Going into the final game of the u18 Premier League season, sixth-place Arsenal could still technically finish fourth, but they needed multiple results to go their way for that to happen. Even moving up to fifth relied on Chelsea dropping points to Southampton.
The more realistic target was a derby-day win to conclude the campaign, travelling away to Tottenham Hotspur, and the young Gunners served that up in style.
Arsenal made a statement of intent from the off, with James Sweet scoring his first goal of the season in the 2nd minute.
Sweet has been the academy’s joint-best assister this campaign, providing his ninth of the season later in the game, but it was nice to see him getting on the scoresheet for once.
After that, Arsenal had to overcome a scare as Jamie Donley missed a penalty in the 10th minute. It was a potential match-turning moment, and the away side took full advantage of the hosts’ failure to capitalise.
By the 25th minute, Jack Henry-Francis had doubled Arsenal’s lead, assisted by Sweet. Henry-Francis then turned provider to set up Mauro Bandeira for Arsenal’s third in the 31st minute.
As Arsenal dominated the match in the second half, there was yet another example of a goalscorer turning provider as Bandeira assisted Henry-Francis’ second of the game in the 81st minute.
There was even time for one of the substitutes to get in on the act, with Ismail Oulad M’hand (younger brother of Salah-Eddine) scoring in the 92nd minute.
It was Ismail’s second u18 goal of the season – despite only playing around 100 minutes of football for the side this campaign. Only recently turning 17, he’ll likely get further chances for Dan Micciche’s side next year.
That concluded a derby thrashing for Arsenal, and made it seven wins in their final nine games of the season. It’s a major turnaround from the previous 11 games, in which they won just two, and an encouraging sign for next year.
The other bonus was that Southampton beat Chelsea 5-2 to ensure the Blues finished below Arsenal in the table.
Fulham also lost to Leicester City (thanks in part to a goal from former Gunners Amani Richards), which means Arsenal will finish 4th as long as 6th-place Fulham fail to win away from home against 3rd-place Crystal Palace in their final game.
Arsenal u18 lineup vs Spurs
Mitchell, Walters, Robinson, Jeffcott, Sweet, Henry-Francis, Ibrahim, Bandeira, Cozier-Duberry, Vigar, Sagoe Jr
Kovacevic, Roberts (for Vigar, 69), I. Oulad M’hand (for Ibrahim, 84), Gower (for Henry-Francis, 87), Green