Jody Morris’ Chelsea Under-18 side have won the 2017/18 edition of the FA Youth Cup, beating their Arsenal counterparts 7-1 on aggregate over two legs. The senior edition of the FA Cup may not be called the ‘Chelsea Cup’ anymore but the FA Youth Cup has been practically monopolised by the Chelsea Under-18s. Today’s result marks their fifth consecutive win of the competition, and seventh in the last nine years. In fact, since 2007-08, Chelsea have only failed to make the finals on two occasions. Unparalleled dominance.
All of Chelsea’s last three FA Youth Cup wins have seen Manchester City finish as runners up, by scorelines of 5-2, 4-2 and 6-2 over two legs. Clearly, it hasn’t been particularly difficult and this time around was no exception, as (Ethan’s father) Kwame Ampadu’s Arsenal side were comfortably outclassed.
The young Blues were made to work for their win in the first leg at the Bridge on Friday night, with Arsenal taking the lead in the 36th minute via Xavier Amaechi. It was the first and only goal Chelsea conceded during the tournament. However, a double from 16-year-old striker Daishawn Redan and center-back Marc Guehi’s 9th goal of the season saw Morris and his boys head to the Emirates Stadium with a 3-1 advantage.
Morris set his side up in a very flexible 3-4-3 formation on Monday; Jonathan Panzo, Marc Guehi and captain Reece James started in defence, flanked by wing-backs Juan Castillo and Dujon Sterling. Billy Gilmour and Conor Gallagher were the midfield anchors and Daishawn Redan led the line up front, with Callum Hudson-Odoi and George McEachran operating just behind him, constantly interchanging positions and moving into channels. There was some early pressure by Arsenal but it fizzled out quickly as Billy Gilmour broke the deadlock in the 11th minute with an excellent half-volley after Arsenal’s defence failed to effectively clear a cross from Juan Castillo. Here onwards, apart from the first five minutes of the second half or so, Chelsea were in absolute cruise control.
Panzo and James were instrumental in building from the back and Arsenal simply couldn’t cope with Chelsea casually pinging the ball across the pitch. Gallagher was tasked with breaking down the Arsenal moves in midfield, while Gilmour was more of a creative force from the middle of the park. It was James who played a defence-splitting ball early in the second half to Daishawn Redan, whose cross fell to Callum-Hudson Odoi, inevitably leading to Chelsea’s second goal of the evening. A double substitution was made in the 61st minute, with first-year scholars Clinton Mola and Tino Anjorin replacing Gallagher and McEachran respectively. Anjorin was especially impressive and hit the ground running, scoring Chelsea’s third goal with a smart first-time finish from Hudson-Odoi’s cross. Anjorin then assisted Hudson-Odoi for his tenth goal of the tournament, picking up on Charlie Brown’s interception of an errant pass from the Arsenal defence and laying it off to Hudson-Odoi who in typical fashion, ran past a couple of defenders and coolly slotted the ball past Joao Virginia, the Arsenal keeper.
Chelsea’s sheer dominance of this competition is a testament to the excellent work being done at the academy level, a collective effort on the part of Joe Edwards, Jody Morris, Neil Bath and all the other staff involved. Whether this will translate into more first-team players from the academy is a different discussion but for now, let’s take a moment to appreciate the excellence of what goes on at Cobham.