It is truly remarkable.
Chelsea’s fifth successive FA Youth Cup title was secured with a stylishly emphatic 4-0 win at the Emirates Stadium on Monday night, blowing Arsenal away with a 7-1 aggregate victory, and they made a little bit of history in the process.
Dan Davies was pitchside with the best pictures on the evening; check them out HERE.
Only Manchester United’s ‘Busby Babes’ had ever recorded such an unrivalled spell of success in the competition as they cleaned up in its infancy but, when Billy Gilmour opened the scoring and when Callum Hudson-Odoi took over with a second-half brace and an assist for Tino Anjorin, this precious Chelsea squad, this incredible academy, joined them.
Of course, United were able to bring through plenty of their champions into first team football, and that challenge is still ahead for Chelsea, but with each passing year they make winning the country’s most prestigious youth age competition easy when it has been far from it in actuality.
A year ago this week they beat Manchester City 6-2 over two legs whilst facing a team that was supposedly City’s best hope of overcoming the Blues after two previous final defeats. This time around they had to see off Fulham and Tottenham away from home en route to another final, and then face Arsenal over two legs, with the decider away from home for the first time since 2010.
To emerge 7-1 victors – the biggest winning margin in nearly twenty years – and to do it whilst becoming the first team to ever triumph whilst only conceding a single goal along the way is, by any measure, outstanding. Jody Morris revealed post-match that he told his young charges that he was bored by their first half performance, and that he wanted them to go out and win in style.
Because that has always been what Chelsea have been about. Morris, a local lad who achieved his dream of playing for the Blues, has imbued this latest crop with a tangible sense for what it is to represent the club, and what it takes to succeed. They dominated this tie, and should have had a more handsome lead after Friday’s first leg at Stamford Bridge, but they made sure there was absolutely no doubt about the outcome on Monday night.
From Marc Guehi’s steely, mistake-free defending at the back, to Gilmour and George McEachran’s majesty and industy in the middle, to Hudson-Odoi’s composure and class in attack, this was only ever going to end one way. Backed by a vocal contingent from West London, they held firm against a predictably lively start by Arsenal, with both Jonathan Panzo and Dujon Sterling in position to make timely tackles, and when Gilmour fizzed home from the edge of the area to extend the aggregate lead to 4-1, the hosts knew their game was up.
They gave it one last push at the start of the second half, and could have given themselves a lifeline had Bukayo Saka managed to hook his shot back towards goal when Jamie Cumming came for a free kick without getting proper contact on the ball, but that too went against them. As the away fans built up the olés with each successful Chelsea pass, the Blues themselves fed off the atmosphere, and a beautifully crafted move down the right saw Reece James feed Daishawn Redan, and his cross eventually found Hudson-Odoi, who patiently waited for the space to fire home his 20th goal of the season, and his 9th of the Youth Cup run, handing him the top goalscorer’s title too.
With Saturday’s Under-18 League Final against Manchester United now also firmly in focus, Morris rested McEachran and Conor Gallagher to give Anjorin and Clinton Mola some time on the pitch before joining up with England for the Under-17 European Championships this week, and they wrote their own little chapter in the history books.
Schoolboy Anjorin needed just six minutes to gleefully sweep home his eighth goal of the season as Hudson-Odoi turned provider from the right this time, and he then claimed a ninth assist of the season when his through ball released Hudson-Odoi, who waltzed his way into position before making it 4-0 with unerring calmness. Such was his confidence, he finished the match by trying to complete his hat-trick with an ambitious try from the halfway line but, for once, he was found wanting for accuracy.
It was all over bar the shouting, and there was plenty of that come the final whistle, as familiar scenes of exuberant blue celebration lit up the April night for a fifth year in a row, and the seventh season in the past nine. It has been an unprecedented run of success, with a cast of hundreds deserving credit, but particularly to Neil Bath, Jim Fraser, Jody Morris, Ed Brand, and the coaching and playing staff of this stellar group.
You wouldn’t really bet against them doing it all over again next year, would you?
Arsenal: Virginia, Daley-Campbell, Thompson, Burton, Ballard © (Medley 77), Olowu, Amaechi (Balogun 62), Olayinka, John-Jules (Coyle 71), Smith-Rowe, Saka
Subs not Used: Barden, Smith
Chelsea: Cumming, James ©, Guehi, Panzo, Castillo, Gallagher (Mola 61), Sterling, Gilmour, Redan (Brown 71), McEachran (Anjorin 61), Hudson-Odoi
Subs not Used: Lamptey, Askew
Goals: Gilmour ’11, Hudson-Odoi ’57, ’78, Anjorin ‘67
Booked: Gallagher, James