It wasn’t common knowledge at the time, but Arsenal U18s’ 4-1 victory over Sunderland last weekend was Frans De Kat’s final away game in charge of the young Gunners.
There have certainly been some mixed results during the Dutchman’s two seasons at the helm, and the triumph in the North East was perhaps a typical Arsenal youth display as it contained some woeful defending and some scintillating attacking moves.
De Kat made several changes from the previous fixture and gave a first call-up at this level to U15s goalkeeper Arthur Okonkwo.
Da Graca-T. Bola-Pileas-Robinson
Subs: Okonkwo, Mourgos, Nelson, J. Willock.
Sunderland took the lead in the 15th minute, with hesitant defending from Kristopher Da Graca providing Joel Asoro with too much time in the penalty area.
Arsenal sought to respond, with Joshua DaSilva doing well to find Edward Nketiah, who, operating in a slightly withdrawn position, could only find the side-netting.
The forward was back to his prolific best shortly afterwards when he latched onto Vlad Dragomir’s ball in and found the net for the 20th time this season.
Nketiah then found the net again to put Arsenal in the lead and also put himself in the lead with regards to the U18 Premier League goalscoring charts. On this occasion the forward applied the finishing touch to a neat move that also involved Donyell Malen and captain Aaron Eyoma.
Substitute Reiss Nelson, who according to reports was dropped from the starting line-up after his mobile phone rang in a pre-match meeting, made it 3-1 after being found by Joe Willock, with Malen then adding further gloss to the scoreline with an astute finish.
Arsenal conclude their campaign this weekend with a game at home to Tottenham Hotspur, and will be eager to exact revenge on their rivals after suffering a 4-0 defeat in February.