U18 Premier League- Play offs
Arsenal 1 (Eyoma (78)) Norwich City 2 (Couzens (26), Middleton (79))
The commencement of the end of season play-offs was supposed to provide Arsenal U18s with an opportunity to forget their dismal league form this campaign, but Saturday’s 2-1 defeat at home to Norwich City was familiar for all the wrong reasons.
Wright-Da Graca-T. Bola-Chatzitheodoridis
subs: Da Silva (for Robinson, 66), Tabi (for Sheaf, 84). Not used: Huddart, Nketiah.
It was actually one of the better performances that Frans De Kat’s side have produced this season, with wingers Tyrell Robinson and Chris Willock posing a regular threat and Aaron Eyoma, deployed as a central striker this season, also heavily involved.
However, those positives were marred by yet more individual errors, most of which occurred in Arsenal’s own half, which ultimately prevented De Kat’s team from being able to take anything from the game.
The tone was set in the opening stages when a slack pass from goalkeeper Hugo Keto presented Norwich with a goalscoring opportunity that they failed to take.
Arsenal responded, with Willock seeing a shot saved following good work from Harry Donovan.
However, Norwich’s considerable threat soon became apparent, with Louis McIntosh shooting over after the visitors carved Arsenal’s defence apart with an intricate attacking move.
The opening goal came courtesy of schoolboy defending from schoolboy defender Tolaji Bola, who missed the ball, allowing George Couzens to race through and score.
Norwich have had an even worse campaign than Arsenal in terms of results but they returned to London Colney full of confidence having won here just a couple of weeks previously.
Arsenal, to their credit, did at least mount a meaningful response to falling behind. A neat pass from Elliot Wright found Eyoma, with the latter controlling brilliantly before shooting over.
Robinson also sent an effort off target after he was located by Willock, but Arsenal were hugely fortunate not to fall behind shortly afterwards following another lapse in concentration.
Kristopher Da Graca was the guilty party on this occasion, with the centre-back losing control, enabling former Arsenal youngster Benny Ashley-Seal an opportunity to run through on goal. However, Ashley-Seal lost his footing at the crucial moment and was unable to regain his composure, providing Arsenal with a lifeline in terms of their hopes of salvaging something from this game.
They drew level shortly after that incident, with the alert Eyoma applying the finishing touch to a neat move that involved good combination play from Ben Sheaf and substitute Josh Da Silva.
It wasn’t long, though, until Norwich regained control of proceedings and, unsurprisingly, it was another error that cost Arsenal, with Donovan this time losing the ball in a dangerous area, enabling Glenn Middleton to inflict Arsenal’s eleventh league defeat of the season.
*Arsenal U18s remaining Play-Off fixtures: Stoke City (A), Blackburn Rovers (H), Bolton Wanderers (A), Newcastle United (A), Southampton (H), Fulham (A).
* With several players on U21 duty (Steve Gatting’s side face Blackburn Rovers away tonight), Donovan was selected to train with the first-team squad at London Colney this morning prior to tomorrow’s Champions League tie against Monaco.
Gabriel and Tomas Rosicky returned to training and could make the squad for the trip to France, whilst Mikel Arteta, Mathieu Debuchy and Serge Gnabry also trained as they continued to build up their fitness.
Jack Wilshere, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Isaac Hayden and Abou Diaby are all still out.