Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Chastening FA Youth Cup defeat leaves Arsenal U18s with much to ponder

Arsenal U18s knew that they would face a tough task against Chelsea in the second leg of the FA Youth Cup final given that they were 3-1 down from the first leg, but they perhaps didn’t quite anticipate how impressive their opponents would be in yesterday’s encounter at Emirates Stadium.

Chelsea ran out 4-0 winners, triumphing 7-1 on aggregate as they won the Youth Cup for the fifth time in succession, prompting jubilant celebrations amongst the travelling supporters and players.

Arsenal’s youngsters were, inevitably, dejected, but this wasn’t a scoreline that flattered Chelsea, with the Blues fully meriting the significant margin of their victory, which could have been even greater were it not for the many interventions of Gunners goalkeeper Joao Virginia.

In Virginia Arsenal have a player to be very excited about for the future, as is the case with several other members of this group, including Emile Smith Rowe and Xavier Amaechi.

Academies will ultimately be judged on players progressing to the first-team rather than accolades at youth level, but getting into the winning habit is never a bad thing and Arsenal will be disappointed not to have regained this prestigious trophy.

The hope is that lessons will be learned from this defeat, but Arsenal weren’t helped by some questionable tactical decisions from coach Kwame Ampadu, who substituted important players at key moments and who was unable to get the best out of his side.

Some of these players will have another opportunity to win the Youth Cup next season, although Arsenal will be deprived of the likes of Virginia and Smith Rowe.

It could only be wondered what difference it would have made had Reiss Nelson, who didn’t feature at all in this competition this season, been involved across the two legs, with Callum Hudson-Odoi, who has been involved with the Chelsea first-team this season, the standout performer for the Blues.

Despite the huge disappointment of this defeat, Arsenal still have the opportunity to conclude the youth season on a high and add to their Premier League 2 title success when they host Porto next week in the final of the Premier League International Cup at U23 level.

Arsenal’s U23 side is significantly stronger overall than the U18 group and they stand a good chance of succeeding against Porto, with those players who were involved against Chelsea having an extra incentive to succeed.

Jeorge Bird is the author of www.arsenalyouth.wordpress.com Follow him on Twitter @jeorgebird


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Jimbo Jones

Thanks for the report Jeorge… what did Ampadu do? Always been suspicious that our youth coach didn’t bring Ethan, possibly the best young talent in UK right now to Arsenal.


I counted two penalties not awarded to us. The first when the score was 0 1. And then Chelsea scored again straight away. But yes, they were stronger defensively and efficient up front. It was always going to be difficult once they got that early goal and could wait for us to make a mistake.

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