U18 Premier League- Development Group 2
Arsenal 1 (Maitland-Niles) Middlesbrough 1
Arsenal U18s have endured a rather topsy-turvy campaign to date owing largely to a series of managerial and personnel changes, but their latest coach Carl Laraman has been able to field a somewhat consistent side in recent weeks and they continued their development apace with a 1-1 draw with Middlesbrough at London Colney on Saturday.
subs: Brown, O’Connor, Hinds. Not used: Vickers.
Having initially struggled against a visiting side keen to pass the ball as swiftly as possible, Arsenal soon began to assert control on proceedings, but squandered numerous opportunities before eventually taking the lead through Ainsley Maitland-Niles in the second-half. The schoolboy winger, who has impressed of late, showed good composure to battle his way past several Middlesbrough players before opening the scoring with a fine finish. The lead lasted just two minutes, though, with Middlesbrough levelling with a volleyed effort following poor Arsenal defending.
Like Maitland-Niles on the other flank, Tarum Dawkins continues to impress with his driving runs at the opposition defence and it seems only a matter of time before the former Luton Town winger will develop the composure in front of goal to match his approach play. Jack Jebb, meanwhile, came perilously close with a free-kick, whilst Austin Lipman, operating in the lone centre forward role, squandered a couple of opportunities.
Alex Iwobi, previously deployed on the wing, is continuing to develop in his new role behind the main striker and has learned to channel his passes more effectively so that they are easier for players to run on to. Schoolboy George Dobson continues to look assured at centre-back, although Tafari Moore, who started the game at right-back before switching to the opposite flank, was beaten on a couple of occasions.
Goalkeeper Deyan Iliev, who was on the bench for the U21s at West Ham United just a day previously, made two impressive saves, although, like many of Arsenal’s goalkeepers, does appear to be fond of pushing the ball back out rather than holding onto it, which can prove costly in some situations.
Promising midfielder Gedion Zelalem is still awaiting authorisation from FIFA to enable him to play for the club, whilst Jon Toral, Arinse Uade, Tom Dallison, Zach Fagan and Leander Siemann are all sidelined.
The U18s have registered just one victory from seven fixtures in 2013, and have five games remaining before the end of the campaign, starting with a trip to face Blackburn Rovers in nine days’ time.