Chelsea continued their perfect start to the Under-18 league season as they recorded a fourth win – and clean sheet – in a row with a 2-0 triumph over Arsenal on Saturday morning.
A pair of fine first half goals from Marc Guehi and Billy Gilmour secured three more points for Jody Morris’ boys, who were well in charge throughout, and produced a performance that perhaps merited a bigger margin of victory.
Morris has picked a largely settled team so far this season and there was just one change from the side that beat Norwich last time out. Gilmour, having now received his international clearance following a summer transfer from Rangers, came in for Jonathan Russell in midfield, with the diamond midfield the preferred formation once again.
Arsenal, who won 6-1 against West Ham in their previous fixture, started well and might have taken an early lead had Flo Balogun’s smart turn not been snuffed out by the stingy duo of Guehi and Jack Wakely in the Chelsea defence, but it would eventually prove to be a frustrating day for the Arsenal forward overall.
The hosts, meanwhile, set about the task of dismantling an Arsenal back line that had leaked four goals at Fulham in their only other away outing of the campaign, and they were soon ahead in some style. George McEachran’s corner swung deep towards the far post and found Guehi, who adjusted his body to hook an acrobatical volley into the top corner, leaving goalkeeper Joao Virginia with no chance.
The Blues were buzzing in the opening half an hour and played with a real swagger as they looked to assert themselves on proceedings. Juan Castillo and Charlie Brown each drew saves from Virginia in quick succession, with the Dutchman later denied a second time, whilst Brown would also be frustrated by the offside flag.
Balogun continued to prove himself to be a handful at the other end, and really should have done better than to poke a shot wide when Jamie Cumming dropped the ball at his feet, and he was made to pay for missing a pair of half-chances as Chelsea doubled their lead before half time.
It was another lovely goal that did the trick too, as some incisive one-touch approach play cut Arsenal open enough to allow Gilmour to strike, his 20-yarder thumped beyond Virginia and into the bottom corner to mark his debut in style.
The half time Chelsea team talk will have been all about preserving their perfect record, and they continued to look good at both ends. Taylor-Crossdale went close to adding a third soon after the restart, whilst Cumming showed smart reactions to beat away a powerful header from Arsenal captain Joseph Olowu.
Castillo was guilty of wasting a gilt-edged chance, racing clear one on one only to shoot straight at Virginia, whilst a misplaced pass by Conor Gallagher threatened to allow Arsenal back into the contest only got substitute Tyreece John-Jules to shoot rather unconvincingly at Cumming.
The visitors felt justifiably aggrieved when the same player was clearly fouled by Wakely in the box without a penalty being given, but they were also increasingly losing their cool, and collected four yellow cards on a fractious morning. Taylor-Crossdale and Gilmour both should have wrapped the points up for Chelsea late on but put good chances wide, and Arsenal faded late on and only Matthew Smith was able to draw any further work from Cumming.
Many of this group will now turn their attentions to European action, with the visit of Qarabag on Tuesday opening this season’s UEFA Youth League, whilst the next Under-18 action comes away to Blackburn next Saturday, in the newly-formed Under-18 League Cup.
Chelsea: Cumming, Lavinier, Guehi, Wakely, Panzo, Gallagher (c), Castillo (Mola), Gilmour, Brown (Lamptey), McEachran, Taylor-Crossdale (Walters)
Subs not Used: Tié, Uwakwe
Goals: Guehi, Gilmour
Arsenal: Virginia, Daley-Campbell, Omole, Benson, Olowu, Ballard, Saka (Thompson), Olayinka (M.Smith), Balogun, Burton (John-Jules), Smith-Rowe
Subs not Used: Okonkwo, Spencer-Adams
Booked: Saka, Daley-Campbell, Omole, Olowu