U18 Premier League
Chelsea 3 Arsenal 0
When Arsenal U18s thrashed their Chelsea counterparts 5-1 in August it seemed as if the young Gunners were set for an impressive season under new coach Frans De Kat.
Fast forward to late November and Arsenal are now without a win or even a goal in their last five games at this level, with today’s defeat in the return fixture against Chelsea raising concerns about whether those early victories were merely a false dawn.
Arsenal fielded a strong team by their usual U18 League standards, with Gedion Zelalem, Dan Crowley, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Stefan O’Connor and Tafari Moore, all of whom are U21 regulars, being called upon. Julio Pleguezuelo, whose previous appearance came in the aforementioned victory over Chelsea, was restored to the side after recovering from injury, but it was Chelsea who were by far the more dominant side.
Arsenal haven’t played a fixture at U21 level in November, so perhaps it was understandable that some of their players were a little rusty. That alone, though, isn’t a sufficient excuse for why they were unable to compete with Chelsea for large parts of this game.
Dominic Solanke, a player who has already featured in the Champions League, opened the scoring with a neat finish, with the impressive Tammy Abraham later doubling Chelsea’s advantage after a neat passing move.
Ryan Huddart had to be alert to prevent Arsenal from falling further behind before the break. Arsenal did manage to carve out an opportunity in the closing stages of the first-half, with Dan Crowley and Stephy Mavididi doing well to tee up Aaron Eyoma, but the winger’s effort lacked conviction.
Crowley forced Chelsea goalkeeper Bradley Collins into the save shortly after the re-start, but it wasn’t too long until normal service was resumed and Chelsea started to carve out chances with regularity once more.
Izzy Brown and Solanke both came close to scoring. Jake Clarke-Salter’s block prevented Mavididi’s effort from troubling Collins, but Chelsea’s victory was put beyond all doubt when Kasey Palmer crossed intelligently for Solanke to make it 3-0.
Arsenal now find themselves 10 points behind Chelsea, albeit with the league leaders having played a game more than De Kat’s team.
Arsenal: Huddart; T. Moore, O’Connor, Pleguezuelo (Sheaf 69), M. Bola; Zelalem, Maitland-Niles (Dobson 69); Eyoma (Robinson 76), Crowley, C. Willock; Mavididi. Not used: Chatzitheodoridis, Keto.