Arsenal Youth – Some thoughts

On Monday Arsenal’s u18’s were knocked out the FA Youth Cup at the semi final stage against a very good Manchester City sides. Here are my thoughts…

It was a quality game. Both sides battled well, and the exhaustion shown by both at the final whistle showed that both sides gave everything. Manchester City won, and were the better team.

Manchester City played as a team. They put in a professional performance and played as if they had been together for years. Arsenal looked like a team of individuals. Rather than passing the ball around, every time an Arsenal player got the ball he looked to try and take on a player. It was 11 men playing for themselves rather than as a team.

This was perhaps most highlighted by the goals. Manchester City’s were wonderfully worked, whilst Arsenal’s came from a corner and an individual effort.

It also came through in defence. Manchester City defended as a team with defence and midfield staying solid. Arsenal were much more ‘all over the place’ with them allowing Man City players to get in behind too often.

What made me smile was the amount of English lads on show. Now the un-educated amongst you would look at the names and wonder where the Smith’s, Brown’s or Harris’s are. Whilst they might not have been traditional English names, 19 of the players who played were either English, or eligible (and have played for) England. A good sign for the future.

What would concern me is that Arsenal seemed to have many of the same type of player. Slight, quick, with a trick. Only perhaps 4 of the outfield players to have played for us were not this kind of player. Bielik, Sheaf, Bennacer. Bola also had some power to him, but got sent off.

I do wonder if Arsenal are looking for a certain type of player. The next Sanchez or Messi, rather than the next Wilshere or Iniesta. It reminded me a bit of the 2009 winning  side when a lot of the players were strong & physical lads, rather than swift and skilful.

Some players for Arsenal stood out, some showed they were perhaps not yet ready. Without being accused of writing of kids too early, or abusing a youngster (most were 18, so whilst we should not abuse, it is OK to criticise), this is my honest opinion on all the players:

Hugo Keto (18) – The big Finn in goal could do little about either goal. Infact, the second came after he made an excellent save and he was unlucky not to get the rebound shot. Valently clearing the ball after it had already crossed the line. I always feel for youth team keepers. The consensus is that a goal keeper matures later. Maybe they should allow U23 keepers to play U18 football to enable them to continue progressing at a more suitable level? Very impressed by his kicking.

Chiori Johnson (18) – Do not really remember much of his performance. A lot of Arsenal’s play was down the left. By not remembering much does not mean he was poor, but also means he was not Dani Alves like. A full back’s good work often go’s unnoticed (ala Sagna) unless they are attacking all the time (ala Alvez / Bellerin).

Marc Bola (18) – Massively outshone by his defensive partner. He is a big, strong, powerful guy but was rightly sent off for a crude, late, ankle high challenge. Luckily he did not end the career of his young opponent. Felt like he spent a lot of time out of position, relying on his pace and power to get back into position.

Krystian Bielik (18) – The Pole signed over a year ago to great fan fare. He showed yesterday his ability. Captaining the side despite being one of the youngest, he held together a shakey defence, covering for his partner and full backs. Also came up in midfield a few times with the ball. Clearly a talent, but lets allow him to develop.

Tyrell Robinson (18) – Looked out of his depth. He got a lot of criticism on Twitter, which was unfair, but he did not look up to it. Beaten far to comfortably, out of position a lot, and poor distribution. The criticism was unfair because Robinson was originally a winger, playing left and right, and is in the process of being converted into a full back. Cole, Clichy, Eboue, gibbs, Bellerin spring to mind.

Reiss Nelson (16) – Youngest man in an Arsenal shirt, and did not look out of place. Comfortable on the ball, quick, direct with a trick. Took the best corner of any player at the Emirates this season. Whisper in quietly. We have a player on our hands.

Ismael Bennacer (18) – Played in the Sheffield Wednesday defeat where he did not impress, and he once more failed to shin. Average set pieces, he often got over ran in the middle of the park. He is the type of player that frustrates. Signed in the summer from Arles-Avignon in France. He does not look good enough. But takes the place of an English lad. If you are a foreign boy, you have to be the best on the pitch. He wasn’t

Jeff  Reine-Adelaide (18) – Disappointing. I was expecting him to run the game in the same way a 17 year old Jack Wilshere did in 2009. He was playing deeper than normal, but he did not impress what so ever. Is he just overhyped after a good pass in the Emirates Cup? Who knows. One of the younger players in this side, and other peformances have shown ability. Let’s not go OTT though.

Christopher Willock (18) – Saw a lot of the ball. Tricky, direct, agile and a great goal from the edge of the area. Looks like a playground footballer, always looking to take on rather than pass, but that is something we do lack. Certainly a talent. Only slight issue is Reiss Nelson is 2 years younger and already as good. Could be a Lansbury / Wilshere situation where we end up losing a talented individual due to an even more talented player coming through. Impressive though.

Kaylen Hinds (18) – Was surprised he played. I had always thought he was older than 18. Strong, quick and a good touch. He drifted out wide a bit. Only really had one attempt from memory. Looks a player, but probably not good enough. Afobe and Akpom were superior at the same age.

Stephy Mavididi (18) – His highlight was being cruelly bought down on the edge of the area after a great trick. No free kick was given. I do not know what the ref was playing at. Another who like many of the others above, looked to do a lot himself rather than get his team mates involved. Like Hinds, I have seen better strikers come into the side at 18 and perform better.


Marcus McGuane (17) – Not too long after coming on Bola was sent off so had to move to centre back.

Ben Sheaf (18) – Seems to have been around for a while, but still young. Like McGuanne, suffered from Bola’s sending off. Average free kick at a good height.

Donyell Malen (17) – Good header. Worked well to find himself space from the corner. Will surely be getting picked ahead of Mavididi & Hinds soon.


Arsenal were beaten by a well drilled Manchester City side, showing that team work always beats individual excellence. They just seemed more experienced at this level than Arsenal, which should not be a surprise when half their side played in the defeat to Chelsea in last years final.

It is difficult to judge the quality of our youth, and of an individual player, based on one game. Someone might have been having an off day. Likewise another might have been having a stormer. There are certainly a couple of players worth keeping an eye on who wil lliekly make the summer touring squad.


2 thoughts on “Arsenal Youth – Some thoughts

  1. The Wine Scribe

    Great article. I watched the game (from a Man City perspective) and it struck me that there’s as much if not more enjoyment to be had from watching the emerging players as the first XI.Liked Nelson, Bielik, Mavididi, though the last needs to play ‘heads up’ more. Can I ask, which of the City team impressed you?

    1. keenosafc Post author

      Brahim Diaz was the class player on the pitch. especially when I think he was the youngest player. Reminded me a lot of Jack Wilshere at the same age in the same competition, the way everything went through him and he commanded the ball of the senior players.

      Was also impressed by Jacob Davenport. A CM to impress at such a young age without being overly physical is always a good sign. Great awareness and engine.


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