Arsenal’s youngsters will want to forget about last night’s FA Youth Cup final defeat to Chelsea as quickly as possible, with the 7-1 aggregate scoreline leaving a bitter overall feeling.
The tie certainly didn’t work out as expected for the young Gunners, with Chelsea capitalising upon the weaknesses of Kwame Ampadu’s side and making the most of their own considerable strengths.
Were it not for the many interventions of Arsenal goalkeeper Joao Virginia, however, the damage inflicted by the Blues could have been much, much worse.
Across the two legs Virginia made a string of saves, some of which were of an extremely high standard, and not many of the goals that the Portuguese youngster conceded could be deemed to be primarily his fault.
Virginia won’t be eligible for the FA Youth Cup next season but the 18-year-old, who joined Arsenal from Benfica’s academy as a schoolboy in 2015, will now hope to push on to bigger and better things.
This season Virginia has broken into Arsenal’s U23 side, making two appearances at that level, and he recently stated his desire to get into the first-team as quickly as possible.
Arsenal have a host of other young goalkeepers on their books and, although some of them may be moved on this summer, Virginia may well have to be rather patient in order to make the breakthrough, especially with Matt Macey, for instance, ahead of him at present.
Virginia, though, certainly possesses much in the way of potential, with his reactions rather impressive, while his distribution has also notably improved of late.
Next season Virginia will still be able to play for the U18s in the league as an overage player but he will aim to instead feature regularly for the U23s and perhaps even get onto the bench for the first-team in the League Cup.
This campaign Virginia has been selected to train with the senior goalkeepers on a regular basis and certainly seems to have benefited from the experience as he now commands his penalty area with greater authority.
Virginia may not be the tallest but he is still capable of making fine saves from various angles and there is an overriding feeling that he could thrive with a reliable defence in front of him.
It will be intriguing to see what next season has in store for Virginia, and indeed Arsenal’s other current U18 players, as they look to put the agony of the Chelsea defeat to one side and continue in their quest to succeed at the club.