Arsenal’s u18s made a very disappointing start to the new season losing 4-1 to Fulham.
The scoreline could have been even worse for Arsenal, as a Fulham penalty was saved by Joao Virginia, who was frequently left exposed and will be disappointed to have conceded four given the number of saves he had to make.
The game started promisingly for the Gunners, who withstood first-half pressure to take the lead, Balogun scoring after Smith-Rowe’s work on the wing. Smith-Rowe was making his first appearance since signing professional terms with the Gunners, and had other chances to score in the first period.
However, after taking the lead early in the second-half, it all went wrong for the youngsters. Fulham equalised only a minute later, and Cameron Thompson then went on to score a hat-trick despite missing a penalty.
To an extent, the u18 side have some excuses for not being at full strength. Players like Eddie Nketiah and Reiss Nelson could still turn out for the side given their age, but have spent pre-season on tour with the senior side and will likely be playing most of their games with the u23s this season.
Although this removes a large portion of the side’s creativity and goal threat, it doesn’t excuse the poor defensive performance on show at Motspur Park.
The u18s will be hoping for an improvement in the next game against Aston Villa, especially if they hope to repeat or better their achievement of a second-placed finish in 2016/17.
Virginia; Clarke-Olowu-Medley-Omole; Ballard-Benson; Thompson-Burton-Smith Rowe; Balogun
Subs: Saka (for Thompson, 46), Olayinka (for Ballard, 57), Smith (for Benson, 76).
Not used: Okonkwo, Dayley-Campbell.