Arsenal U18s made a hugely encouraging start to the season as they won their first three fixtures, but they were stopped in their tracks on Saturday as they lost 3-1 away to Chelsea.
Folarin Balogun, who will be looking to step up into the U23 side as the campaign progress, managed to get on the scoresheet again but coach Kwame Ampadu will have been left frustrated at the overall outcome, especially with regards to Arsenal’s defending.
There are some excellent creative talents in this Arsenal team, with Bukayo Saka again causing problems for opponents with his pace and trickery, while Trae Coyle, back from injury, showed some encouraging signs.
Defensively, however, Arsenal were vulnerable, with the centre-back pairing of Bayli Spencer-Adams and schoolboy Mazeed Ogungbo not exactly inspiring much confidence.
There could soon be some improvements in that regard, with Harry Clarke, who came on as a substitute at right-back in his first game of the season, also capable of playing at the heart of the defence if required, while Joel Lopez should start to play regularly at left-back after the international break.
One player who deserves much praise is Jordan McEneff. The Irish youngster endured some difficulties with injuries during his first season at Arsenal but he is now fully fit and is relishing playing regularly.
Capable of playing as an attacking midfielder or slightly deeper, McEneff frequently slips neat passes into the path of attackers and he also often drifts out wide to excellent effect.
McEneff’s central midfield partner Matt Smith is also a very talented player, with the 17-year-old having trained with the first-team on several occasions towards the end of last season.
As with Arsenal U23s, though, the lack of a defensive midfielder is causing problems for the U18s and could well negatively impact upon their chances of performing consistently this campaign.