Defeats against Anderlecht, Bayern, and Benfica in the play-off meant Arsenal u17s finished sixth in the ABN AMRO Future Cup this year.
Having won the tournament on penalties last season, it was a completely different affair this time around. Nathan Tormey and highly-rated Trae Coyle didn’t feature in this year’s competition through respective injuries but there were some familiar names involved nonetheless.
Zech Medley, Emile Smith-Rowe and Tyreece John-Jules all played their part but the team only won one out of four matches played: conceding twelve in those fixtures.
Against Anderlecht, it was tough from the offset. Medley was penalised for a harsh handball decision by the referee, who pointed to the spot. Alan Mayanga made no mistake from twelve yards, breaking the deadlock after ten minutes.
Daniel Barden was very nearly punished for a schoolboy error after rushing off his line and missing the ball completely in a dangerous area. John-Jules saw a powerful effort cannon off the crossbar, before Anderlecht made Arsenal pay to devastating effect.
Barden and his backline were all over the place from an inviting set-piece, with Juan Perea Mendoza’s acrobatic effort doubling the lead from close-range.
In the 55th minute, a probing through ball effortlessly split the backline. Gregory Descotte showed composure to slot home through Barden’s legs, and Smith-Rowe’s penalty finish proved only a consolation just before the full-time whistle.
Arsenal recovered from their opening defeat to narrowly beat Paris Saint-Germain in the second group game. Goals from Emile Smith-Rowe and Folarin Balogun sealed their first and only victory of the tournament, in a game that was closer than it should’ve been – Alexandre Fressange’s equaliser highlighted how clinical opposition teams can be from close-range.
Marcel Zylla’s effort just four minutes into the final group game against Bayern reiterated this. Arthur Okonkwo would’ve been disappointed not to get more than fingertips to the strike but, the worst was yet to come.
Smith-Rowe and Matthew Smith came close but Frank Evina bundled home in the area. Zylla and Can Karatas both scored to make it 4-0 inside 45 minutes and despite a well-worked goal finished by Balogun, it was again just a consolation.
Attacking talents looked promising but defensively the team was lacklustre against tough opposition. It’s unfair to solely blame poor goalkeeping but both Okonkwo and Barden especially would’ve been disappointed with their individual performances when called upon.