Amani Richards scored his first Arsenal goal as the u18s earned a point away to Leicester City despite heavy changes to the side.
Arsenal swapped out almost the entire starting lineup for their u18 game against Leicester City this weekend, with Zach Awe the sole member of the team that beat Chelsea to keep his place in the side.
This was likely for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the u23s have a vital game against Leicester on Monday. A win in that match helps them avoid relegation, so they need the likes of Miguel Azeez and Kido Taylor-Hart available for it.
Then there’s also the matter of the FA Youth Cup quarter-final against Liverpool next Friday. The academy likely didn’t want any injuries to key players ahead of that match, especially not in a fairly unimportant u18 league game.
In a way, those two reasons intersect. The u23s face West Ham on the same day as the u18 Liverpool clash; if they’ve already beaten Leicester City to secure safety, the likes of Azeez and Taylor-Hart can play for the u18s without worrying about missing West Ham.
The result was a lot of inexperienced players in the u18 team this weekend, including 16-year-old new signing Amani Richards, who scored the opening goal of the game in the 55th minute, assisted by Bradley Ibrahim.
It was Richards’ first start for Arsenal since joining his boyhood club from Chelsea, and it was only Ibrahim’s second appearance for the u18s.
Unfortunately, goalkeeper Remy Mitchell conceded a penalty for Leicester to equalise in the final 10 minutes. It was only Mitchell’s second game at this level, and the second half saw debuts for Kristopher Quesada-Thorn and Kaleel Green as well.
Only five of the players to feature for Arsenal had made five appearances or more for the u18s before this weekend. So it was an achievement even earning a point, and great to see Richards getting off the mark so soon after stepping up.
The full focus will turn to next week’s fixtures now.
Lineup: Mitchell, Walters, Foran (c), Awe, Jeffcott, Ibrahim, Butler-Oyedeji, Gaspar, Ideho, Richards, Sagoe Jr
Subs: Quesada-Thorn (for Sagoe Jr, 71), Robinson (for Gaspar, 45), Green (for Ideho, 79)
Unused subs: Kovacecic