Strong Arsenal U18 side suffer Manchester United defeat

U18 Premier League- Game 4

Arsenal 1 (Iwobi 15) Manchester United 2 (Fletcher 31, Wilson 58)

A strong Arsenal U18s side were edged out by Manchester United at London Colney this morning. The Gunners took the lead when Alex Iwobi turned home the re-bound after Chuba Akpom had a penalty saved, but United seized the initiative from then on and established a lead, which they held on to despite some late pressure from Carl Laraman’s side.

Aside from those currently injured or on international duty, this was the strongest possible side that Arsenal could have fielded at this level, with Gedion Zelalem and Akpom both starting. Zelalem, now officially part of the first-team squad, made his first appearance for the U18s, whilst Iwobi and Dan Crowley also came into the side. Matt Macey, who is on trial after leaving Bristol Rovers, started in goal.






subs: Huddart, Smith, Raage, Maitland-Niles (for Crowley, 31), Lipman (for Wright, 67).

United started in the ascendancy and almost took the lead after just two minutes when striker Ashley Fletcher struck a post with a fierce effort, but Arsenal gradually assumed control of proceedings, with the technically-talented duo of Zelalem and Crowley dovetailing to excellent effect.

Indeed, Crowley played a key role in putting Arsenal ahead, with the midfielder exchanging passes with Alex Iwobi before being brought down in the penalty area by Callum Evans. Akpom, seeking to continue his impressive scoring record from last season, stepped up to take it, but saw his spot-kick saved.

Thankfully, Iwobi was on hand to turn home the re-bound and open the scoring to cap off an impressive start to the season for the second-year scholar. Akpom then threatened the United defence without receiving a presentable goalscoring opportunity, but United were always a threat at the other end, particularly through striker James Wilson.

First, Wilson should have done better when well placed after capitalising on some inept Arsenal defending, but, just a couple of minutes later, the same player turned provider for Fletcher, who beat Macey to draw United level.

Arsenal’s misery at squandering their lead was compounded by the fact that Crowley, for the second time already this season, had to withdraw early through injury, with Ainsley Maitland-Niles entering the fray.

United continued to pose the Arsenal defence a multitude of problems, with Macey doing well to keep out Josh Harrop’s well-struck free-kick following a late challenge by Tom Dallison.

Wilson then shot wide as United continued their attempt to restore their lead and Fletcher also came close before the break.

In the midst of all that, Akpom had a seemingly legitimate penalty claim turned down as the clock ticked towards half-time, with the striker receiving a yellow card for his protests.

United’s free-flowing attacking play continued after the break, with Wilson coming close. That was a warning sign for Arsenal and it was one that wasn’t heeded, as, shortly afterwards, the same player managed to escape the challenges of four opponents before making it 2-1 with a precise finish.

Arsenal signalled their intent for a comeback by introducing Austin Lipman in place of Elliot Wright, but, despite Akpom and Jebb both coming close, United held on for the victory.

Arsenal face Stoke City next Saturday having accrued four points from their first four games this season.



  1. Jeorge, I would be really interested to know, what is your honest opinion of Steve Gatting and the youth system in general? With Brady departing at the end of the season are we looking at a total overhaul?

    1. I think there are a lot of improvements to be made, but there are still many positive aspects of our academy, with the likes of chris willock coming through. as for the coaching staff, i think Gatting and Laraman will keep their jobs until the end of the season at least, but when a new head of youth development is appointed the situation could be assessed again.

  2. It should also be noted that Man U were without their two star prospects at this level, 17 year olds Andreas Pereira and Demetri Mitchell.

    Lots of talent in this Arsenal side none the less.

  3. That’s easily our strongest line up at this level. Utd were obviously better. No shame in that but result shows how easy it is to over rate your own players. All clubs have great players coming through.

  4. wow, that’s a very strong 18s side there. Surprised that Chuba is playing , thought he’d stay with the 21s this season , but as its Man U i would suppose Arsenal wanted the strongest squad possible, that 11 would beat a majority of the 18s they will come up against.

  5. Tbh seemingly Crowley’s injury affected the game. It’s basically United’s strongest XI as well without Andreas Pereira who will stay with the U21s and arguably Mitchell who just came back from international duty and was on the bench.

  6. Disappointed at the result, on paper that was a very strong Arsenal line up.
    George, any point of view on Macey in his first game?

  7. I think the fact that we have already used 4 different goalkeepers in what 5 under 18 games, highlights why the results are so poor at this level. I know its all about development but positive results breed positive performances. Consistency is required at all levels I know injuries cannot be prevented but any defence having a different keeper nearly every week is going to struggle.

  8. Laraman and Gatting have to go! I would keep repeating this message and shouting it on the rooftop. They are a cancer to this clubs future. When I watch the young ones both U-18’s and U-21 I come off with the impression that these boys do not know their roles on the team. It’s a disaster really.

    1. You judge only by the results. Our U18 has been very young this season and even our U21. The most important thing is how they play. Surely if we would have sit back and defend and only go by counter attacks we wouldn’t have lost as much or let in so many goals but we wants to make class players. There is a reason why we have so many professionals In the leagues. Zelalem and Gnabry came through. We most likely never will be able to get a full team of extremely high quality every year. As long as we have 4-5 very promising players in all our team and is playing free flowing football then we are good.

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