It may be a new phase of the season, but not much has changed for Arsenal U18s on the evidence of their 3-3 draw at home to their Aston Villa counterparts on Saturday.
The young Gunners showed some impressive signs going forward, with Edward Nketiah finding the net for the 15th time this season, but their defensive frailties were all too apparent, whilst goalkeeper Joao Virginia struggled on his debut.
Arsenal took the lead when Nathan Tella finished well following good work out wide by Nketiah.
However, it wasn’t long until Villa were level, with Virginia failing to claim a simple ball, which allowed the visitors to take full advantage.
Arsenal then presented Villa with an opportunity to take the lead after Aaron Eyoma’s weak pass caused problems for Jordi Osei-Tutu, but the finish was wayward.
At the other end Nketiah then capitalised upon a defensive error to restore Arsenal’s lead and then could have had a hat-trick, but he shot over following a good cross from the marauding Eyoma.
Nketiah finishes from close range- 15th goal of the season- following defensive mix-up from Villa
Tyrell Robinson, bursting forwards from left-back, then squandered an inviting opportunity to extend Arsenal’s lead.
From that point onwards Villa started to re-assert themselves, with Virginia having to be alert to tip a free-kick over his crossbar before the visitors eventually equalised following abject defending from Ilias Chatzitheodoridis, Osei-Tutu and Eyoma.
There was worse to come when a terrible kick out from Virginia gave Villa the chance to make it 3-2, and they duly obliged, although Arsenal salvaged some pride when Kostas Pileas bundled home after Josh Dasilva’s free-kick was blocked.
This was a chaotic game, but once again it appears clear that Arsenal’s best talents in this age group are the attack minded players rather than the defensive ones.