U18 Premier League
Arsenal 0 West Ham 5
Arsenal U18s’ league form continues to be a source of much concern, with Frans De Kat’s side suffering the latest setback of an increasingly disappointing season as they were trounced 5-0 at home to West Ham United today.
West Ham had a slightly more experienced side, with Arsenal calling upon just one second-year, but De Kat’s team are without a league win since September and this mauling will do little to help the confidence of these young players.
West Ham took an early lead courtesy of Jahmal Hector-Ingram and soon added to it, with Manny Onariase, Vashon Neufville and former Gunner Jordan Brown all getting on the scoresheet and Hector-Ingram finding the net again for good measure.
Arsenal rested the majority of the players who are expected to feature in Monday’s crucial FA Youth Cup encounter against Crewe Alexandra, but that can’t be used as an excuse for the Gunners’ meek resistance to the West Ham onslaught.
Centre-back Kristopher Da Graca was drafted in for his first U18 start, but he endured a day to forget, with the remainder of the side the same as the one that started against Southampton last week.
subs: Huddart, Parker, Tella, Willock.
This was a deeply disappointing surrender from Arsenal, who have now lost their last four league games at this level, scoring just one goal during that sorry sequence of results.
The results suffered at this level last season were disappointing, but there seemed to be reasons for optimism at the start of the campaign, with new coach Frans De Kat inspiring commendable victories over Brighton & Hove Albion and Chelsea.
In recent months, though, with the likes of Chiori Johnson, Tyrell Robinson, Stephy Mavididi, Kaylen Hinds and Chris Willock having been used less frequently in the league due to their commitments at higher levels, results and performances have suffered greatly.
The defence appears to be the biggest area of concern. Left-back Ilias Chatzitheodoridis has struggled with his positioning, whilst Elliot Wright is still not certain to be awarded a professional deal.
Further forwards there is a lack of real steel in midfield, with Ben Sheaf, Savvas Mourgos and Harry Donovan all good technically, but lacking the capabilities required to stop opponents in their tracks.
Aaron Eyoma and schoolboy Marcus Tabi offer pace on the flanks but aren’t a regular source of goals or assists, whilst striker Josh Da Silva is promising but still adapting to this level.
For many years it has been Arsenal’s policy to play youngsters above their age group but in recent years results at U18 level have been hugely concerning.
The purpose of the academy is to provide players for the first-team, with youth team results not of particularly high importance. However, losing every week surely cannot be beneficial for their long-term development.
Arsenal could yet win silverware in the U18 age group this season by prevailing in the Youth Cup, but, if they are to even reach the Semi-Final stage, they must first dispatch of Crewe and then Manchester City. Even when able to call upon the likes of Dan Crowley, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Gedion Zelalem and Krystian Bielik, that will be a tall order.
There wasn’t much better news regarding the U16s today, as they were thrashed 5-1, also by West Ham.