De Kat restores positive vibe to Arsenal U18s as Chelsea are thrashed

U18 Premier League- Game 2

Arsenal 5 (Mavididi 22, 60, Donovan 63, Robinson 79, 89) Chelsea 1 (Ali 42)

After several years of many demoralising results, things are finally starting to look up for Arsenal U18s under new coach Frans De Kat. The young Gunners have taken maximum points from their first two games under the Dutchman, with last week’s impressive win at Brighton & Hove Albion followed by an emphatic dispatch of Chelsea at London Colney yesterday.

De Kat certainly seems to have managed to get his team to play as a cohesive unit, something that was sorely lacking for most of last season when Carl Laraman was in charge. Development always takes precedence over results at this level, but surely victories such as this one, and the confidence that it will bring, will be hugely beneficial for the players involved.

De Kat was able to call upon Elliot Wright and Renny Smith, who were unused substitutes for the U21s on Thursday, whilst Ben Sheaf and Joshua Da Silva were brought into the starting line-up. De Kat will have even more options at his disposal when the new foreign signings- Hugo Keto, Ilias Chatzitheodoridis, Savvas Mourgos and Kristopher Da Graca- are permitted to play.


Johnson-Dobson-Wright-M. Bola


Da Silva-Hinds-Willock


subs: Phillips, Donovan, Robinson, T. Bola.

At this rate it will be difficult for De Kat to settle on his best side. Stephy Mavididi continues to impress in the lone striker role and the forward scored a brace yesterday. He spurned an early opportunity to give Arsenal the lead when his shot was kept out by Chelsea goalkeeper Bradley Collins, but he made amends shortly afterwards when he headed home from Marc Bola’s cross from the left flank.

Chelsea, despite struggling to assert control in the opening 45 minutes, went in level at the break after Mukhtar Ali’s shot deflected in off George Dobson.

Arsenal soon gained control after the interval, however. Schoolboy Da Silva, already a regular inclusion in the squad, played an intelligent pass to Kaylen Hinds, who crossed for Mavididi to double his tally.

It was 3-1 soon afterwards when substitute Harry Donovan seized possession before finishing confidently to score his first goal at this level.

Another substitute, Tyrell Robinson, secured the victory. The winger made it 4-1 from close range before concluding the scoring with a superb solo goal that showcased his excellent close control and dribbling.

There were plenty of positives to take from the game, with Chris Willock continuing to impress, whilst Marc Bola has also demonstrated some signs of improvement at left-back.

It is still early days for De Kat, but things could hardly have gone better for the Dutchman so far. Arsenal are top of the fledgling U18 Premier League table and they host Aston Villa next week.



  1. Scoreline is even more impressive when you consider that Arsenal played a younger squad (6 ’98s + 1 ’99) than Chelsea (4 ’98s).

    1. You do realise where Chelsea’s academy trumps ours given most of their foreign youths are immediately loaned out is local recruitment. If you’re referring to boga’s brace (?) last season going by reports and commentary it wasn’t just his scoring they comprehensively dominated us, in the youth cup it was RLC who dominated our midfield.

      Obviously a one-off match won’t change that fact but it’s encouraging nonetheless given our recent rut at this level. If anyone has the most to gain from foreign recruits it’s usually us. Whereas in recent years our imports have shown to be superior to home grown products there’s pretty much no discrepancy in Chelsea’s case. Sincerely hope that changes this year bcse how you develop your local talents (whichever country they may eventually choose to play for) is IMO a more pertinent indication of academy strength than flooding it in with imports. Much rather have 3-4 top quality imports with the rest being local talents with genuine prospects (at that point in time of course).

    2. H sorry Sean. Meant to reply to GonnersforLife (come to think of it if that name isn’t mistyped you should tone down on the scepticism).

  2. Sorry to have to make this statement but that was the weakest Chelsea team I have seen in almost 10 years, previous teams have been dominating with overseas players worth millions’ and excellent home grown players which warmed the bench a lot if the time. This Chelsea team had nothing and got dominated from start to finish so I would not be able to comment on the real quality this young bunch of players

    1. Mightn’t it be a reflection of Arsenal’s quality that they were able to dominate Chelsea and MAKE them look poor?

      Chelsea may well have been complacent – given how dismal Arsenal have been for the past couple years, who can blame them? – but I’d be surprised if their academy, which last season was the best in the league, has overnight turned into rubbish. Far more likely Arsenal’s academy has turned into gold.

      Look at the table: Arsenal won 4-0 last week as well so this result doesn’t look like a fluke. Chelsea also won last week, and very comfortably, but in Arsenal they seem to have met a superior team.

      OK, it’s early days and we shouldn’t get carried away, but after years of misery over the dog’s dinner that Laraman and Gatting were making of our academy, let’s be happy for the improvement that’s come since Jonker’s arrival.

  3. Ha! So team that last year barely won a game all last season and finished bottom of the league has now played 2, won 2, scored 9, conceded 1 (an unlucky deflection). Just shows what a difference a competent coach can make in less than a month.

    Arsenal didn’t provide updates – probably they were fearing the usual depressing thrashing – so I had to follow the game on the Chelsea Twitter feed, a confusing experience as Chelsea fans kept retweeting the score as though it was in their favour! Well, you can’t really blame them, not when they’re used to being top academy, beating everyone in sight, playing a team from the bottom of the table and so demoralised its more talented kids had been refusing new contracts and leaving for clubs where the prospects look brighter.

    Thank you, Jonker, thank you a million times. Now please turn your attention to the poor under-21s and transform things for them, otherwise these excellent kids, when they step up – or should we say down? – to under-21 level will find themselves in the lower-league thug division under the guidance of Gatting and Laraman.

    How good could Hayden, Akpom, etc. have become by now if they’d had decent coaching? Oh, Jonker, if only you’d been here earlier. Not only would we not have been relegated, more of our under-21s might now be in the first team and taking the Premiership by storm. It’s not like a free central defender and central striker wouldn’t be pretty useful to the first team right now.

    1. Miranda, Last time I checked, we have only played two games. Let’s not get to carried away with a couple of good results. I hope that Fans De Kat is some sort of coaching genius but realistically we need to give Jonker and his hole team including Laraman and Gatting time to improve things at every level of our academy. If Jonker sees problems with the way Gatting and Laraman coach the under 21s then things will be corrected or they will be replaced. He only took charge in July after all. Also Chuba Akpom and Isaac Hayden are what 18/19 years old. They both have time on their side in order to improve their respective games as long as they listen to their coaches and work hard there is no reason why both of them can’t make it into the 1st team regularly. They have both already experienced our first team training and have represented the club in the league cup. Unless you think that the clubs 1st team training methods are also sub standard? Maybe you think Jonker should get rid of Neil Banfield, Steve Bould, Boro Primorac and Arsene Wenger as well as club physio Colin Lewin and club Dr Garry O’Driscoll? Arsenal f.c have one of the very best set ups in world football. If a player doesn’t make it with us it’s because of either the individuals attitude (outside distractions away from football) or lack of ability. Other than serious injury, there is no reason for failure.

    2. Not looking for confrontation here (especially as we’re in agreement on an issue close to my heart : limiting the risk of best prospects being kicked to bits) but I think you have to be very precise with facts when criticizing to the extent you do.

      Neither u18s or 21s were bottom. 21s were 14th out of 22; 18s were 9th out of 11. Not good at all, but not bottom. U21 performance should, anyway, be kept apart from discussion of the younger group, especially this time as there are pretty much no players involved in the (18) group with any experience of u21 last year.

      As for the 18s, results for them picked up at the end last year, at the same time more and more of the then u16s were being used. Where the players are the same as this time last year, it’s reasonable to expect a big improvement from 15 to 16; where they are entirely different players/groups, it seems unreasonable to compare them.

      To paraphrase AVB, you may be trapped in a swirling vortex of negativity about the club and its ways, and its leading to taking the criticism too far.

      Are young players from these all-conquering Chelsea teams taking the league by storm? No, they aren’t, and appear in danger of stagnating. While we’ve already seen Gnabry prove he can cut it, Bellerin is on the cusp, and another 2 or 3 have a reasonable chance.

      If Maitland-Niles can come through, and I see signs of huge potential and rapid progress, the legacy of that disastrous year for the 21s would be better than any league title.

  4. Give Laraman and Gatting time? They’ve had time already, lots of it, and the results have been well documented on this site.

    Do I think we should sack a whole lot of other people, you ask, presumably ironically? Well, as it happens there’s a couple on your list I think might be profitably replaced, but at least none of the first-team staff have succeeded in relegating us to the Championship, which is Gatting and Laraman’s achievement. If Wenger or any top Premiership manager looked to be taking a formerly top team to the bottom of the table, would you expect them to be keeping their jobs? Liverpool, Chelsea, United, Spurs . . . there’s been no shortage of managers being replaced at those clubs for failing to meet expectations, and in quite a few cases the decision to sack them didn’t come a moment too soon. Laraman and Gatting succeeded in relegating one of the best academies in the country to relegation fodder, in both age groups, and you hope they’ll be given more time?

    The only thing we may need time for is finding the right person to take over. In the meantime hopefully any kid who’s eligible will play in the under-18s against talented opposition, rather than rusting in the under-21s division 2 and being kicked and black and blue by Blackburn, Bolton and Stoke.

  5. Brilliant, so heartening to see us serve up a beating to Chelsea for once. Still ,in the interests of fairness, need to resist the strong temptation to conclude we have definitive proof of ‘old coaches, bad; new coaches, good’.

    Nobody would have difficulty accepting the talent within the u18 pool varies each year, sometimes enormously, and changes almost entirely within a 2 year period- so judgements should be taken, or rather suspended (unless you can get along to an awful lot of games yourself and make informed judgements not only of players ability but how well, or badly, they are being coached), with this in mind. Not by comparing end league positions over the mid-term.

    We might just have an awesome bunch coming through. Fingers crossed.

    Oh, and any who have taken part in vigorous Aneke-debates in the past, and couldn’t understand how anyone who even hints at Toure-like powers could not be given more /any sort of a chance at the club, should probably avoid looking at his latest goal. Phenomenal. And he can do the same with his other foot. And pass. And head. And he’s built like two of our midfielders put together.

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