Arsenal U17s may not have been able to secure silverware at the Al Kass International Cup in Qatar, but they played some impressive football throughout the tournament and ended up finishing in third place after beating AC Milan 4-2 today.
Arsenal gave opportunities to some of the promising schoolboys who made the trip, with two of them, Eddie Nketiah and Josh Da Silva, hitting braces agains the Italian side.
Goalkeeper Hugo Keto, as he was in many of the previous games, was again impressive, but Arsenal’s stand-out performer was Chris Willock, who caught the eye with the sheer audaciousness of his array of trickery. The recently-signed professional has a tendency to operate on the periphery of games before suddenly bursting into life at crucial moments and can look forward to further involvement in the U21 squad upon his return.
As far as their prospects in this tournament were concerned, Arsenal were left to rue the fact that Willock was suspended for the Semi-Final defeat to Paris Saint-Germain as a consequence of his involvement in the brawl that ensued after the tempestuous fixture against River Plate.
Had Willock been available Arsenal may well have fared better against PSG, but the young Gunners can still look back on this tournament with fond memories.
Several Arsenal players enjoyed fine displays throughout, including Willock, Kaylen Hinds, Keto, Harry Donovan and Stephy Mavididi, with the latter finishing as the competition’s top goalscorer.
It was a good opportunity for the schoolboys, some of whom aren’t yet guaranteed scholarships with the club for next season, to catch the eye. Winger Nathan Tella has much raw potential, whilst central-defender Kostas Pileas was impressive until his costly mistake against PSG.
Reiss Nelson, an England youth international winger who will still be a schoolboy next season, also showed glimpses of his undoubted potential, and this trip certainly wasn’t a wasted one for Arsenal.
Now attention will turn to the U18s’ FA Youth Cup campaign, which continues with a home tie against Crewe Alexandra on Thursday.
Arsenal at the Al Kass International Cup
Arsenal 3 (Mavididi 7, 57, 70) Vissel Kobe 2
Keto; Centeno, Da Graca (Nelson, 46), Pileas, T. Bola (O. Moore, 90); Sheaf (Da Silva, 82), Donovan; Tabi, Hinds (Musendo, 85), C. Willock (Mourgos, 67); Mavididi. Not used: House, Tella, Gilmour, Nketiah.
Aspire Qatar 0 Arsenal 3 (Mavididi 9, Donovan 14, Willock 25)
Keto; Centeno, Musendo, Pileas (Gilmour, 77), T. Bola; Sheaf, Donovan; Tabi (Tella, 61), Hinds (Da Silva, 46), C. Willock (Mourgos, 46); Mavididi (Nketiah, 61). Not used: House, Da Graca, Nelson, O. Moore.
Arsenal 1 (Hinds 64) River Plate 0
Keto; Centeno, Da Graca (Mourgos, 64), Pileas, T. Bola; Sheaf (Nelson, 62), Donovan; Tabi, Hinds (Da Silva, 71), C. Willock; Mavididi. Not used: House, O. Moore, Tella, Musendo, Gilmour, Nketiah.
Arsenal 1 (Mavididi 65) PSG 2
Keto; Centeno (Nelson, 53), Da Graca (Nketiah, 77), Pileas, T. Bola; Sheaf, Donovan (Musendo, 69); Tabi (Tella, 68), Hinds (Da Silva, 53), Mourgos, Mavididi. Not used: House, O. Moore, Gilmour.
3rd place Play-off
AC Milan 2 Arsenal 4 (Nketiah 3, 47, Da Silva 8, 54)
Keto (House, 83); O. Moore, Da Graca, Musendo, Mourgos; Sheaf (Donovan, 46), Gilmour (Tabi, 69); Tella (Mavididi, 46), Da Silva, C. Willock; Nketiah (Nelson, 88). Not used: Centeno, T. Bola, Pileas, Hinds.