Arsenal’s defending at U18 level has been questionable to say the least in recent years, with the young Gunners often conceding a catalogue of goals due to unnecessary errors. With that in mind, we will assess the current back four deployed by coach Frans De Kat.
Right-back- Jordi Osei-Tutu
An athletic defender who joined from Reading in the summer, Osei-Tutu recently signed his first professional contract with the club (via arsenal.com), becoming the first member of this season’s batch of scholars to do so.
The 17-year-old has been an ever-present for Arsenal at U18 level this season and has been hugely impressive in an attacking sense, playing diligent passes forwards and delivering some dangerous crosses. However, he has often struggled defensively and has been caught out of position on several occasions.
Centre-back- Tolaji Bola
A product of the club’s Hale End academy, Bola is also capable of playing at left-back, but the England youth international has been mainly used at centre-back of late.
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His performances for the U18s this season have been decidedly mixed. The 16-year-old is an effective tackler and is also comfortable in possession, yet he has already made several errors this campaign and his positioning is a major cause for concern.
Centre-back- Kostas Pileas
Another centre-back who is excellent on the ball, Pileas is a Cypriot youth international who joined Arsenal in the summer following a successful trial (via arsenal.com).
After finally receiving his registration enabling him to play competitively in England, Pileas has slotted in well to the back four at U18 level and has impressed with his strong challenges.
The youngster has made a couple of avoidable errors, but has also contributed well at times and made a commendable goal-line clearance recently.
Left-back- Ilias Chatzitheodoridis
The most experienced member of the quartet, Greek left-back Chatzitheodoridis featured prominently for the U18s last season but has so far been unable to step up to the U21s on a regular basis, with Marc Bola being preferred at that level.
There is a good reason for that, with Chatzitheodoridis often struggling to convince defensively. His decision-making is questionable, whilst the youngster’s tendency to get caught out by fast wingers is particularly irksome.
His scholarship deal expires at the end of June, and, unless his displays improve dramatically before then, he is unlikely to be offered fresh terms.
In all, there is considerable room for improvement in defence for the young Gunners, although the recent addition of Pileas has helped to improve matters slightly.