Even on the occasions when they win emphatically, there is rarely an Arsenal U18 game that goes by without a defensive error being made by one of the club’s youngsters.
In the worst case scenarios, those elementary mistakes are present across the entire back four, which is what transpired against Tottenham Hotspur last week.
Arsenal, needing to win to secure a place in the top section for the next phase, started brightly but eventually ended up losing 4-0 as their defensive mishaps were pounced upon ruthlessly by an impressive Tottenham side.
Without wishing to be too critical of the individuals in question, none of the defenders who were on display for Arsenal from the outset of that game appear to have a genuine chance of succeeding at the club.
Jordi Osei-Tutu, a right-back, has struggled to make an impact since arriving from Reading and finds it difficult to cope with skilful opponents.
Kristopher Da Graca, as regular viewers of the U18 side will be all too aware, is an accident waiting to happen, with the gangly youngster frequently pushing too high up the pitch.
His central-defensive partner against Tottenham, Kostas Pileas, impressed whilst on trial last season, but was woeful on Saturday as he frequently squandered possession in dangerous areas, which provided Arsenal’s opponents with attacking momentum.
Left-back Ilias Chatzitheodoridis, meanwhile, has improved a little this season, but still seems far short of the required standard for U21 level, let alone the first-team.
With all four of those players lining up alongside eachother, the outcome was perhaps inevitable, yet still incredibly frustrating. Defensive ineptitude at youth level has been a problem at Arsenal for many years and shows no sign of abating.
Andries Jonker has done much work to improve the academy in terms of bringing in players from elsewhere, but the vast majority of those prospects are attack minded, and the two defensive players brought in for this season- Osei-Tutu and Pileas- have struggled.
There has been much to be positive about with regards to Arsenal’s academy this season in terms of players improving and edging closer to the first-team, but the search for defensive improvements goes on.
Krystian Bielik and Julio Pleguezuelo, the current central-defensive pairing for the U21s, are both excellent prospects, but Bielik appears better suited to playing in midfield, whilst beyond those two players there is a real lack of quality at centre-back in the Arsenal youth department. The most concerning aspect of which is that the situation doesn’t look like it will change for the better any time soon.
Arsenal U18s league fixtures
Sat Feb 27- Aston Villa (H)
Sat Mar 5- Sunderland (A)
Sat Mar 12- West Brom (A)
Sat Mar 19- Middlesbrough (H)
Sat Apr 9- Wolves (H)
Sat Apr 16- Leicester (A)
Sat Apr 30- Tottenham (H)