Stephy Mavididi started the season in tremendous style as he scored ten goals in first six games of the campaign for the U18s.
He endured a fallow spell thereafter, but there have been signs in recent weeks that the first-year scholar, who looks likely to be rewarded with a professional contract in the summer, has returned to something approaching his best form.
One of the few standout performers in what was a dismal FA Youth Cup campaign for Frans De Kat’s side, Mavididi was also on the scoresheet in the UEFA Youth League and yesterday he returned to the U18 league stage, scoring twice in a 5-3 victory over Leicester City.
Wins at that level have been rather scarce for Arsenal this season, but it is no coincidence that Mavididi has been on the scoresheet during four of the five league victories that the U18s have enjoyed this season.
Arsenal’s faith in the youngster has long been apparent, as evidenced by the fact that he made his U18 debut two seasons ago, whilst he was still technically an U15 player.
Mavididi possessed a considerable amount of raw potential then but is a much more complete player now. He has strength and an impeccable sense of timing in the penalty area, not to mention a useful ability to help link-up play from deeper positions.
Still eligible for the U18s next season, Mavididi will hope instead to push into the U21 team on a regular basis. He has already featured at that level but could be set for heavier involvement next campaign if Chuba Akpom, as expected, goes out on loan.
Yesterday’s performance was one of the most impressive displays that the U18s have produced this season. Granted, the barrier isn’t very high in that regard, with De Kat’s team having endured a miserable campaign in terms of results, but some of the build-up play and off the ball movement was excellent.
There were still, inevitably, a few errors defensively, but from an attacking point of view the performance went to plan. Gedion Zelalem, restored to his preferred advanced midfield position, got on the scoresheet and also produced some sublime moments of skill, whilst Chris Willock was heavily involved on the left flank.
Aaron Eyoma, stationed on the right of midfield, has also developed well this season, with the winger scoring with a well-executed finish yesterday.
De Kat expressed his satisfaction at the victory despite Arsenal’s disappointing start to the game, with the result leaving you wondering whether the U18s would have produced better performances, thus improving the confidence of the players involved, if they had fielded stronger sides throughout the campaign.
Many of the players on show yesterday will return to U21 action next week for the trip to face Derby County.