Why is it going so right for Kwame Ampadu and Arsenal U18s?


Over the past six years Arsenal have often struggled for results at U18 level, and, while development certainly takes precedence over victories, it surely can’t be positive for a youngster to be losing every week.

Now, though, matters appear to have taken a turn for the better, with new coach Kwame Amapdu having got his tenure off to a stellar start.

With seven rounds of fixtures played, Arsenal U18s are top of their section, having won five, drawn one and lost one of their games. They have also scored more goals, 22, than any other major academy across the country, but why is it going so right for Ampadu’s side?

A glance at the team sheet for most games this season offers an insight into matters. Arsenal were previously renowned for fielding inexperienced sides at U18 level, but while some younger players, such as the outstanding Trae Coyle, have been involved this season, the side has often mainly been comprised of second-year scholars.


The likes of Edward Nketiah (who has continued to score with regularity this season), Josh DaSilva, Marcus McGuane, Donyell Malen, Vlad Dragomir, Tolaji Bola and Jordi Osei-Tutu are all vastly experienced at U18 level and have featured prominently for Ampadu’s side in the early weeks of this campaign.

DaSilva is still only 17 but he has been playing U18 football since the latter stages of the 2013/14 season and is a strong physical presence in midfield, while McGuane made several appearances for the second string last campaign but has been forced to drop back down to the U18s with the likes of Gedion Zelalem and Ainsley Maitland-Niles having returned from loan spells.

Nketiah’s prolific nature in front of goal (he has scored seven times in as many games) has been a huge help, but other players have also made significant contributions, and it is abundantly clear that Arsenal have a lot of talented wide players at their disposal.


The likes of Joe Willock (who is striving to earn his first professional contract at the club), Emile Smith-Rowe and Coyle have all impressed, while Nathan Tella marked his return from injury with a spectacular goal in the victory over Tottenham Hotspur last weekend and Reiss Nelson has also been involved in several games for Ampadu’s side.

Arsenal have excellent squad depth at this level, which is set to increase further when Charlie Gilmour and Yassin Fortune return from injuries. In fact, the young Gunners have so many players available that some of the new first-year scholars- namely Dominic Thompson and Jay Beckford- haven’t played a single game for the U18s yet this season.

There are still some matters to improve upon. Despite the fact that they have only conceded seven goals this season, Arsenal remain vulnerable at the back, with the club again struggling to produce defensive talents with the same regularity with which they bring through flair players.


Full-backs Jordi Osei-Tutu and Tolaji Bola have done well enough for the U18s, but there is a concern that they could find matters difficult in the older age groups, with Bola having already had some disappointing performances for the U23s and U19s.

Overall, though, matters are going very well for Arsenal and for Ampadu, with the coach having managed to get his side playing as a cohesive unit. The signs suggest that Arsenal could make an impact in the FA Youth Cup this season, while they will also seek to challenge for the league title.

In addition, many members of the U18 squad have been involved in the UEFA Youth League this season, which will inevitably be hugely beneficial for their development. At the moment, however, it is difficult for players to break through to the U23s given that Steve Gatting has an established group to work with at that level.

For now, though, it could hardly be any better for Arsenal or Ampadu with regards to the U18s, and the coach will hope that his side will be able to continue their winning momentum after the international break.



  1. I challenge the idea that losing necessarily has been bad for the academy. At most even the best academies can only hope to produce one or maybe two players two forge careers at a top top level, let alone in the club’s first team. In the six year period you’re talking about Bellerin and Iwobi have established themselves in the first team, Akpom and Maitland-Niles have proven that they can play at the very least the Championship and might yet still establish themselves in the first team, and while he’s not made many apps Willock seems to be a future first teamer in the making. Thats five players in a not even six but a five year period. Thats damn impressive, and some definitive proof that results really don’t matter, the ones who can hack it at the top level will always find a away to breakthrough.

  2. What’s going right is that the players are playing in their correct age group and not being forced to play in groups beyond their years.

    Shame the club cannot see this with some of the under 23s who are being sent out on loan when they are clearly not ready. Just because you cannot play under 18s does not mean you are ready to warm the bench in divs 1,2 or abroad. There should be nothing wrong with establishing yourself in your own clubs under 23 team and then progressing to the first team. Iwobi has proved it can be done.

  3. It may be right then that the U-18s have experience playing as a team as has been shown by the results thus far.

    As for the “senior” Academy team (are they seriously still part of the Academy?), we have not had a settled team nor have our best players available. Also, as Atid mentioned, maybe they are playing beyond their ages. Again, I take cognisance that playing beyond your years and out of position could well be intentional to develop their progress.

  4. its high time daniel crowley is protected.return him to the under 23.he is not benefitting from loan bench warming

  5. On average there are around 10-15 u18s taken on each summer. Meaning that after leaving u16s there are 20-30 players going through the U18 team. Now there is up to a 5 year spell available playing for the over 23s meaning a possible pool of 100-150 players to choose from. Obviously a huge chunk will not make the grade, some could end up playing 5 years of academy football, whilst one or two will virtually by pass u23 football and the rest will spend loan spells trying to develop their game and basically carve out a career.

    I am not sure there is enough football between U18 and u23 I would like to see the YCL changed to u20 and I would have liked to seen the club enter the EPL trophy as well. Perhaps then the 18+ to u23 players, might not be warming benches across Europe and instead learning how to win trophies for Arsenal

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