If Arsenal U21s had serious designs on earning promotion to the top tier of second-string football for next season, then those plans have been hit by two disappointing defeats in the space of a week.
Today the young Gunners, with a side containing players such as Dan Crowley, Gedion Zelalem and Ainsley Maitland-Niles, were beaten 3-1 by Aston Villa, with the result leaving Steve Gatting’s side with a sizeable task in terms of getting out of the second tier.
That followed a 3-2 loss away to Middlesbrough on Monday, although there were at least some positives to take from that encounter, with Arsenal playing some impressive football despite having goalkeeper Deyan Iliev (pictured) sent off early in the game.
Arsenal U21s now have four games remaining this season- against West Bromwich Albion, Brighton & Hove Albion, Bolton Wanderers and Wolverhampton Wanderers- and it is now clear that they will probably have to take maximum points from all of those games to stand a realistic chance of promotion.
The exact mathematics regarding promotion are rather complicated at present, with many of the teams occupying the higher positions in the table having played varying amounts of games so far. Arsenal have taken 28 points from their 18 fixtures and find themselves 13 points behind league leaders Middlesbrough, who have played a game more. The teams that finish in the top two places will earn promotion to the first division.
Development, of course, takes precedence over results at youth level, but it would surely be more beneficial for the club’s youngsters to test themselves against the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool as opposed to Bolton, Stoke, Wolves and Derby County.
With several players, including Chuba Akpom, having recently gone out on loan, younger prospects are getting a chance at U21 level, such as striker Stephy Mavididi, who this week was called up to the England U17 squad for this summer’s European Championships for that age group.
George Dobson, who can play equally as effectively as centre-back and in defensive midfield, has also been ushered into the side of late following an injury to Krystian Bielik.
With Jack Wilshere and Mathieu Debuchy now back in the senior squad after spending some time with the U21s, a very youthful team has been fielded in recent matches, which could partly explain the negative results that have followed.
A lot of the players involved possess considerable experience of U21 football, though, with Crowley and Zelalem the club’s two brightest prospects below first-team level and Alex Iwobi having provided some tantalising glimpses of his ability.
The naming of such a young side has had an effect on the U18 squad and last week a team containing seven schoolboys in the starting line-up was thrashed 6-0 by Newcastle United. Amongst Arsenal’s substitutes for that fixture was left-winger Emile Smith-Rowe, who had the honour of being the first player to represent the club at U18 level who was born in the 21st century.
Jeorge Bird is the author of www.arsenalyouth.wordpress.com Follow him on Twitter @jeorgebird
Re U21 slump in form – I understand we’ve lost some key players on loan, and have been forced to play those from the U18s, but this is nothing new in youth football. So what’s gone with both them and the U18s?? Is the coaching poor, are the players poor, whats happening? 🙁
Smash the chavs. But moderation means i wont be first.
Zelalem seems to be slipping under the radar a bit. Considering the fact that he was supposed to be ahead of Cesc in his development, I wonder whether he will fit into the first team in the near future with all the competition for places there.
Here’s hoping. If he doesn’t make it means he’s not good enough that can only be good for the team. I’ve seen great things from him and Crowley, though.
I was riding a bike when I posted this so excuse the poor grammar.
Recently we’ve lost to Reading, Boro and now Villa. Having beaten the first two en route to the fa cup final, does this bode well for the final itself?
It bodes excellently. So far this year, we’ve beaten Villa 3-0 and 5-0. That means we should win the final 7-0.
You mean 8-0 of course
He meant the score was increasing by 2 goals per game. So, he meant 7-0 of course.
Development at this stage certainly is more important than just the results. Of course, winning AND developing is the best. I wonder what the stats are like for other teams regarding players out on loan. We send quite a few in the second half of the season, surely that makes a difference, with younger players being pushed up to take the place of the loanees.
We’re hardly the only club to send kids out to gain experience, and last time I looked Chelsea and Spurs had more players on loan than we did. Not that we’re competing with them anyway, since they are in the elite academy league and we’re down in div 2 with the cloggers – which looks likely to be where we’ll remain unless we change our mentality. Sure, development matters more than score lines, but this way of thinking is, I suspect, a big part of our problem. Isn’t learning how to win games also a key part of development? Doesn’t… Read more »
Come on you young gunners.. Time to step up.
Are the youth teams like the portrait of Dorian Grey? ie deteriorate as the first team blooms?
Seventeen year old newbie Kystrian Bielek is out on injury. Welcome to The Arsenal!
On a side note, I noticed more players with double-barrelled surnames recently. Is this a new trend in The Arsenal or UK in general?
Ugh to double barrel names, what happens when one double barrelled person marries another? Shocking!!!
They get injured????