Familiar defensive concerns show no sign of abating for Arsenal U18s


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Image: Tottenham Hotspur

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)

4 comments

  1. I believe it has much to do with Wenger’s philosophy of “enjoying your football” instead giving your best no matter if you feel like it on the day. Awful defending is the “arsenal way” in the academy competitions since few years now. I happened to comment on one of Matt Law’s posts about Szczesny saying that perhaps Wenger doesn’t communicate clearly or doesn’t put enough discipline, but leaves every player to develop at their own pace, and he partially agreed with me. As a psychology student, I can see clear signs of anxious and stressed behavior by Wenger, not being able to communicate his feelings (especially the positive ones). I feel his fear from life after football is holding this club back, which reflects also on our youth teams.

    1. I don’t think Wenger has that much direct involvement in the U18s. He does watch them occasionally but I really don’t think he gets very involved in the training/games/tactics. Although I’m sure him wanting players of a certain type is the youth managements aim.
      Although I suspect he has more direct involvement in the U21s.

    2. Sorry but as a psycholody student leave your cod amatuer views on Wenger’s mental state to yourself. As someone who claims to be studying the subject giving a view on someone’s alleged anxious and stressed behaviour without actualy speaking to them suggests you aren’t a very good student. I damn well hope that you never come close to treating me. Mental health is far too serious a subject to let someone make such crass observations.

  2. Probably easier to work with attackers because defenders need an extra element to their game, that being concentration.

    The ability is there just need to remember first job of a defender is to defend. Also think the 4231 leaved them vulnerable to pace at times.

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