester U18 18 4 2 12 22 33 -11 14
10 West Brom U18 17 2 5 10 18 38 -20 11
11 Arsenal U18 16 1 6 9 16 29 -13 9

So what’s going on?

I am far from being an expert, but I suspect the answer is that the new policy means that the very best players are pushed quickly up through the teams to see if they really can deliver – the theory being that if you are going to be good enough you will probably be delivering by 18, as we have seen with Gnabry and Zelalem.

And that means the league sides are full of players who are below the age limit – which at the same time letting players who have not quite made it go – perhaps letting them go more quickly than used to be the case.  Nico Yennaris is, I understand, the latest.

But despite all this Arsenal is pulling out a few special treats in the cups. We have already put Fulham, the league leaders, out of the Under 21 League Cup, and earlier this month Ian reported on the 6-1 thrashing of Peterborough in the fourth round of the FA Youth Cup.   Yesterday we handed out, well not a thrashing, but still a defeat of Chelsea in the under 21 League Cup.

We won 1-0 with a goal from Benik Afobe (his fourth in the seven games since returning from his very long injury lay off) against a Chelsea team that is supposed to be sublime playing at Aldershot, which is not sublime.

Also in the team as a sub was Jon Toral who is reported in some quarters to be the Next Big Thing – which presumably means a free transfer to a club I’ve never heard of any day now.

Reports suggest it wasn’t a great game but it is a win in a season where there are not too many of those.  And just to make my earlier point about players being upgraded beyond their years these days, the side included two first team squad members in Ryo and Gedion Zelalem.

Here is the team…


Boateng   Ajayi   Pleguezuelo  Ormonde-Ottewill

Hayden       Zelalem

Ryo      Olsson   Eisfeld


The one sub used was Toral who came on for Ryo in the second half.

I always admit I am useless at picking which players really will make it from this level.  But there are names we keep hearing – like Isaac Hayden.  If he does come through you heard it here, well not first, but you heard it here.  If not, just forget it.


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14 comments to Arsenal win through in the under 21 league cup

  • Any kind of win at any level and across gender against Chelsea is always a good thing.

    Congrats to the boys!

  • Emmanuel Ongiertho

    I hope we do not become like England that fast-tracts young players to the senior squad leaving a huge gap at the lower age group.

  • Emmanuel Ongiertho,

    England fast-track young players because of the poor ability of their senior stars, especially against better countries. Arsenal does not, and will not have that problem. We fast-track only young players that are true class. Besides, the purpose of the lower age groups is to feed the clubs’ senior teams. If half of our U-21 are true class and we move them up where they help us achieve a particular goal, it would be better achievement for the club than them staying in the lower age age group to win an U-21 cup.

    Honestly, I don’t feel too bad seeing us mid table in the age group leagues when I think about the context of our situation. I am extremely proud of our boys beating Chelsea though 🙂

  • insideright

    Two other things to take into account are the number of games we have played (on average two fewer than clubs above us) and international call-ups that regularly weaken our teams – perhaps more than others.
    Getting players through the ranks and into anyone’s first team is an outstanding achievement. Getting them into our own team is close to miraculous. Have you noticed it happening recently at Chelsea or Citeh? No, neither have I.

  • jb

    The clever (Arsenal) strategy is to move players up the ranks 16s, 18s, 21s early. If they manage to shine as underage in a tougher pool then they have a chance to proceed with the club, if not then they are cut. So it is ALL about finding elite talent and as soon as possible, not about league results. Other clubs are beginning to do this as well but some depend on their youth teams to feed many players up so are more restrained.

  • WalterBroeckx

    I have seen bits and pieces of the match on my computer.
    Thanks to Chelsea TV FFS. Let me start by saying that I find it very annoying that Arsenal for an unknown reason has stopped live broadcasting U21 matches a few seasons ago. I was a regular viewer of these matches and they gave me great pleasure. I have seen Jack making his first impressions as a 15-16 year old boy and I miss those days.

    As I had to go and get my daughter at some stage I missed some things and couldn’t see the whole match.
    For some strange reason the ground looked familiar to me. And only today I found out that this was the ground where for the first time in my life I have watched a live match in England. We stayed in the neighbourhood of Aldershot with our football team to play a tournament and the guest family where we stayed took us to that match (a final of some youth competition). It must have been some 40 years ago…so I felt really old when I found out about it.

    What I did see was a terrible terrible pitch. Mud, wobbly, in my eyes a pitch not worthy of such a match. So conditions were bad (for both teams). But unfortunately the conditions made it impossible to play good football. Maybe PL teams could be forced to also have the youth teams play on good pitches as this was really a big shame I thought.

    Arsenal wasn’t at their best and I didn’t see much fluent passes. (pitch conditions) and so both teams played a game that was based on one player trying to penetrate the other defence, hoping for a lucky bounce left, right or in the centre but most of the efforts were halted by the mud at some stage.

    The goal itself in the first minute of the second period of extra time was a good one. Olsson with a nice pass over the defence, Afobe on to it and a nice lob over the keeper. Both teams could have scored a few more but the quality of the game was not really what I had hoped for. (again looks at pitch)

    About players… Ryo is not going to make it. I saddens me to say so. He should be one to catch the eye at this level but nothing much he showed. The pitch wasn’t suited for Zelalem who is a passing player but as there were no passes to be made he didn’t shine either. From the players on display I think only Zelalem can make it.

    So next time I would like to see them play on a good pitch and then I will maybe change my view.

  • Asif

    Have been travelling a lot these days…and have not been able to comment in a long time, though I try and read as many articles as possible but to comment from my phone is a tedious thing. Anyway…

    Congrats to our boys for beating the Chelski youth team (who btw will not ever get into their senior side…since there are too many players to be bought…does their manager ever visit them?)!

    Good going…COYG

  • bob mac

    I watched Arsenal U21 play at Middlesbrough.

    The Boro team was made up of first team regulars, with the remainder being senior players.

    The Arsenal team was a much younger development squad.

    Hence the league position, which obviously has no relevance at all to the developing of young players to first team standard

  • Armin

    I am really wandering what is with Eisfield, I expected him to be the Gnabry this season. I admit I didn’t sow him too much playing in yout teams so I don’t have idea where hi stands with chances to break in to first team soon.
    And about Ryo, unfortunately I think too, England doesn’t suits to him. But you never know, many thought it about Song etc.

  • Tasos

    Watched the game on stream via Chelski TV.

    The pitch was awful. Chelsea looked the better team overall and played some decent football at times but they seriously lack a goalscorer.

    Arsenal failed to impress, partly due the conditions no doubt but its difficult to see many of these players making the first team (Zelalem aside).

    BTW Dutch club Vitesse Arnhem formed an agreement to be used as a feeder club for Chelsea. Vitesse are challenging for the league title and currently lie second in the dutch championship, two points behind Ajax. Chelsea also have a number of players loaned out at English Championship club Middlesbrough.

    Apparently José Mourinho is on a mission to develop home-grown Chelsea talent into the first team but the arrivals of Nemanja Matic, for £21m from Benfica, and Salah for £11m from Basel would suggest otherwise.

  • Mike T

    First of well done to Arsenal U21 on their win yesterday

    Its easy to poke a stick in terms players coming through Chelsea youth policy but till 2008 we lacked an integrated academy and after years of neglect slowly but surely players are starting to show.

    I thought your comment about players being pushed through the age levels quickly was interesting. Its something Chelsea have also embarked on indeed, in Chelsea’s starting 11 yesterday there were 5 aged 17 and 6 aged 18.
    Two of which Ake & Baker have already both make their first team debuts.

    Chelsea have so far failed miserably to meet the long term target of two youth products moving up to the first team squad each season but the club, and hence why Mourinio made his comments regarding the development of home grown talent, are pretty sure that the current crop of youth will come good. But as they say watch this space.

    As an aside Arsenals starting 11 was made up of 2 aged 17 , 3 aged 18, 1 aged 19, 20 aged 20 & 3 aged 21

  • ARSENAL 13

    Trophies would be a thing to brag about, but at the developmental level I would like to see the club focus more on player development……

    Any player looking good should be fastracked to the higher level. That’s the best for club and player I believe..

  • Linz

    THIS is why Brady has been “retired” with the youth teams seriously underperforming over recent years.It is so important to get youngsters through to the first team squad;it enables us to spend our budget on top,top quality like Ozil to supplement the homegrowns, as well as providing another source of income if we can actually get a fee for players we don’t want to keep instead of just having to release them..Did you know that Barca’s First team squad cost less than ours? We have the 9th most expensive squad in Europe.Puts a different perspective on the CL doesn’t it,that fact.Lets hope the new guy Jonker turns the academy around,starting with some new coaches as Larraman and Gatting are hopeless.Or soon we won’t be able to attract youngsters of the calibre of Dan Crowley.