by Andrew Crawshaw
This year the U18s managed by Kwame Apadu have experienced a welcome, if rare, great start to the season. With seven games played we are top of our table having won 5, lost 1 and drawn 1. We have scored the most goals (22) and only West Ham (6) have conceded fewer goals than us (7).
This is a welcome change as generally in recent years we have been far nearer the bottom of the table than the top.
Our home games are generally played at London Colney behind closed doors so I have been unable to see any of them first hand. My reports are therefore based on those on Arsenal.com and the always excellent Jeorge Bird. Brief video highlights of the games are available through Arsenal Player – Academy.
The season started on August 13th with a home game against Aston Villa and made a quick start scoring in the fifth minute before adding two more in the first half and a fourth midway through the second half. Kwame Apadu said afterwards that it was a good result as far as the score went but that the kids performance would have to markedly improve before they would be ready to progress to the U23s and eventually the first team.
The second game was away at Swansea on 20th August and resulted in a 1 all draw. Swansea had a great chance early in the first half but could only hit the bar. Midway through the first half the Swansea pressure paid off as the Swans opened the scoring. Arsenal were better in the second half and deserved the equaliser scored by Nketiah with a great header. We had chances to score a winner but were just unable to find the net.
We were away to Brighton on 27th August, Nketiah having a day off. In the absence of our leading scorer Joe Willock stepped up with his first goal of the season. Malen added a second in the 15th minute and added his second in the 40th minute. No more goals in the second half.
The fourth game was on 12 September at home against Southampton. Following early chances for both teams Nketiah scored midway through the first half. Dragomir scored a beautiful solo goal early in the second half and Malen wrapped things up after coming on as a substitute. It really is worthwhile looking at the video for this game just to look at Vlad’s goal, it comes at the start of the second half.
The one loss came on 18 September when we took on Chelsea at Cobham. Chelsea took the lead two minutes in and worse was to come two minutes later when two Arsenal defenders combined to bring down a Chelsea attacker in the box. Arsenal got one back towards the end of the first half but Chelsea added another two in the second half including a second penalty before Arsenal got a second at the end of the game. Kwame Apadu was honest afterwards saying that Arsenal were second best in most areas of the pitch and in terms of not wanting the game as much as Chelsea did.
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Our sixth game was on 25 September at home to Leicester and this saw our most emphatic win so far. Nketiah did what he does best with an emphatic strike to open the scoring adding a second in the 26th minute. In the second half the Leicester keeper was sold short and his attempted clearance was charged down with the rebound ending up in the net. Dragomir was then brought down in the penalty area and Nketiah made no mistake from the spot completing his hat-trick. Dragomir completed the scoring in the 86th minute with a cross that the keeper couldn’t keep out of the net.
Our most recent game was on 1st October away at Spurs. After a slow start Spurs took the lead on the stroke of half time when a simple ball bisected our defence, Keto came out but got nothing of the ball (and fortunately none of the man). Arsenal took the lead with two goals around the hour mark before further suspect positioning from Hugo Keto allowed Spurs an equaliser. We regained the lead with a good finish from substitute Tella before Trae Coyle scored his first goal at this level deep into injury time.
Here is a table showing the players we have used so far this season.
|Name||Position||DoB||Season to date stats|
|Start||Sub||Goal for||Goal Against|
The majority of the starts have been made by players who were born in 1998 or 1999 ie are now 18 or 17 years old. This is something of a change where 18 year old players were a rarity in our U18 squad. The rule states that the players must be under 18 on the first of January in which the season starts i.e they must have been born after 01/01/1998.
This extra maturity is almost certainly a major factor in our success this year. In addition our attack has been breathtaking at times which has more than compensated for our typical lack of solidity at the back where in some games we have been sliced open by simple through balls.
Overall a promising start to the season at this level.