Luke Plange scored in his second competitive appearance for the Arsenal u18s against Chelsea on Saturday, but the Gunners lost 2-1 on the day.
Arsenal u18s will have to deal with losing a number of players through promotions this season.
Players like Folarin Balogun, Tyreece John-Jules, Trae Coyle, Matt Smith, Xavier Amaechi, Mark McGuinness and Harry Clarke played a key role in last year’s U18 PL south division title win, but they’ve now moved onto older age groups or new clubs.
That’s not to mention the likes of Bukayo Saka and Arthur Okonkwo, who are technically still eligible for u18 football but almost certainly won’t play a part at that level.
As a result, plenty of much younger players made the starting eleven on Saturday against Chelsea. There were a few names from last season’s starting team, like Sam Greenwood, Ben Cottrell and Miguel Azeez, but mostly it’s a new-look side this year.
There won’t be a much bigger test for a team attempting to gel than facing Chelsea, and the away side took the lead through Armando Broja after 12 minutes. Though Arsenal had the majority of the possession in the first half, Chelsea had all the chances.
Arsenal came back into the game somewhat in the second half, but Chelsea ended up increasing their lead with another goal from Broja in the 79th minute.
Luke Plange came off the bench to pull one back for Arsenal in the 83rd minute, set up by Kido Taylor-Hart.
It was technically Plange’s second competitive appearance at u18 level, though his only previous outing was in what was essentially an u16 game in 2018. Chelsea and Arsenal both agreed to field young sides on that occasion, after their u18 teams played each other in the FA Youth Cup days earlier.
The defeat is a shame, but understandable given the circumstances. Arsenal will be hoping for a better result against Aston Villa next Saturday.
Starting lineup: Karl Hein; Ryan Alebiosu, Zane Monlouis, Mazeed Ogungbo, Joel Lopez; Miguel Azeez, Ben Cottrell, Matthew Dennis; Alfie Matthews, Sam Greenwood, Kido Taylor-Hart.
Bench: Hubert Graczyk, Luke Plange (for Matthews), Nathan Butler-Oyedeji (for Dennis), Stan Flaherty, Jason Sraha.