U18 Premier League- Game 7
Arsenal 0 Southampton 0
Last week Ryan Huddart produced a superb display as Arsenal U18s took on Fulham and Frans de Kat’s side were again heavily reliant on their goalkeeper this weekend.
On this occasion it was Josh Vickers, captaining the side as an over-age player, who made several excellent stops to keep a clean sheet with an inexperienced defence ahead of him against bottom of the table Southampton.
Arsenal created little going forwards in the first-half, but their build-up play improved in the second period following the introductions of Kaylen Hinds and Chris Willock. Hinds was unfortunate not to score himself, whilst Tyrell Robinson perhaps should have done better in front of goal when a Willock pass scythed open the Southampton defence.
In the driving rain, this wasn’t a particularly fluent performance from Arsenal, but it has to be taken into consideration that, of the outfield players that started the game, only Renny Smith was a second-year. Schoolboys Mich’el Parker and Tolaji Bola were deployed at centre-back, whilst Savvas Mourgos made his debut in midfield.
Many of Arsenal’s first-year scholars have already featured for the older age groups this season, but that has come at a cost for de Kat, with Hinds, Willock and George Dobson, arguably the three standout players from this year’s intake, all missing from the starting line-up on Saturday.
Stephy Mavididi failed to score at this level for the first time this season, although he did come close with a header on one occasion, whilst Harry Donovan was denied in the final seconds following a mazy run from Hinds.
The plaudits should go to Vickers, though. The goalkeeper has long been tipped as having a bright future, but his development has been rather held back due to the plethora of young shot-stoppers on Arsenal’s books at present. With Emiliano Martinez, Matt Macey and Deyan Iliev all ahead of him, Vickers struggles to even make the bench for the U21s these days, although, on this evidence, the 18 year old, who spent last season on loan at Canvey Island, should be provided with some opportunities at a higher level soon.
The dropped points saw Arsenal relinquish their status at the top of the southern section, and they face West Ham, one of the two sides that are now above them, next week.
Centeno-Parker-T. Bola-M. Bola
subs: Huddart, Johnson, Willock, Hinds.