European dream over, but silverware still attainable for Arsenal youngsters

8

Silverware often appears elusive for Arsenal at youth level and the young Gunners will have to wait at least another year before tasting success on the European stage after their UEFA Youth League campaign was brought to an abrupt end by Atletico Madrid last week.

Arsenal got off to an excellent start in the group stages, with a young side containing the likes of Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Dan Crowley, Gedion Zelalem and Chris Willock confidently swatting aside Borussia Dortmund and Galatasaray.

Despite losing twice to Anderlecht, they managed to prevail in the return games against Dortmund and Galatasaray to set up their one-legged away tie against Atletico in the Last 16.

The draw had been known for weeks. Arsenal had prepared well, or so they thought.

Within a minute of the tie getting underway a lapse in concentration meant that they found themselves a goal down and it was a deficit from which Frans De Kat’s side, despite their best efforts, couldn’t recover.

They kept threatening to equalise, with Dan Crowley, as ever, leading the forward charge, ably supported by Alex Iwobi and Stephy Mavididi.

Atletico stood firm, however, and Arsenal saw their Youth League dream come to an end in Spain for the second season in succession following last year’s defeat to Barcelona at the Quarter-Final stage.

Arsenal had paid for a lack of assurance defensively, and they were particularly hard hit by the absence of second-years Tafari Moore and Julio Pleguezuelo. However, perhaps more worrying was their inability to breach the Atletico defence, with Arsenal’s passing often not quick, incisive or direct enough.

Despite the disappointment of Tuesday night, there is still a genuine possibility that the youngsters will be able to lift some silverware this season in the form of the FA Youth Cup.

Having seen off the considerably different threats of Reading and non-league Royston Town in previous rounds, Arsenal’s campaign continues at home to Crewe Alexandra on Monday night.

Crewe, who are renowned for giving young players an opportunity to impress, will be no pushovers, but Arsenal will still be confident of prevailing, with the additional incentive that, should they progress, they will face Manchester City away in the Quarter-Finals, possibly at the Etihad Stadium.

To stand a chance of progressing far in the Youth Cup, however, Arsenal will have to recapture the form that they displayed in those aforementioned victories over Dortmund and Galatasaray.

Since then, despite demonstrating glimpses of their talent, they haven’t been able to produce many cohesive performances. There will be very little margin for error in their quest to finally win another piece of silverware at youth level.

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

 

8 COMMENTS

  1. Difficult to follow Arsenal youngsters sitting here in India. Would love to know more about Dan Crowley. Seems like a really talented lad from what I have read. Can he be part of the first team set up next season?

    Thumb up 18 Thumb down 2

  2. I thought, it’s only 1-0 at home we’re going to win and get through, surprise surprise we’re out. Strange it’s the same format in group – same teams on the same matchdays as senior team – but no 2nd leg.

    Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  3. 96% of those (at all clubs) that get their first contract at 16 are not under contract at a club at 18 (per the BBC). It is better at Arsenal, though that is because some of our lads drop down to other clubs.

    Brutal business, youth football, the player that comes through is the rarity, in the real world. I would have loved Benik Afobe to have succeeded at Arsenal, for example, and he is still a pro, so has done well. But even someone that good (almost a goal per Arsenal game for three seasons, over 1 goal in 2 games for England youth) didn’t make it.

    Only the exceptional will play for the Arsenal first team.

    Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here