Assessing Arsenal U18s – Dan Micciche’s side look to finish the season strongly

Arsenal U18s may have been knocked out of the FA Youth Cup unexpectedly early, but Dan Micciche’s side still have a chance of securing silverware in a cup competition this season.

On Saturday the young Gunners will face Stoke City away in the quarter-finals of the U18 Premier League Cup.

Their final preparation for that fixture came in a 1-1 league draw at home to Leicester City last weekend; a game that demonstrated the positives and negatives of Micciche’s team.

The U18s are constantly having to reinvent themselves with players stepping up to the U23s and in some cases senior football. The likes of Charlie Patino, Omari Hutchinson, Zach Awe, Jack Henry-Francis, Reuell Walters, Zane Monlouis and Brooke Norton-Cuffy have all mainly been involved with the second-string, while Norton-Cuffy is now already gaining experience of senior football with Lincoln City.

Micciche, then, has had to turn to other players, but he has often been able to call upon the prolific Khayon Edwards, who scored from the penalty spot against Leicester. It remains to be seen if Arsenal will be able to keep Edwards, whose professional contract is set to expire at the end of June amidst interest from a host of other clubs. Although he is mainly a striker, of late Edwards has often played in midfield, which has helped his overall development.

The likes of Amario Cozier-Duberry and Charles Sagoe Jr have been key forces of creativity this season, although the latter missed several inviting chances against Leicester.

Lino Sousa has adapted quickly following his move from West Bromwich Albion and has demonstrated his versatility as he can play at left-back or as a winger.

After the game against Leicester Micciche reserved special praise for Josh Robinson. The first-year scholar, who has been capped by England at youth level, usually plays at centre-back but was deployed at right-back against the Foxes and pushed forward to excellent effect while also being diligent defensively.

James Sweet and Billy Vigar endured much frustration with injuries last season but they are now both enjoying a run in the side. Sweet has played at right-back and as a winger and has been a major threat with his assists, while Vigar isn’t the most prolific striker but his hold-up play and technical ability are of a very high standard. It would be somewhat harsh if either player was to be released when their scholarship deals expire in the summer, but the academy does have something of a problem at present in terms of there being too many players at the club.

Bradley Ibrahim, meanwhile, is an interesting prospect who has flitted between playing at centre-back and in his usual position in midfield. Ibrahim is somewhat reminiscent of Isaac Hayden given that he is effective at breaking up play and initiating attacks.

There are still some major concerns about the U18s defensively as they can frequently get caught out on the counter-attack. It is hoped, though, that their attacking qualities will be able to outweigh these deficiencies.

Given the aforementioned problem of there being too many players in the academy, Micciche hasn’t been able to give sufficient chances to some of the club’s first-year scholars this season, with the likes of Mathaeus Roberts, Jimi Gower, Kaleel Green, Henry Timi Davies and Ismail Oulad M’Hand not receiving sustained opportunities to impress. Arsenal will hope to avoid a repeat of the situation that unfolded with Amani Richards, who left for Leicester City after growing frustrated with his lack of playing time.

It is hoped, though, that more of those players will be able to step up in the closing stages of the season ahead of being more prominent figures next campaign.

The U18s have lacked consistency of late in terms of results, as reflected by the fact that they are in sixth place in the league. There are some talented players in this group, however, and Micciche’s side will be determined to conclude the campaign strongly.

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3 comments

  1. I always believe that development is the main focus for academy football, but as young England teams have proved, winning a trophy really helps your confidence and development. If the u18s and u23s have any chance of winning these cups/leagues then they should try to play their best team if possible. I don’t mean leaving out the likes of Martinelli, Switch Rowe and Saka. But would it hurt for Okonkwo, Tavares, Nketiah, Sambi to have the odd game in the u23s while some of the u23s who are eligible boost the u18 team?

  2. Jeorge are we currently going through a period where Arsenal are just lucky in being able to scout some really top talents or do you think that there’s been a raising of standards generally across the academy and if so what would you attribute that to?

    1. I think the 2020 scholars- Patino, Hutchinson etc are one of the best groups in recent years. The current scholars are okay with one or two standout talents. Beyond that there are some good players coming through but I think it is mostly a case of the 2020 scholars being of a very high standard. A lot of those players were brought in at a very young age as well.

      On Wed, 9 Feb 2022 at 11:30, Jeorge Bird's Arsenal Youth wrote:

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