After making a brief return to winning ways last week, Arsenal U18s experienced the familiar feeling of defeat as they were beaten 2-1 by West Bromwich Albion yesterday.
Coach Frans De Kat rested the vast majority of the players that are set to be involved in the re-arranged FA Youth Cup tie against Crewe Alexandra tomorrow night.
O. Moore-Da Graca-Wright-Chatzitheodoridis
subs: Huddart, M. Bola, Nelson, Centeno, Gilmour.
He gave starts to four U16 players, one of whom, right-back Owen Moore, was told this week that he isn’t guaranteed a scholarship deal with the club for next season.
Reiss Nelson, the skilful and dangerous England youth international winger, was introduced for his debut at this level in the second-half and almost made an instant impact as his effort rattled the crossbar.
Arsenal had taken an early lead when Nathan Tella did well to find Savvas Mourgos, who created space for himself before directing his effort beyond the reach of Ethan Ross.
However, West Brom dominated thereafter, with Andre Wright prodding home from close range to equalise before Kyle Edwards put the hosts in front before the interval.
West Brom had a chance to seal the win in the second half but they missed a penalty. It mattered little, though, as Arsenal, despite Nelson’s best efforts, were unable to force themselves back into the game.
Arsenal’s defence at this level remains hugely unconvincing, with Kristopher Da Graca not having given the best account of himself since joining the club.
There was some encouragement to be found in the performances of some of the schoolboys, however, with Eddie Nketiah and Josh Da Silva both impressing.
Arsenal remain second bottom of their group as the first phase of U18 fixtures nears its completion. De Kat’s team’s remaining league fixtures are against Tottenham Hotspur, Norwich City and Leicester City, after which they will enter another group with the lowest placed teams from the northern division.
De Kat’s priority now, however, is tomorrow’s crucial FA Youth Cup tie against Crewe. The game has already been postponed on two occasions due to concerns over the pitch at Boreham Wood’s Meadow Park stadium and the fixture will instead take place at Barnet’s The Hive ground.
The winners will face Manchester City away in the Quarter-Finals. Midfielder Krystian Bielik could make his much anticipated Arsenal debut tomorrow. However, Tafari Moore is definitely out and will miss the rest of the season, whilst Julio Pleguezuelo is doubtful.
*Update- Kaylen Hinds has been ruled out for three to four weeks and will miss the game.
Possible Arsenal U18s team v Crewe:
subs: Keto, Donovan, Sheaf, Eyoma, M. Bola.