Despite a spirited effort across this year’s competition, Arsenal’s u19 side have crashed out of the UEFA Youth League at the group stage phase after a 1-1 away draw against Basel.
A well-taken stoppage-time equaliser courtesy of Stephy Mavididi, who previously levelled the scoring just before half-time, has ensured that Arsenal’s hopes of qualifying from Group A into the UEFA Youth League play-off places will go to the wire.
Despite taking the lead in the first-half through Reiss Nelson, his second goal in successive games against the Bulgarian side, the Young Guns were unable to effectively see the game out and succumbed to a frustrating 1-1 draw after Preslav Petrov’s second-half effort despite creating a number of chances after the interval.
Goals from Reiss Nelson and a second-half brace courtesy of Edward Nketiah helped the Young Guns to their first win of the UEFA Youth League group stages this term.
After an encouraging goalless draw away against Paris Saint-Germain’s u19 side last time out, Arsenal’s crop of talented youngsters were eager to kickstart their UEFA Youth League campaign with a home win over Basel on Wednesday.
After two consecutive disappointing exits at the quarter-final stage in recent years, Patrick Vieira’s youngsters will be hoping for a better all-round display this time around with another tough group ahead of them.
Patrick Roberts, 18, joined the sky Blues on a lucrative deal this summer – believed to be worth around £11m after add-ons. The former Fulham winger has shone as a bright light in an otherwise underwhelming Whites side, and made his Premier League debut at just 17-years-old.
How does it work?
The group stage of the youth competition is precisely the same as the seniors – playing their respective fixtures on the same day as their senior team-mates, but the kick-off times differ. Some matches can be as early as 1 or 2pm UK time, whilst others start at 5 or 6pm.
Not the traditional 7.45pm KO that most football fans are used to watching with Europe’s elite, but it’s still a neat feature that allows them to play on the same day nonetheless.
After the group stages have concluded though, the format is slightly different. The dates for the senior competition are relatively similar, but there is an open draw for the knockout stage, although no group winners can be drawn together in the last-16 of the tournament.
Who is eligible to feature?
The competition is predominantly for Under-19’s, with plenty of new faces hoping to impress and cement their positions within the side. Will Patching, David Faupala and Lukas Nmecha are amongst those who’ll be doing just that, whilst some familiar players have been included too.
New for this year’s tournament, teams can name three U-20 players. City have unsurprisingly picked their best crop – goalkeeper Angus Gunn, central midfielder Kean Bryan and exciting winger Brandon Barker; who flourished during the senior side’s pre-season tour of Australia and Asia.
City take on Juventus tonight, with kick-off scheduled for a 6pm start at the City Academy Stadium. Can the young Blues get off to a good start against tough opposition?
Stats and data correct to the 7th of March, 2015:
Chelsea have an abundance of attacking riches in their squad, with the likes of Oscar, Eden Hazard, Willian, Loic Remy, Diego Costa and their January addition Juan Cuadrado all to add into the mix. However, they have many youth startlets closer to home, waiting for their chance to shine in the first-team.
One of those, is 17-year-old forward Dominic Solanke. Born in Reading, Berkshire, with Nigerian heritage, the youngster has flourished and developed significantly over the past two seasons in the Chelsea youth set-up. So much so, that he was named England Men’s Youth Player of The Year for 2014 at the start of 2015, and has represented England at U-16, 17 and U-18 level thus far.
His knack for goal-scoring
During the 2013-14 season, Solanke managed to score 20 goals in 25 matches for the Chelsea U-18’s, an impressive feat. In doing so, he prompted youth coaches to stand up and take notice, earning a call-up to the U-21’s side where he currently showcases his ability on a weekly basis consistently. In all competitions, he has scored 15 goals and created six assists, in just 18 matches played this season.
STAT: Currently, he is the top scorer in the UEFA Youth League with eight goals in the competition, at the quarter-final stage.
STAT: He is the joint fourth top goalscorer in the U21 Premier League with Newcastle’s Adam Armstrong, having scored seven goals in 11 appearances this season. Ryan Seager, Adil Nabi, Chuba Akpom are the only players who have scored MORE goals than him, but ironically, they’ve all played more matches also.
Attacking flair and blistering pace
As a player, especially developing into a world-class one, you tend to have one or two strengths that you hold in high regard, as opposed to the rest of your game. For Solanke, as well as his goal-scoring ability, he has blistering pace to run rings around the defender, as well as attacking flair which adds an unpredictable edge to his bow; you are unsure of what he is going to do next, which he always delivers to devastating effect.
Chance to shine, when will it come?
In a star-studded team such as Chelsea’s, it is often hard for players to get the first-team opportunities they need to prove themselves at the highest level. Andre Schurrle, Kevin de Bruyne and even more recently, Mohamed Salah are three prime examples of this; they’ve gone onto pastures new and flourished with the prospect of playing regular football spurring them on to success at their respective clubs (AS and KDB, Wolfsburg; Salah at Fiorentina).
Jose Mourinho named Solanke as a first-team player towards the start of this season, but he is so far yet to start a competitive match for the senior team, something he’ll be eager and raring to do in the coming months. He has been on the substitutes’ bench on numerous occasions, which will do wonders for his confidence and help him experience the rigours of the Premier League, but the collective feeling is that Solanke needs minutes under his belt, whether that be for Chelsea or another club in Europe.
The most feasible option at the moment? Solanke has to be patient it seems, especially with Mourinho’s attacking headache at the moment, the youngster may find chances hard to come by, but his potential and obvious talent are too blatant not to look out for.