England’s youth level success raises questions regarding senior development

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Midway through January the transfer window is in full swing. Many foreign players will be moving to English clubs over the next fortnight, uprooted to address their new club’s needs. Meanwhile there’s an issue closer to home that remains unrectified. 

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England 1-1 Guinea: Arsenal’s youngsters in u17 World Cup action

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Three of Arsenal’s promising stars were on-show on Saturday evening, as England’s FIFA u17 World Cup campaign got underway with a tricky fixture against Papua New Guinea.

The attacking trio of Kaylen Hinds, Chris Willock and Stephy Mavididi all started the match in Coquimbo, Chile – and the Young Lions could have found themselves ahead within the first two minutes of the contest.

Some encouraging work on the left-hand side by Willock allowed the 17-year-old to advance towards the edge of the area, where his inviting ball was almost fed through into the path of Hinds in the centre.

Luckily for the Oceanic country, the danger was averted as the goalkeeper rushed out to collect the ball in his box.

Willock’s pace and trickery was a troublesome combination for Guinea to contend with on the far side, and his link-up play with Mavididi was evident to see, as England tried to make use of their domination spells in possession with opportunities to break the deadlock.

That being said though, Guinea posed their own threat on the break – and could have easily scored one or two goals for themselves in the opening twenty minutes.

Mavididi came close with a chance of his own just before the half-hour mark, but struggled to get proper contact on the ball as it was fizzed into his path from close-range. Often the only player in an attack-minded position when out of possession, the Guinea players

Fode Camara was penalized for a late sliding tackle on Tottenham’s Marcus Edwards in the area, but the resulting penalty-kick was thwarted with a good diving stop by Moussa Camara to keep the scores level.

As the match continued, Guinea asserted themselves and established a real threatening presence in the final third – certainly unlucky not to be leading at the half-time interval, but for an excellent double save by Tottenham goalkeeper Alfie Whiteman.

In the second-half, the match was an increasingly intriguing affair. Camara was lucky not to be shown his marching orders five minutes after the restart, having brought down Mavididi on the edge of the area. The referee only brandished a yellow card to the goalkeeper, who would have been breathing a sigh of relief as the Arsenal youngster would have been through on-goal with the net bulging.

Whiteman came to England’s rescue again, to deny the Guinea attackers on a blistering counter-attack towards goal. Then, it was finally time for the opening strike of the game, as well as the tournament.

It seemed like destiny that an Arsenal player would be involved, but all three made the move all the more pleasing on the eye. Mavididi passed the ball across to Willock on the flank, near the edge of the box. A sharp turn and his marker was wrongfooted within a flash, before his delivery in the area was perfectly-weighted in the path of Kaylen Hinds.

Shrugging off the advances of a Guinea defender, Hinds headed home from close range to break the deadlock, and it was coming in truth.

Just as he was getting more involved in the evening’s action, Hinds made way with twenty minutes to play – with Manchester City winger Will Patching replacing him.

With time ticking down, Guinea continued to press and you wondered whether they’d eventually get the goal they’d been in constant search of. With just under fifteen minutes to play, they finally grabbed it – from another of their rapid counter-attacks, with Naby Bangoura slamming home into the corner, giving Whiteman no chance.

Alterations came thick and fast with Iké Ugbo and Kaziah Sterling replacing Edwards and Mavididi with the clock nearing toward the final-whistle which finally came, meaning the opening game of the tournament ended in an underwhelming finish given the plethora of chances to score throughout for both sides.

Internationals: Humphreys to replace injured Edun for Young Lions in World Cup

Internationals: Humphreys to replace injured Edun for Young Lions in World Cup

The talented 17-year-old centre-back will join up with his international team-mates ahead of their World Cup opener against New Guinea this weekend.

Ahead of England‘s attempt for glory at this year’s u17 World Cup, Neil Dewsnip‘s Young Lions have already suffered an injury blow. Fulham‘s Tayo Edun has withdrawn from the squad in Chile – just a day ahead of their tournament opener against New Guinea.The teenager has been ruled out with a groin injury, and the injury is undoubtedly a big blow for the left-back indeed. Playing his trade for the u21’s at club level, Tayo was eagerly anticipating the competition itself – not least because his inclusion in the squad was a surprise to him.

Tayo’s injury a real blow

Having been sent off in two consecutive fixtures prior to his selection, he vowed to prove the manager right – that his presence in the squad would not go amiss. Unfortunately, injury has struck.

Humphreys called up to replace him

Another talented defender has been called up in his absence, though. Manchester City centre-back Cameron Humphreys, who wowed plenty of supporters with his mature defensive display during their pre-season defeat against La Liga giants Real Madrid, is already on a flight to link up with his international team-mates in south America having initially been placed on the standby list.

Given his reputation for both club and country, as well as his experience and un-deniable quality, questions were asked as to why he wasn’t included in the 21-man squad to begin with. But, plenty of Citizens‘ fans will be looking on from a distance – hoping he can continue to impress, as he’s one of few players expected to make the switch from youth football to the rigours of first-team football in the next year or two.

As quoted by the FA.com, manager Dewsnip said Tayo’s injury was a “big blow” and the whole squad “feel for him”, especially as the injury will rule him out of the tournament – where they wish him a speedy recovery to full fitness. On Humphreys, he said: “It’s a massive opportunity for Cameron. We’ll be working hard to get him fully settled in as quickly as possible.


England’s first World Cup fixture is against New Guinea, with kick-off scheduled for a 8PM BST start on Saturday evening. I’ll have a match report posted here straight after the final whistle, so stay tuned for that!