Chris Willock proves his worth for Arsenal U18s as Nelson impresses again

Arsenal U18s were outplayed for much of the first-half as they took on their Chelsea counterparts on Monday at London Colney, but they improved in the second period and eventually managed to salvage a point through Aaron Eyoma’s late header, which ensured that the game finished 1-1.

There were some elements of concern for coach Frans De Kat, with the central-defensive partnership of Kristopher Da Graca and Tolaji Bola not inspiring much in the way of confidence, but there were also some positives to take from the game, particularly in an attacking sense, with both Chris Willock and Reiss Nelson impressing.

Willock and Nelson are at different stages in their development. The latter has only just stepped up to full-time training at London Colney and is still a schoolboy, whilst Willock has already featured for the first-team, albeit only in non-competitive fixtures.

Against Chelsea, though, they were very much on the same wavelength, with both players dovetailing to excellent effect. Willock, operating primarily on the left flank, caused the opposition defence all manner of problems with his mazy dribbling, whilst his fellow Hale End product Nelson was dangerous throughout.

Nelson’s potential is such that he is starting U18 games ahead of both first year and second year scholars.

Willock can count himself a little unfortunate to be back in the U18 squad, albeit only on a temporary basis, but competition for places is strong for the attacking spots in the U21 side at present, with the likes of Jeff Reine-Adelaide, Alex Iwobi, Kaylen Hinds and Stephy Mavididi all heavily involved at that level.

Hugo Keto was impressive again in goal, although Yassin Fortune didn’t make much of an impact up front. The same couldn’t be said of substitute Eddie Nketiah, though, with the youngster emerging off the bench to rattle the woodwork with a fiercely struck effort.

Nketiah enjoyed an excellent pre-season and, despite being used as a substitute in the opening two league fixtures, looks to be full of confidence.

Arsenal, who were without Harry Donovan for this fixture, are still waiting to receive permission to field their new foreign signings- Ismael Bennacer, Kostas Pileas, Vlad Dragomir and Donyell Malen at this level.

The young Gunners take on Reading this weekend.



  1. Kristopher Da Graca is out of place completely, every time he plays. The club should try and find some better central defenders and release dead wood.

    1. You make it sound like their is an abundance of quality centre backs at this level. The majority of young kids don’t really want to be defenders. Becoming a defender for most kids is a development because other kids are better in midfield and attack than they are, I have been coaching for over 30 years now and I can tell you that it is not that simple to get quality centre backs, they are usually developed later and unearthing a gem like John stones at a young age is vary hard. Even at 21/22 most centre backs would struggle against the real top players, better to let them learn from their mistakes in the U18 leagues, u 21 leagues, etc. I am sure da graca is no worse than most 17/18 year old centre backs, when the time comes I have every faith in the coaches to know whether he has the quality to make it into the first team squad. For now, he has plenty of time on his side as the likes of chambers, pleguezuelo, oconnor and bielik are all ahead of him in terms of age in the quest to get ahead of one of the main three.

  2. Jeorge, pls can you describe reiss Nelsons talent via an old youth player. Which former youth player does he remind you of, both in talent and in style of play?

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