The Arsenal u18s took on Aston Villa on Saturday, and they put in an impressive attacking performance to come away comfortable 5-2 winners.

Joel Ideho with the Arsenal u18s (Photo via Ideho on Instagram)
Joel Ideho with the Arsenal u18s (Photo via Ideho on Instagram)

With Khayon Edwards missing out through injury, Amani Richards got his third consecutive start for the Arsenal u18s on Saturday. He started ahead of Joel Ideho, Charles Sagoe Jr, and Nathan Butler-Oyedeji in a very fluid front four.

Just seven minutes into the game, a clever turn from Richards on the edge of the box won Arsenal a penalty, which Butler-Oyedeji stepped up to convert for 1-0.

The Gunners then doubled their advantage in similar fashion, as Richards won another penalty. This time, he squared up the Villa defender before beating him for pace and getting fouled from behind. Ideho took the second spot-kick to make it 2-0.

Richards had the ball in the net not long after that, but his well-taken finish was ruled out for offside.

Arsenal had a couple of enforced changes at half-time, with goalkeeper Hubert Graczyk forced off with injury for Remy Mitchell, and Butler-Oyedeji replaced by Amario Cozier-Duberry as he’d also played minutes for the u23s the previous day.

Somewhat out of nowhere, Villa rallied at the start of the second half and scored twice in 15 minutes to level.

But the scoreline wasn’t a true reflection of the game, with Richards having a shot cleared off the line between the two Villa goals, and it seemed inevitable Arsenal would retake the lead.

Richards had shot after shot denied by great goalkeeping or narrow misses, but he eventually played a part in Arsenal retaking the lead. He received the ball on the turn and played in Ideho down the line, who returned the favour with a cross into the box.

Richards couldn’t quite get to it, but the defenders’ touch put it on a plate for substitute Cozier-Duberry to convert.

Unfortunately, another injury forced Arsenal into their third substitution, with Luigi Gaspar coming off for Tino Quamina.

One of the unmentioned stars of the day to this point was Bradley Ibrahim, who was quietly linking defence with attack very effectively. With a few minutes to go, it was Ibrahim’s header that rebounded off the post for Ideho to poke in his second.

There was still time for one more, with Ideho pouncing on a loose touch from the goalkeeper before Richards finished into an empty net. Not the way you would’ve expected him to get a goal, but a very deserved one nonetheless.

Lineup: Graczyk; Walters, Foran, Awe, Jeffcott; Gaspar, Ibrahim; Butler-Oyedeji, Sagoe Jr, Ideho; Richards

Subs: Mitchell (for Graczyk, 45), Cozier-Duberry (for Butler-Oyedeji, 45), Quamina (for Gaspar, 71)

Unused subs: Robinson

There were plenty of good performances in the 5-2 win, particularly from each member of the attacking setup. Joel Ideho deserved particular credit after his two goals and an assist, but the undisputed star of the show was Amani Richards.

Richards made life incredibly difficult for the Villa defenders, holding up the ball well from long passes, bringing teammates into play, beating men one-on-one, and getting powerful shots away when the opportunities presented themselves.

It took some excellent defending and goalkeeping to keep him out until the 88th minute, but there’s no doubt that three of the other four goals had a strong hand in them from Richards.

With three goals in his three starts so far, and an u23 debut from the bench at the age of 16, Richards is having a big impact after his move from Chelsea.

Up next, for the final game of the u18 season on Wednesday at 11:00 BST, it’s Chelsea away