Some thoughts on our under 18’s unjust 3-2 league defeat to Arsenal on Tuesday afternoon:
On a cold, wet and windy afternoon in Hertfordshire there was a storm taking place. Two immensely talented under 18 sides and bitter rivals took on one another in a league game, which could only be described as a title decider. John McDermott’s undefeated Spurs side had the opportunity to avenge their old foes for knocking them out of the FA Youth Cup earlier on in the season, in controversial circumstances. Instead of doing an in-depth match report of Tuesday’s hugely important North London Derby, due to the fact that I left my notebook at home I will instead being giving my thoughts on what was an even more controversial game than the last time these two sides met back in January, I do apologise for this! Spurs made the short trip to Hertfordshire on the back of an impressive 4-0 win over Fulham at the weekend, our high flying under 18’s were also unbeaten in the league this season, going into Tuesday’s match. League leaders Arsenal on the other hand had won all ten of their home league matches since the season started back in August and Ken Gillard’s side had been in red form since the start of the year. McDermott’s side went into this game in similarly impressive form and even though the wonder boys of Hotspur Way have a game in hand over the ‘ Gunners ‘ who were one point ahead of them in the table, it was vital that Spurs didn’t lose Tuesdays match. Unfortunately Spurs did succumb to their first league defeat of this season however, it couldn’t have been any less deserved. McDermott’s side lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation against the ‘ Gunners ‘ who had two of their finest young players in Bukayo Saka and Xavier Amaechi on the bench. Joshua Oluwayemi started in goal for Spurs while a back four consisting of Jubril Okedina, Malachi Walcott, Luis Binks and Maxwell Statham lined up in front of him. Brooklyn Lyons-Foster and Harvey White partnered up in central midfield, as Dilan Markanday and Paris Maghoma operated out on the flanks, either side of CAM and Spurs captain Armando Shashoua. In the absence of any recognised strikers winger J’Neil Bennett led the line for Spurs. McDermott’s side started the game with a really good energy about them and it was good to see them attack the Arsenal defence at every possible opportunity. Spurs’ fine start to the game resulted in them taking the lead in the sixth minute of the game through Paris Maghoma.
The heavy rain didn’t seem to affect the skilful Dilan Markanday’s balance, after he received Armando Shashoua’s pass out on the right wing. Markanday cut inside onto his left foot before cleverly tricking his way past two Arsenal defenders, before spotting and picking out Paris Maghoma who made a good run towards the Arsenal penalty area from the left flank. Maghoma opened up his body as the ball rolled towards him on the edge of the box, before calmly stroking the ball past the helpless Arsenal goalkeeper Tom Smith, and into the bottom right hand corner of the goal, 1-0. J’Neil Bennett had an effort harshly ruled out for offside a couple of minutes later, a matter of moments after Arsenal defender Mark McGuinness had heroically blocked a shot on goal from the Spurs forward inside the Arsenal box. Spurs were completely dominating the match and our back four was dealing well with Arsenal who were constantly looking to catch us on the break. Both Luis Binks and Maxwell Statham made hugely important early defensive interventions. Spurs continued to play with a high tempo and their aggressive off the ball pressing and fluent attacking football was really stretching the Arsenal defence. Luis Binks then managed to glance Harvey White’s dangerous in swinging free kick on to Tom Smith’s right hand post. A couple of minutes later a sloppy back pass from Zac Swanson put Arsenal goalkeeper Tom Smith under pressure inside his own penalty area. The alert J’Neil Bennett’s aggressive pressing and pace resulted in him getting to the ball before Smith, but he was cynically tripped by the Arsenal goalkeeper as he tried to take the ball around him. This resulted in the referee awarding a penalty kick to John McDermott’s side. The typically assured Harvey White stood up to tuck the resulting spot kick past Smith and into the bottom right hand corner of the goal, 2-0. Centre half Malachi Walcott managed to somehow keep up with Arsenal striker Folarin Balogun as he raced into the Spurs penalty area, before managing to get across Balogun to make a heroic last ditch sliding block, to prevent his powerful low effort from testing Olwuayemi.
All of Spurs’ excellent attacking football and imperious defending to keep out the potent Arsenal attack, was undone in the 40th minute of the game after one of our key players was shown a straight red card. A corner kick from Arsenal’s Sam Greenwood failed to pick out any Arsenal players inside the Tottenham penalty area and this seemed to frustrate the ‘ Gunners ‘ towering centre half Mark McGuinness as he tussled with Luis Binks at the back post. McGuinness decided that it was alright to elbow Binks and this unsurprisingly infuriated the first year scholar, who was absolutely livid with the Ireland under 19 international. Both Binks and McGuinness squared up to one another and in the end young Luis resorted to putting the imposing Arsenal defender into a headlock, before throwing him to the ground. About seven Arsenal players quickly surrounded Binks who was on the floor himself, they aggressively taunted him, and it was then that a massive scuffle between both sets of players ensued. The referee had missed the incident and after consulting the linesman on the far side they came to the ridiculous conclusion that only Binks had to go, while McGuinness was only cautioned with a yellow card. Unsurprisingly the young Tottenham defender was absolutely distraught as he left the pitch. Goalkeeper Joshua Oluwayemi made his first save of the game shortly afterwards and what a save it was to prevent Trae Coyle from pulling a goal back for Arsenal on the stroke of halftime. After Coyle had come inside from the left flank, the Arsenal winger tried to beat Oluwayemi with a terrific curling effort towards the top left hand corner of the Spurs goalkeepers goal. However, Oluwayemi managed to make an incredible flying save to tip the ball behind for a corner kick. Despite the ‘ Gunners ‘ numerical advantage John McDermott’s side came desperately close to extending their lead right at the beginning of the second half. Harvey White’s in swinging corner kick was glanced across goal by Lyons-Foster, towards J’Neil Bennett at the back post. However, the Spurs forward ended up narrowly poking the ball wide of the Arsenal goal from close range, before painfully colliding with the post.
The introduction of England under 19 international Bukayo Saka by Arsenal shortly afterwards began to make life more difficult for the battling ten men of Spurs. Joshua Oluwayemi was able to make a fantastic reflex save to deny the newly introduced Xavier Amaechi’s curling free kick from going in, and the Spurs back four which now consisted of Okedina, Walcott, Lyons-Foster and Statham made made some hugely important defensive interventions as the home side started to overwhelm Spurs. Frustratingly for all of Spurs’ defensive might and discipline the ‘ Gunners ‘ managed to pull a goal back in the 86th minute of time, through the potent Bukayo Saka. The Arsenal winger managed to beat Oluwayemi with a scuffed effort from inside the Spurs box, before he then forced an equaliser less than a minute later. Unbelievably Saka had managed to latch onto Ben Cottrell’s pass down the left hand side of the Tottenham penalty area. Saka then let fly on his left foot but his powerful effort ended up being turned past Oluwayemi and into the back of the net by Lyons-Foster, as he attempted to clear the ball. John McDermott’s deflated side tried to respond straight from the restart through Paris Maghoma who came relatively close to beating Arsenal goalkeeper Tom Smith with a speculative effort from over 50 yards out from goal. Then in the 91st minute of the game the unthinkable happened and the ‘ Gunners ‘ netted a dramatic albeit hugely controversial late winner. After a corner kick from Amaechi ended up coming to Matthew Smith on the edge of the Spurs box, the Arsenal midfielder decided to let fly. However, his effort was well blocked by the sliding Rayan Clarke before it came back out to Tyreece John-Jules who then fired the ball into the box. John-Jules’s powerful effort appeared to strike Arsenal defender Harry Clarke who incidentally appeared to be in an offside position, on the arm. The defender then shifted it into the feet of Ben Cottrell who managed to slot the ball past Oluwayemi from close range to break the hearts of the Tottenham players who had given so much, and performed so well against their bitter rivals. The referee blew the final whistle a couple of minutes later and as if the ‘ Gunners ‘ had been crowned league champions all of their players started to celebrate with another.
Arsenal’s over the top celebrations upset the already devastated Spurs players and after a coming together between Brooklyn Lyons-Foster and Miguel Azeez after the final whistle, there was yet another scuffle which involved both sets of players. Spurs had been well and truly robbed, and as John McDermott and Ryan Mason’s side made their way off the pitch I could see that their were tears in some of the Spurs players eyes. The look of devastation and disbelief on their faces could have spoken a thousand words. If Spurs are to win the league then they will now have to win all three of their remaining league fixtures and hope that Arsenal drop at least two points from their last two games against Reading and Fulham. I couldn’t have been more proud of the performance and of the character for which our young lads showed on Tuesday afternoon. This title challenge is far from over and the lads will look to pick themselves up when they face Aston Villa at the weekend.
- Joshua Oluwayemi: The second year scholar made three saves in total on Tuesday, two of those were top class stops. Oluwayemi’s distribution was decent on the day but he was commanding inside his own penalty area and he dealt well and authoritatively with crosses and set pieces. Oluwayemi made an outstanding save to deny Arsenal’s Trae Coyle on the stroke of halftime before then doing really well to push away Xavier Amaechi’s curling second half free kick. The 18 year old showed real leadership and maturity during the big scuffle that took place shortly before halftime, and he showed good courage throughout the game.
- Jubril Okedina: The right back was outstanding at times on Tuesday afternoon as he put in another rock solid performance for John McDermott’s side. Okedina (18) kept up well with Arsenal’s left winger Trae Coyle during his time on the pitch. After the skilful and pacy Bukayo Saka was introduced during the second half, life was made more difficult for Okedina but I thought that he still defended well against Saka before he was brought off in the 88th minute of the game for Maurizio Pochettino. Okedina performed well under pressure.
- Malachi Walcott: Another player who put in a fantastic performance at the back was RCB Malachi Walcott. The England under 17 international defended superbly against the ‘ Gunners ‘ and he really stepped up after Luis Binks was dismissed late on in the first half. Apart from making a heroic challenge on Folarin Balogun in the first half to prevent an almost certain goal for the hosts, Walcott had a really solid game and he made some massive challenges, interceptions and blocks. The first year scholar constantly managed to get himself into good defensive positions throughout the game and he was dominant in the air.
- Luis Binks: My motm, see below.
- Maxwell Statham: Once again Maxwell Statham slotted in seamlessly at left back in place of the injured Dennis Cirkin. Although the Southend born second year scholar is a centre half by trade, he has really embraced the left back role during recent matches. Statham was assertive, focused and very aggressive while defending the left flank. After making a hugely important sliding challenge on Sam Greenwood during the first half to thwart a dangerous Arsenal attack, Maxwell went onto have a really strong game and he managed to keep the talented Greenwood in check for large periods of the game. The 18 year old linked up well with left winger Paris Maghoma and he did go on some good forward runs on occasions. I thought that he was one of our best performers on Tuesday.
- Brooklyn Lyons-Foster: The second year scholar started in central midfield for the second consecutive game, this time alongside Harvey White. After putting in a good and generally dominant performance during the first half, Lyons-Foster ended up playing the last 50 or so minutes of the game at LCB following the dismissal of Binks. The 18 year old partnered up well with Walcott and he made some good challenges and clearances. He was very unlucky to score a late own goal.
- Harvey White: Young Harvey White dropped down to the under 18’s for Tuesday’s important game. The 17 year old put in a good performance in central midfield, White was tidy in his play and he helped to break up the game alongside Lyons-Foster and then Shashoua. The first year scholar whipped some good balls into the box from set pieces and he almost ended up setting up a Luis Binks goal in the first half. White cooly slotted home his seventh goal of the season from a first half penalty kick.
- Dilan Markanday: The right winger had another influential game for John McDermott’s side when we took on Arsenal on Tuesday, particularly during the first half. After coming inside from the right wing and going on a mazy run to set up Paris Maghoma’s opener, Markanday went on a number of positive driving runs. The 17 years olds agility and close ball control managed to open up the ‘ Gunners ‘ defence on more than one occasion on Tuesday. Markanday’s off the ball movement and positioning was impressive, as always.
- Armando Shashoua: The Spurs captain started the game in the hole although he would spend time playing in central midfield following Binks‘ sending off. Shashoua completed 71 minutes of Tuesday’s game before succumbing to injury and the tireless midfielder really caught my eye. Our most fouled player on the day, the creative 18 year old caused a number of problems of Arsenal with his sharp off the ball movement, incisive passing and driving forward runs. Armando covered vast amounts of the pitch and he was also the victim of some nasty fouls for which very few seemed to be spotted by the referee! Armando’s older brother and Spurs youngster Samuel Shashoua was in attendance on Tuesdays afternoon, the Atlético Baleares player is currently injured.
- Paris Maghoma: The England under 18 international dropped down to the under 18’s due to the importance of Tuesday’s game. Although Maghoma was playing out of position on the left wing, he managed to make a very good impression on the game. After tucking home a lovely taken goal to give Spurs the lead inside the first six minutes of the game, the 17 year old continued to pose a danger going forwards during the first half and be managed to get the better of Arsenal fullback Vontae Daley-Campbell for both pace and skill, and he liked to come inside. Understandably Maghoma played in a more defensive role during the second half and his discipline and willingness to track back after him really helped out left back Maxwell Statham.
- J’Neil Bennett: The 17 year old led the line for Spurs on Tuesday in the absence of centre forwards Troy Parrott and Rodel Richards. Bennett put in a good shift up top and he worked tirelessly to press the Arsenal defenders and to get into good positions inside the danger zone. Bennett did have two golden chances to score on Tuesday but he couldn’t put those chances away however, he did do very well to win us a penalty during the first half.
- Phoenix Patterson: The second year scholar returned after an almost five month injury lay off on Tuesday. Patterson came off the bench in the 71st minute to replace Armando Shashoua in central midfield, and I thought that the 18 year old did a good job after coming on, and he showed good energy.
- Rayan Clarke: It was only a very brief cameo for Clarke who did make an important late block.
- Maurizio Pochettino: He wasn’t on the pitch for long enough to make an impact.
My man of the match: While many people will be surprised that I have decided to give my man of the match award to Luis Binks after he was sent off so early on, on Tuesday, people shouldn’t be because when Luis was on the pitch he was absolutely outstanding once again. During his 40 minutes on the pitch the
LCB defended impeccably alongside Malachi Walcott. His passing and long pings were superb right from the very start of the game, the 17 year old also played with great confidence about him and he played a big part at neutralising the threat which Arsenal danger man Folarin Balogun posed. The Gillingham born defender won the majority of his aerial duels and it was just a very classy overall performance from Binks who didn’t put a foot wrong. The first year scholar made a number of hugely important defensive interventions including an excellent sliding challenge on Tyreece John-Jules to prevent a goal scoring opportunity, and he also managed to cut out some dangerous passes from the midfielders. Without going on about his rather harsh sending off I didn’t think that there was another Spurs player who was as flawless as Luis was on the day. Young Luis will be heartbroken about what happened with Mark McGuinness but were it not for the England under 18 internationals superb consistent performances this season, our under 18’s would not be where they are in the league table!
Spurs: Oluwayemi, Okedina (Pochettino 88), Statham, Lyons-Foster, Walcott, Binks, Markanday, White, Bennett (Clarke 79), A.Shashoua (c, Patterson 71), Maghoma. Substitutes (not used): Kurylowicz, Thorpe.
Spurs under 18’s statistics 2018/19:
Goals scored: Troy Parrott – 12
Dilan Markanday – 12
J’Neil Bennett – 9
Rayan Clarke – 8
Armando Shashoua – 7
Harvey White – 6
Rodel Richards – 5
Paris Maghoma – 4
Luis Binks – 3
Dennis Cirkin – 2
Jeremie Mukendi – 2
Brooklyn Lyons-Foster – 2
Phoenix Patterson – 2
Maurizio Pochettino – 2
Kion Etete – 2
Jubril Okedina – 1
Tarrell Whittaker – 1
Elliot Thorpe – 1
Assists: Harvey White – 12
Armando Shashoua – 12
Rayan Clarke – 8
Troy Parrott – 6
Jamie Bowden – 5
Dilan Markanday – 5
Phoenix Patterson – 4
J’Neil Bennett – 4
Rodel Richards – 3
Brooklyn Lyons-Foster – 2
Dennis Cirkin – 2
Paris Maghoma – 2
Luis Binks – 2
Maurizio Pochettino – 1
Malachi Walcott – 1
Rafferty Pedder – 1
Maxwell Statham – 1
Jeremie Mukendi – 1
Elliot Thorpe – 1
Nile John – 1
Kion Etete – 1
Tarrell Whittaker – 1
Oliver Skipp – 1
Chay Cooper – 1
Michael Craig – 1
Clean sheets: Joshua Oluwayemi – 7
Jonathan De Bie – 1