Match report- Arsenal youngsters struggle to cope with dominant Chelsea as they crash out of Youth Cup

FA Youth Cup Semi-Final Second Leg

Arsenal 0 Chelsea 1 (Colkett 16) (Chelsea win 3-1 on aggregate)

By Jeorge Bird @ Emirates Stadium

Photo by Kieran Clarke

Photo by Kieran Clarke

Arsenal’s hopes of winning the FA Youth Cup for the first time in five years were destroyed by an impressive Chelsea side at Emirates Stadium this evening. Chelsea, already carrying a 2-1 advantage from the First Leg at Stamford Bridge, capitalised on some woeful defending from Arsenal to score through Charlie Colkett and, despite Arsenal’s best efforts, didn’t come close to relinquishing their lead.

Arsenal did not give the best account of themselves during this tie, as they struggled as an attacking force in both legs, whilst Chelsea seemed physically and tactically superior throughout. This was Arsenal’s best run in the competition since they last won it in 2009, but, in these two games, they never came close to replicating the displays that the likes of Jack Wilshere produced half a decade ago.

Arsenal again failed to offer enough support to make the most of Chuba Akpom’s considerable talent and, although Gedion Zelalem was a little better than last week, the young Gunners lacked their usual fluidity, with Chelsea’s well drilled side closing them down at every opportunity.

Leander Siemann, meanwhile, made several defensive mistakes, rendering the decision to select him in preference to Stefan O’Connor rather bizarre.

Coach Carl Laraman made just one change from the First Leg, with Jack Jebb coming into the side at the expense of Dan Crowley, rather than Gedion Zelalem. Chelsea also made just a solitary alteration with Jay Da Silva being preferred to Isaiah Brown.


Moore-Pleguezuelo-Siemann-Ormonde Ottewill


Maitland Niles-Jebb-Iwobi


subs: Crowley (for Iwobi, 58), O’Connor (for Siemann, 67), Lipman (for Kamara, 86). Not used: Huddart, Mugabo.

Chelsea were impressive in the early stages, with Jordan Houghton sending a cross wide. Left-back Ola Aina then saw a shot saved by Josh Vickers following a good move involving Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Da Silva.

Arsenal’s first attacking move of note involved their two most dangerous attacking players, Alex Iwobi and Chuba Akpom, with Iwobi finding the striker, whose effort was deflected for a corner.

Chelsea soon provided Arsenal with a reminder of their threat, however. Kiwomya’s cross was cut out, with Charlie Colkett subsequently sending his shot wide. Arsenal then, not for the first time in this Youth Cup run, were reliant on Josh Vickers for coming to their rescue. The goalkeeper made a superb double save to deny Dominic Solanke twice in quick succession.

Arsenal then sought to assert themselves at the other end, with Jebb’s free-kick locating Julio Pleguezuelo at the far post, but the Spanish centre-back’s header was saved. The chances were coming thick and fast for both sides, and Chelsea would make their next opportunity count, with Colkett pouncing on some disappointing defending from Jebb and Siemann, as well as a rare mistake from Vickers, to open the scoring and give Chelsea a 3-1 aggregate lead.

Houghton then sought to put the tie beyond doubt, but Vickers held his shot. Arsenal demonstrated their quality when Zelalem played a clever lofted pass into the path of Ainsley Maitland-Niles, but the winger’s shot was saved.

Da Silva then sent an effort wide for Chelsea, with Arsenal responding with their best move of the half. Iwobi embarked on a driving run down the left flank and spotted Akpom in space. Akpom back-heeled the ball into the path of his team-mate, with Iwobi’s shot eventually being cleared for a corner.

Chelsea ended the half as they started it by creating chances with regularity. Solanke shot over, then, after Zelalem lost the ball, Da Silva did well to find Kiwomya, whose shot lacked conviction.

Photo by Kieran Clarke

Photo by Kieran Clarke

Chelsea’s dominance continued after the interval, with Andreas Christensen somehow remaining unopposed as he marauded up the field before shooting wide. Arsenal came close at the other end, with the impressive Glen Kamara seeing his effort cleated off the line after he latched onto Jebb’s free-kick.

Arsenal then struck the post through Akpom after a precise through-ball from Zelalem, but the offside flag had already been raised. Arsenal sought to increase their attacking momentum by introducing Crowley in place of Iwobi, but Chelsea continued to dominate, with Colkett’s shot deflecting off the disappointing Siemann for a corner, before Solanke’s effort was kept out by Vickers.

Siemann then made another error, but Colkett again couldn’t capitalise, with the German centre-back then, at long last, being replaced by O’Connor. Arsenal also introduced Austin Lipman, featuring in his third game in four days, as they went all out for victory, but, even with Crowley operating almost as a second striker, they were still unable to breach the resolute Chelsea defence.

Some of Arsenal’s performances in this competition this season, particularly against Charlton Athletic and Everton, were mightily impressive, but once again, as they did in both the U21 Premier League Cup and the UEFA Youth League, Arsenal’s youngsters have fallen at the latter stages of a major cup competition.



  1. Watched the game on TV, it has to be said Chelsea were so much better in every department. If the lads playing for Arsenal are the best we have then the future is dire, the difference in class to Chelsea was staggering to watch. Just what has happened to the supposed elite academy at Arsenal? eleven very average players on display for the Gunners tonight.

    1. Why don’t you shut the fuck up you pathetic negative idiot. I’m sick of so-called Arsenal fans slagging off Arsenal players. What do you hope to achieve by calling Arsenal youngsters avarage or doomed? Just fuck off and go away you ignorant fool.

      1. Panther appreciate you’ve just learned to swear, and I bet your teddy bear is cacking himself but don’t worry if you speak nicely to mummy I’m sure she will change your nappy and send you off to bed with a nice glass of milk, all will be better in the morning.

    2. But how many of those kids will be given a chance by Chelsea? given there embarrassing history in recent times of promoting Youth players too the first team, because if more than one of them gets given a go I would be surprised

    3. Incredibly harsh. We were very poor, Chelsea brilliant, but could you not take even a moment to reflect that…this was the semi of the premier youth tournament in the country? Meaning, if you are to base all your thinking on the match in a black-and-white manner, all the other teams, those who didn’t make it this far, may as well just boot all their academy players out on the street tomorrow.

      Thankfully, in football there is scope for a remarkable change within teams in a short space of time, from one game to the next even (just look at some of the prem results and performances this week), and, finally, even though the chances are small, there is a chance some of those lads read sites like this and, as 16-18 year old after one of the worst experiences of their careers so far, they don’t need to be blasted like that.

      1. Rich, Football is harsh, these young Arsenal players get the best of everything in order to help them produce and when they don’t its no good sugar coating their display, a look at just how many have come through the ranks to the first team should tell you that they need to be of a far, far higher standard than they are right now. Despite the foul mouthed expletives of Rambo, (sorry Panther), I do consider myself an Arsenal fan and have done so for the past sixty plus years. I sat down to watch last night full of hope, after thirty minutes it was quite clear we, Arsenal, were bloody awful, what’s more we were made to look awful by a very talented Chelsea side, now they are at the standard of players that should be in red and white.

    4. Trugun, best to agree to disagree. Truth of it is, I could easily have spoken about it in much the way you did. It wasn’t just a bad loss, it was quite a bit worse than that. When it is almost impossible to imagine how one team can score, while for the other it looks easy and simple, it’s the stuff of players and fans nightmares.

      But it’s not just because I don’t want to be harsh on young players that I disagreed with writing them off. One of the main reasons for optimism I have is, curiously enough, from remembering what happened when we had a youth team recently, Wilshere’s lot, who were at least as dominant as Chelsea’s were last night- only a couple tend to make it from the very best young teams (While at Chelsea, none do). Our youth team was worse last year, and Gnabry emerged from it.

      Rotten performance, but some of that lot are good players. Few three years ago would have picked out league ones Adam Lallana as the guy who, today, would be one of the most exciting skillful English players in years. Still all for them to play for.

  2. What a really really disappointing night and a real anti-climax for the supposed biggest game of the season for these young Gunners, it all died out in a whimper and a fizzle. I thought Jeorge’s line of ‘Arsenal did not give the best account of themselves during this tie, as they struggled as an attacking force in both legs, whilst Chelsea seemed physically and tactically superior throughout’ summed up the evening perfectly.

    Trugun only quoted what we all saw on the TV, and this reflected Jeorge’s assessment as well.
    We didn’t really get going at all. It also looked like we were slow on the pitch, lacking urgency, bite, aggression and at times passion – all very pedestrian against a very good, well drilled and technically able Chelsea side.

    Vickers was impressive again and was very unlucky with the goal and Chuba stood out with his pace but he was often too isolated. And Iwobi had his moments too, but these were the only simmering positives from a poor night all round.

    Time to dust ourselves down, to regroup ready for next season, to refocus and to absorb and fully take on board on the new energy and thinking of Jonkers as the new academy head. We have to stay positive and hope that the new season brings us the onward development of our youth and the better results, accolades and success that we’re all obviously craving. He’s had his chance this season to make his mark and Arsenal have stood by him, but now it must be the end – ‘taxi for Laraman’.

  3. There was some real talent out there in that arsenal side, they just didn’t preform on the night, that can happen at youth level all a learning curve.

  4. Some idiotic comments above. Talented players in both squads. The match however was lost in midfield where chelsea bossed it in both games. This is why Arsenal never really got going. Just how Zelalem kept his place I’m not really sure. I would go as far to say if Zelalem and Loftus-Cheek were on opposing sides, in both matches, Arsenal would have stood a great chance. I feel this typifies Arsenal from first team down where they don’t have a dominant CM to dominate opponents and stick to a lot of similar players instead.

  5. Have to echo what someone said above about Loftus-Cheek. Fantastic talent. Didn’t just look like a man playing against boys, but a particularly strong man against them. Impossible to find postitives from last night, but I do think he is more or less an anomaly at this level. Worth thinking back to the Barca game, against a team who went on to win the YCL, to compare the difference.

    Wasn’t all him, Chelsea were strong everywhere, and immaculately drilled (note that the few times we mustered half a threat, they were happy to commit the foul and take a booking if needs be, whereas we missed even when tried that and even had trouble at one point seeing through the routine centre-half work of cleaning the ball out by the touchline (he got there…and went in half-heartedly. Bould wept!)

    Two positives: Vickers and Moore. After a rocky start, Moore put in tons of good work in a struggling team. And it can also be hoped yet more weight was added to the evidence for Wenger and all at the club that a strong midfield base is essential now. It is our Kyrptonite.

    1. If one of loftus cheek, boga or chalobah (….dam that’s impressive!) aren’t given a first team shot at Chelsea you can officially write of Chelsea’s (incredible) academy as a cash cow to finance transfers and compy with FFP. Remember seeing loftus cheek make his u16 debut in the victory. Stood out far more than anyone I’ve seen at that level (shaw included).

  6. If you look at it in terms of player quality I believe Chelsea had an advantage, but only a small one, we could have and should have given them a far better game than that. Look at how organized they were compared to us, their positioning to help each other and make sure the player on the ball had options, making good decisions, making simple passes when required instead of forcing the play, pressing in a well organized way. All this and how well they implemented their game plan is derived from the coaching, and well, they obviously had a pretty big advantage over us in that aspect.

  7. Zelalem had a good game last night, he used the ball intelligently and he showed a good range of passing, Jebb and Kamara were not at his level. Zelalem and Akpom looked to be far more advanced in their understanding of the game than their team mates. Iwobi and Maitland-niles showed glimpses of their skills. Vickers and Moore did as already stated by others have good games after shaky starts. Pleggy showed well too but its a worry he is so small and slight, BOO was run raged once again, he is also on the small side. I do not understand how Siemann gets in the team ahead of O’Connor, as the German has been shaky in all of his time with Arsenal, is he getting games to try and persuade him not to leave this summer, if so I’d ask why, as he don’t look to have anything to his game, he was woeful on the goal and a few other times too last night, as he normally is.

    It must be said Chelsea had a more mature, bigger, stronger and faster team that Arsenal, and the one good thing for Arsenal is that half the lads used last night can play U18 again next season, and that year of growth and developement can make a massive difference at this level.

    1. happy to read ONE positive review of GZ. tks for yor unbaised assessment. btw, average age Chelsea: 18+, average age Arsenal: 16+. Arsenal should be proud.

  8. To add to that, look at how many England international’s we had in that team, akpom, niles, iwobi, Crowley, BOO, and jebb. You know what that means, all of them are amongst the top talent in this country for their age, then sprinkle some very talented foreign talents into the equation too, zelalem, pleguezuelo, and kamara. Too produce a performance like that, two performances including the first leg, isn’t acceptable given the talent that’s there. Something clearly not right with the academy

  9. My observations are we were incredibly disappointing, thought we looked more like a team full of individuals, rather than an actual team.

    Vickers – at fault for the goal, but a few defensive mistakes leading up to it. Otherwise had a good game and looked assured.

    Moore – Very impressive. Reminds me of Sagna in his skill set. Looks like he loves to defend. Has pace, strength and intelligence. Should be a future for him at Arsenal.

    Pleguezuelo – Fairly impressive. Can see ability in him. Physically maybe slightly lacking but has the game to be a quality defender for Arsenal.

    Siemann – not impressed. Feel he plays on edge, doesn’t seem to have the calm aura of Plegzuelo. Can’t see a future at Arsenal.

    Ormond-Ottewil – Very poor. Maybe unfortunate he came up against Kiwomya, who’s a real talent but BOO just seemed to make the same mistakes throughout the game.

    Kamara – interesting. Has the physical attributes but technically seems to be lacking. Also feel, positionally he looked poor.

    Zelalem – Major disappointment. Was expecting him to put a stamp on the game and he didn’t but I suppose that’s the problem….. There’s a lot of expectation surrounding him. You can see he has ability but just seems too pensive.

    Jebb – Disappointed he started ahead of Crowley who I think is a far better player than Jebb. How Jebb carries himself, I feel, he thinks he’s better than what he really is! He seems to stroll through games, doesn’t track back (note the half hearted challenge leading up to the first goal). He just reminds me of a stereotypical, component academy player….. Pretty on the ball but no real conviction and the execution is way off of what his ability even allows. He’s what I call a footballing poseur!!

    Maitland-Niles – forgot he was on the pitch!

    Akpom – what can you say that probably already hasn’t been said. Clearly a top prospect. Struggled without service and assistance up front. Felt he was trying to do too much at times.

    Iwobi – has ability but looked inconsistent. I could actually see him in midfield midfield

  10. There is something lacking from all arsenal teams this year. There is little tenacity, structure, work rate to their play. We all want to see great passing moves but ticky-tacky football should be less of a priority than teaching players positional and tactical play. Bale and Ronaldo are two of the best players in the world because they care the most. This year movement off the ball has been rubbish which is only highlighted when teams press us high up the pitch and our players panic. Goals are only ever scored when there is movement either with or without the ball to destructure defences and make space for other players. Then there is the structure to our defensive play, arsenal are so bad at winning the ball back. We do not press and mark as a team. We rarely when we attack keep teams pinned in, like we use to just 5 years ago. It is far too easy for teams to play out of defence against arsenal.

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