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.