New U18 coach Laraman faces selection dilemma with four games in quick succession

It’s not as if Arsenal U18s haven’t already had enough change to contemplate this year with the promotion of long-serving coach Steve Bould to the first-team set-up, the brief reign of Pat Holland, the subsequent promotion of Steve Gatting and, the latest development, the appointment of Carl Larman as U18 coach after Gatting was moved up to the U21s last week.

Laraman himself, who suffered a 2-0 defeat in his first game in charge at home to Blackburn Rovers last week, is facing the prospect of making some considerably difficult decision very early on in his tenure, with the fixtures coming thick and fast for the U18s over the next few weeks.

Winger Ainsley Maitland-Niles, who has featured intermittently for the U18s so far this season, could play a prominent role in the coming weeks

Winger Ainsley Maitland-Niles, who has featured intermittently for the U18s so far this season, could play a prominent role in the coming weeks

It has been a mixed bag of results in the Development Group so far, with the defeat to Blackburn coming off the back of a stalemate with Norwich City and a slender victory over Newcastle United. On Saturday, Arsenal travel to face Manchester City, a side who beat them 5-2 the last time they met at this level. That will be followed by Monday’s FA Youth Cup Fifth Round encounter with Everton, which is sure to be an entertaining affair, before a re-arranged trip to face Middlesbrough at Warwick University and finally a home fixture with Aston Villa to round off February.

The prospect of four games in less than ten days would be a daunting one in any circumstances, but Laraman faces a further handicap in that several of the players he would usually call upon, especially for the Youth Cup fixture, are currently struggling with injury. Spanish midfielder Jon Toral, for instance, missed the victory over Fulham in the last round, and is currently rehabilitating in his homeland after having an operation recently. Anthony Jeffrey, Hector Bellerin and goalkeeper Josh Vickers are also on the treatment table at present, although it is expected that Jeffrey and Bellerin should be fit to face Everton.

These problems mean that Laraman is likely to field considerably weakened line-ups in the league fixtures, largely composed of schoolboys whom he has coached previously. Jordan Brown, Tafari Moore, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Ryan Huddart are now recognisable members of the U18 squad, whilst a new raft of schoolboys were blooded for the first time against Blackburn, with defenders Marc Bola and Stefan O’Connor receiving starts and George Dobson, Tyrell Robinson, Kaylen Hinds and Jordan Thorbourne all earning call-ups. Renny Smith, who was signed last week from Chelsea, will also provide cover in both midfield and defence. Further schoolboys could be deployed against City, with the entirety of the proposed Youth Cup squad set to be rested due to the fact that the Everton game takes place just two days later.

UPDATE: The Middlesbrough game on Wednesday has now been postponed. New date TBA.




  1. Will Akpom be part of 1st team FA sqtad ? I am much eager to see him in play. U talked much abt him. I will also like to see Eisfield, Yenaris n Henderson in the squad.

  2. How is it appropriate to make an U18 team play 4 games in 8 days? Even with careful rotation there’s a good chance we will pick up injuries. I don’t believe you would see that sort of packed schedule for a youth team on the continent, they know better than that. These boys need to be protected.

    1. you make it sounds like they will go to war. Have you ever play youth tournaments? Sweden played a friendly/tournaments a few days ago with Olsson. They played 3 teams with a team of 20 players or so. If this was a huge deal you make it so they would never put 4 games within 8 days with all the top class physic and coaches and experience.

      We have U16 and U18 eager to play and this is their chance to show anything. Injuries will always come no matter how much you try to prevent it. For me this is nothing new. 8 days of 4 matches with a pretty big squad is nothing. When I was a youth we used to play tournaments with more than 4 games within 8 days. One of the biggest youth tournaments in the world host matches more than 5 games within 8 days with only one single squad. We have a full academy for one teams……

      1. If that’s the case why don’t senior teams also play a game every 2 days? Senior professionals are older, stronger and fitter than these teenage boys, yet it’s accepted they need 72 hours recovery between games to stay healthy.

        Bringing up these uncompetitive youth tournaments designed to give everyone match experience with mass rotation between every match doesn’t prove anything. We’re talking about real competition. UEFA and FIFA youth tournaments, do they have games scheduled at this sort of density? Of course not.

      2. Now who said the real competition of like Manchester united tournaments is nothing like this density? Its even worse. Gothia cup in sweden is the biggest youth tournaments with many hundreds of teams.

        You come up with this and now try to defend it like it has to be dangerous and many will be injured. Lets see if we lose an entire team or 5-6 players BEFORE you say its dangerous.

        Do you know why the seniors is playing like this? Because they play in matches with ALOT more intensity and they play like 38+ games a season! If you want to compare professional seniors to U18 players than thats just complete stupidity. Take a look at other youth teams. Isn’t WC played in 3-4 games within a week or so for U19? Just because these are more talented doesn’t mean they can’t compare to the amateur youths. we lose players on a regular basis. Most likely is that they will not play entire games 4 times in a row. it will be an opportunity to trialist to show what they can do too. U21 players might come in and fill some places. Like I said we have a full academy!!!

        Lets see how many injuries we will get from this. Again take a look at Nike cup and there are plenty of real competitive matches. Take a look at the friendly or tournament sweden played. It was better than U18 matches in the league. Before you say any shit like it was just a friendly… Idiot. Trying to come with arguments to suit your stupid statements and then can’t say you are right.. instead try to defend it.

      3. These long-winded rants of yours only continue to prove that a) you can’t argue rationally (calling me an ‘idiot’, ‘stupid’, etc, when I never used any insulting words towards you) and b) you are obsessed with me and can’t help yourself disagreeing with my comments every chance you get.

        These are boys of 16 and 17 years of age with developing bodies that can’t cope with that kind of competitive workload. It’s irrelevant (and obvious) that senior players play at a higher intensity. Of course they would, they are older, stronger and fitter. The U18s will be playing at their maximum in these games, that’s what is important. Not what their maximum actually is!

        “Laraman is likely to field considerably weakened line-ups in the league fixtures, largely composed of schoolboys”

        That tells you all you need to know about these young players’ capacity to fulfill this run of 4 games in 8 days.

      4. That was my point from the very very beginning. Most likely they will never fucking play 4 games with the same players! You again mage a new argument to fit your point. Imagine this…. one game with mostly U16 players, one game with mostly U18 players, one game with a mix of U16 and U18 and one game with a new mix with mostly u18 again. That will make it likely 2,5 games for most of them. 2 games is nothing. They just need to train lighter. And no I don’t pick on you every chance I can… it just happen that you are wrong more than you think. And you told me to come up with competition with this intensity… I did and no fucking response on that… instead you ignore that and come up with something the coach said.

        And again I explain to you that they wont be stupid enough to fill same players 4 games in a row. 2 games is nothing, 3 games in when you start to feel the body but I have been in many U18 games and tournaments… not all of them are like premier league were players die and break their leg.

        We have a full academy of U16 and -U21 who can come in and play. whats the fucking point of arguing against this stupid shit? Even Laraman said so! What makes you really stupid is that you start something but rarely can end it. and then because you dont read everything you think you have right. thats what wrong with replying to you. and thats what make you stupid. Don’t start anything you can end.

        “That tells you all you need to know about these young players’ capacity to fulfill this run of 4 games in 8 days” You fucking idiot. I told you from my first reply that we have a full academy who can jump in! And now you try do defend it with a fucking stupid argument !

      5. I read everything you write Jom, don’t worry about that. Your replies give me great joy. I just don’t reply to every silly little thing you say otherwise I’d be here all day and night. I focus on the central point of the argument rather than let you take me on your wild and futile tangents.

        We’ve now reached a point where you’re basically arguing with me yet agreeing with me at the same time. Madness.

  3. PS. Jeorge, do you know whether the GPS system used to measure fatigue levels of the first team is also used on the U21s, U18s, etc.? I think I spotted one player in an U18 match wearing the tracking vest but it might have been a one-off, or the youth might only get to use it for matches and not to the same extent as the seniors, ie. all training sessions.

  4. Three games in five days just devalues the league game vs Man City as Laraman will field a weakened team to save his best players for Everton.
    What is the point of that???
    Only in England…

  5. i watched the highlights of the blackburn game and the u15s look like a decent crop of players and look more promising than the u16s who played against west brom who honestly didnt look good enough

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