26/03/11 Tottenham Hotspur U18s 1-0 Arsenal U18s, Spurs Lodge
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Alex McQueen (16*) for Laste Dombaxe, 10 minutes.
Jesse Waller-Lassen (18) for Ronnie Hawkins, 60 minutes.
Freddie Champion (17) for Lee Angol, 80 minutes.
Jonathan Miles (17)
James Yeboah (17)
*age unknown, so best estimate given.
In case anyone is interested, Arsenal lined up in a 4-1-3-2:
Some alternative match reports:
Spurs started kicking from right to left, with a 4-4-1-1 formation – Lee Angol starting again in midfield, with Ronnie Hawkins coming in for Massimo Luongo, who is one of a few young players called up to the Australian national side’s training camp, and Olumide Durojaiye in for Ramil Sheriff to add a bit of experience and physical presence in this important game. Arsenal went with a fairly narrow 4-1-3-2, with the full backs playing high up the pitch, and Jamie Edge sitting so deep that it almost resembled a 3-5-2 at times. Arsenal picked a physically strong line up, and their centre backs in particular dwarfed the majority of our players. They seemed to have the physical advantage all over the pitch, so Durojaiye was a good pick at centre back.
The game started in a fairly scrappy, scruffy manner, as you might expect from a local derby. Neither side kept the ball for any length of time, and the flow of the game was not helped by Dombaxe injuring himself when going to ground in a challenge. He tried to run it off but had to be replaced by Alex McQueen, with Munns moving into the middle of midfield.
Arsenal’s stand-in goalkeeper, Reice Charles-Cook, looked quite nervous throughout the game, and gave Spurs some hope with a fumbled claim in the first twenty minutes. Later in the half, he made another error when pressed by Angol. The ball came out to McQueen, who shot at the goalkeeper – it came out again to Angol, Charles-Cook went to ground, Angol rounded him, but fired over the bar.
Shortly after this, Munns had an excellent strike parried wide well by the goalkeeper, and Munns put the resulting corner right on McBride’s head; totally unmarked, he should have buried it, but he nodded it wide at the back post.
Arsenal had a half chance through Ebecilio, before Spurs nearly went one ahead just before the break. Barthram played a clever ball over Hajrovic for McBride to chase. Right on the byline, he hooked over a fantastic first-time cross which McQueen seemed to be about to bury – he either didn’t quite get to the bounce, or slightly misjudged the flight – either way, he didn’t make contact and it was a let-off for Arsenal.
Arsenal were greatly improved in the second half and had a couple of decent efforts through Wynter (who drifted in and out but looked quite useful), and Ebecilio again from distance. Archer tipped that effort wide, and the resulting corner probably should have been put in, but instead was headed weakly straight at Archer.
Spurs went to a more definite 4-3-3, with McBride and McQueen pushed high up the pitch, Munns to the right of Hawkins, and Angol to the left. The best chance of the game soon came, when another decent Munns corner was cleverly headed into the danger area by Kevin Stewart, and McBride volleyed over the bar from the edge of the six-yard box.
Jesse Waller-Lassen came on for Hawkins and went to the right, with Munns moving into the holding role. McQueen went to the left, and Angol and McBride flanked Munns.
Arsenal’s best chance came when Hajrovic and Wynter combined to present the impressive Bunjaku with a one-on-one, but he was so keen to go with his right foot, when a left foot strike looked the best option, and he toe-poked wide. Shortly after, Spurs had a superb counter attack, with Kudus Oyenuga twisting and turning the defender. Jesse Waller-Lassen made a fine supporting run, and just needed the ball played through for a one-on-one, but Oyenuga hung on far too long, failed to get his head up, and the chance was lost.
The only goal of the game actually came from the game’s low point. Kyle Ebecilio’s touch was heavy, and in trying to make up for it (or, more likely, out of frustration), he went in two-footed and very late on Lee Angol in the Spurs half. It was a really dangerous challenge which had Durojaiye shouting at the referee that “it wasn’t an accident, he did that on purpose” – he was spot on. Ebecilio was booked but, in most other games, would probably have received a red (in my experience referees are very lenient at this level). Justice was done from the resulting free kick. Durojaiye launched the ball forward hopefully, Jernade Meade totally misjudged a header across his own goal and, at the opposite side of the box, Boateng too got his header wrong, and the ball looped over Charles-Cook. Callum Tapping charged in to volley home on the line – it may have been already over, but Tapping claimed it.
Waller-Lassen scuffed a shot wide of Charles-Cook’s right hand post, and then was at the heart of a wonderful move, where he turned cleverly around his man, ran at the defence, timed his pass to Oyenuga to perfection, but Kudus’ chipped cross was just ahead of McQueen, and Arsenal cleared. This was the one time where Oyenuga probably should have been more selfish, as he seemed to have a sight of goal.
Arsenal then had a couple of half chances and a penalty appeal when Durojaiye went to ground to block a cross and, as the winger cut back, the ball seemed to brush against his arm. It would have been a harsh decision – it was totally unintentional, and his arm was close to his body. Durojaiye then made a fantastic saving challenge as an Arsenal player was about to pull the trigger inside the box, and responded by chest-bumping Archer (!).
Throughout the match, some of Arsenal’s approach play was good, but they lacked cutting edge in the final third. They seemed to want to dominate game through their physical presence, whereas Spurs were the pacier and more technical side, which made a nice change.
It’s also worth noting that, in true NLD style, there were a few tasty challenges throughout the match – at one point Arsenal’s right back Sead Hajrovic had a kick out at Hawkins right on the touchline in front of us, and followed it up with some verbals directed at someone from the crowd who had complained about the challenge. Kyle Ebecilio was booked for a two-footed lunge but, as I say, would have been given a red card in a Premier League match .
Archer 7 – Dealt with everything that came his way – punched well from corners, and threw the ball out quickly and often, starting a couple of meaningful attacks.
Tapping 7 – I previously saw him as a more defensive player – perhaps making the holding role his own. This time, he changed my mind. He got forward really well from right back, showed a deft touch, a real tenacity, and the ability to find a pass inside the full back (often finding McQueen, who is very quick). He also got the goal by following in when more natural forward players didn’t.
Durojaiye 7 – Whether or not he has the subtlety or technical ability to “make it” at a high level, I’m not sure, but there is absolutely no doubt that he is a rock in this side – a really important, reliable player for the team, who came to the rescue on a number of occasions. A real character too – always good value!
Stewart 7 – Won plenty of aerial challenges against the physically bigger and stronger forward, Monakana, showing an ability to get up early. He’s a full-back by trade, but I really liked the look of him at centre back, where he has often been used this year – he has composure and is prepared to play out. As long as we accept that he will make the occasional error, I think it’s worth persisting with him at CB.
Barthram 5 – A right back playing on the left, he showed good willingness to use his left foot. Showed plenty of enthusiasm, but didn’t have a particularly great game – he got beaten a few times and didn’t offer too much going forward. That said, he did play one fantastic pass over the top to McBride, which we arguably should have scored from.
Munns 8 – My MOTM – a strong, committed, “in your face” type player, but with a decent touch and an eye for a pass. He played in three positions in this game – starting on the right, moving into the centre of a 4-4-1-1, before finally becoming the holding player/pivot in a 4-3-3. In all three roles, he showed a good understanding of what he needed to do and when. His set pieces also caused a lot of problems.
Hawkins 6 – I like the look of Hawkins – he’s my kind of player. That said, if I was Alex Inglethorpe, I’d want to see more from him. He does tend to drift in and out of games, and can be a little weak in the tackle. Has clearly got stronger since I last saw him, though, and he does have a very good range of passing. I would expect him to be a regular next season.
Dombaxe – Unfortunately had to come off very early in the game having gone to ground in a challenge. Looked like a muscle injury, so it’s difficult to say how long he will be out.
McBride 6 – For me he doesn’t impose himself on games enough. At 18, he is one of the senior players in this side, but he seems very timid. Clearly has some ability, though – illustrated when he volleyed a lofted Barthram pass first time into a dangerous area, and McQueen probably should have scored.
Angol 6 – My first proper look at him and, although he seems raw and quite slightly built, he seems to have a bit of pace and guile. He probably should have scored in the first half, when he chased a lost cause, and hurried the goalkeeper into an error – McQueen followed up, the ball came out to Angol again, he rounded the keeper, and then put the ball over the bar, leaning back and with players rushing back on to the line.
Oyenuga 6- Nobody could doubt this guy’s work rate, but he really needs to learn when to release the ball. At times he plays like a bulldozer, forcing his way through defenders and into gaps that he shouldn’t get into, so if he could just add some awareness to his game he could make a decent career for himself.
A McQueen 7 – Always looking to spring the offside trap and get in behind, he gave the much more experienced Jernade Meade a difficult game. At one point, he beat his man easily and got hacked down, requiring lengthy treatment. This didn’t put him off, though, and he continuously linked well with Tapping. If he can find a more consistent final ball, he will be a good player for the U18s next year.
Waller-Lassen 6 – His pace and touch frighten teams, and give opposition players a decision to make – do they stand off him, or do they get tight, and risk him nicking the ball past them? He was heavily involved in our best move, turning brilliantly around a player, before playing in Oyenuga, who couldn’t quite find McQueen.
Champion – Came on on the right and looked to come inside and pass with his left foot. Made a couple of positive contributions, but also gave the ball away in a dangerous area.
Overall there was a huge improvement from when I last saw this team at Readingin November, which is encouraging. We have a good mix of players, perhaps the one thing lacking is a bit of physical presence. Only Oyenuga, Munns, Dombaxe and Durojaiye seem to offer genuine muscle, and Munns, whilst strong and well-built, is quite short. Having said this, the majority of our players are always committed to tackles, and very tenacious. They seem to be developing nicely as a team and as individuals, with growing technical ability and good awareness.