Friday, February 23, 2024

Arsenal U18s start season impressively under Ampadu’s guidance

It can be difficult at times for U18 teams to build momentum, with players often stepping up to feature for older age groups, while injuries and international call-ups can also disrupt the balance of a side.

Arsenal U18s, though, have started the season extremely well under the guidance of Kwame Ampadu and, following the 2-1 victory over West Ham United yesterday, are top of the table.

The young Gunners have been beaten just once in the league so far this campaign, with that defeat coming against an impressive Chelsea team, and they have produced some excellent performances.

Striker Folarin Balogun has been hugely impressive, scoring four goals in as many league games, and it surely won’t be long before he is given further opportunities to thrive at U23 level.

Goalkeeper Arthur Okonkwo also deserves much credit for his performances. The shot-stopper has fended off competition from new signing Karl Hein to start regularly so far this campaign and has justified his selection with some excellent stops.

Arsenal are still a little vulnerable defensively, but right-back Vontae Daley-Campbell has given a good account of himself and Joel Lopez, previously of Barcelona, is starting to settle into the side at left-back.

In midfield, Matt Smith is the main hub of the side, with his excellent passing enabling Arsenal to retain possession and dominate games. Jordan McEneff commenced the season as Smith’s regular partner in midfield, but in recent games Harry Clarke has come into the team and has performed admirably.

Clarke was initially a midfielder before being moved into defence but the second-year scholar is now beginning to thrive again in his previous position.

Sam Greenwood, who signed from Sunderland, has made quite an impact and is capable of impressing whether deployed out wide or up front.

Meanwhile, winger Ben Cottrell has also done well in patches, as has Stan Flaherty, whose header proved to be decisive against West Ham.

With the likes of James Olayinka, Trae Coyle and Bukayo Saka stepping up to the U23s, Arsenal U18s have had to make further alterations of late, but they are adapting well and look set for another title challenge this season.

Jeorge Bird is the author of Follow him on Twitter @jeorgebird


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