Coach Frans de Kat was left disappointed despite Arsenal U18s staging a stunning comeback to win 3-2 against Fulham at Motspur Park on Saturday.
A second-half fightback inspired by substitute Kaylen Hinds, who set up one goal for Stephy Mavididi and scored the other two himself, earned Arsenal all three points, but only after a deeply disappointing first-half display.
Fulham tore through the Arsenal midfield at will, with the Gunners’ defence struggling to cope. Goalkeeper Ryan Huddart was called upon to make a couple of impressive saves, but, in truth, Arsenal were fortunate to go into the break just two goals down, with Tolaji Bola and Marc Bola finding it difficult to prevent the likes of Mattias Kait and Stephen Humphrys from wreaking havoc.
De Kat said that he told the players at half-time that most of them were delivering performances that rated at 2 or 3 out of 10. Their prospective marks would have been much higher for the second-half, but Arsenal owed much to Hinds, whose pace and clinical nature in front of goal helped to drag Arsenal back into the game.
Hinds did well to cut the ball back for Mavididi, who scored his tenth goal of the campaign. Hinds then found the net himself after latching onto Aaron Eyoma’s cross and then finishing well. His second goal and Arsenal’s third was remarkably similar in terms of technique, although Chiori Johnson, another substitute, was the provider on this occasion.
For all their frailties at the back Arsenal could have even extended their lead late on, but Eyoma’s shot lacked conviction. Ben Sheaf was impressive following his introduction from the bench and the midfielder will hope to feature more regularly in the next few weeks.
A large proportion of the squad that faced Fulham are likely to be involved when the U19s continue their Youth League campaign against Galatasaray on Wednesday afternoon. The challenge of playing two games in a week is a tough one but will provide the youngsters with ideal preparation for first-team football.
Huddart is set to be in goal against the Turkish side and the Hale End product certainly deserves to be playing at a higher level after some impressive performances. He will have to bide his time before he can break into the U21 set-up, however, with Matt Macey, Deyan Iliev and Josh Vickers all ahead of him at present.
Arsenal U18s continue their league campaign at home to Southampton on Saturday.