The Arsenal u18s have been eliminated from the u18 Premier League Cup following defeat to Chelsea on Saturday.
Nothing but a win against Chelsea on Saturday would’ve given Arsenal the opportunity to finish top of their group and guarantee progression to the next stage of the competition, after three points in their opening games against Wolves and Blackburn.
Unfortunately, a defeat to Chelsea guaranteed their exit from the competition before any other games were even played. The Gunners ended up finishing second in their group after Wolves won the final game, but it didn’t matter.
The six teams that finish top of their group qualify for the knockout stages, plus the two best second-place finishers. However, every single other group has at least two teams set to finish with more than three points.
As a result, Arsenal knew going into their last Group A game that a defeat would see them eliminated, and that’s how it panned out.
Arsenal started a relatively strong team, with the exception of Ben Cottrell, who was saved for the u23 fixture later in the day.
Miguel Azeez, Sam Greenwood, Mazeed Ogungbo and Nathan Butler-Oyedeji were all in the starting lineup though, so there could be no excuses about player availability.
Armando Broja gave the home side the lead in the 16th minute, before Samuel Iling doubled their advantage before half-time.
Daniel Oyegoke pulled one back in the 78th minute, an unlikely second goal in two games for the right-back assisted by Matthew Dennis, who had come off the bench. It wasn’t enough to prevent a 2-1 defeat in the end though.
Arsenal were eliminated at this same stage last year, though perhaps it was more understandable this time around given the strength of competition in their group. They’ll now have to refocus on pushing their way up the u18 Premier League table, as a slow start to the season has left the young Gunners in eighth.
Lineup vs Chelsea: Graczyk, Oyegoke, Kirk, Ogungbo, Lopez, Patino, Azeez, Alebiosu, Butler-Oyedeji, Matthews, Greenwood
Subs: Mitchell, Plange (for Matthews 63), Cirjan (for Patino 83), Monlouis, Dennis (for Butler Oyedeji 73)