With just two games of the season remaining the league title is in sight for Arsenal U18s.
Victories over Chelsea and West Ham United would see Kwame Ampadu’s team crowned champions, capping off an impressive campaign.
Winning certainly isn’t the most significant objective at youth level, with development taking precedence, but there can be no harm in success, especially given that Arsenal haven’t claimed any silverware at youth level in seven years.
While Arsenal certainly possess some exciting prospects and Ampadu deserves plaudits for his methods, it is clear that the decision to field much stronger lineups than usual has certainly played a part in the young Gunners’ upturn in fortunes.
Whereas previously it was commonplace for Arsenal to field many schoolboys at youth level, this season Ampadu has often fielded several second-year scholars in his team and in recent matches has even been able to call upon Reiss Nelson, who is firmly established as one of the stars of the U23 side.
Arsenal’s U18 team will have a very different look to it next season, with the first-years who have had their game time restricted this term set to be given opportunities to impress, while there are a talented crop of new prospects ready to step up.
For now, though, the focus is very much on the current team, who, while being vulnerable defensively, pose a major threat in an attacking sense.
Marcus McGuane and Josh Dasilva, two players with a wealth of experience of playing for the U18s, provide an impressive base in midfield, while Arsenal possess creative and attacking talents galore, with the likes of Nelson, Yassin Fortune, Donyell Malen, Vlad Dragomir and Eddie Nketiah (pictured) all players with vast potential.
With regards to development, however, it is Joe Willock who has made the most progress this season. The Hale End graduate, who can play as a winger or an attacking midfielder, was already very talented but has taken his game to a new level this season, becoming stronger physically and possessing an increased goal threat.
Whether Willock will still be at Arsenal next season remains to be seen as he has yet to sign the professional contract that was offered to him almost two years ago, but at present he remains a key player for Arsenal at youth level.
The aforementioned fixture against Chelsea takes place on Tuesday morning, although the situation is complicated somewhat by the fact that the U23s are in action against Manchester United, meaning Ampadu may not be able to call upon his strongest team for the visit to Cobham.
It is hoped, though, that Arsenal will still be able to prevail in that fixture and the subsequent encounter against West Ham to guarantee glory.