Last Thursday, I released a detailed account of the ten U18s defenders and midfielders, highlighting the promising and negative actions of their 2022-23 season, and their hopes for 2023-24. As a result of some useful feedback regarding the length of the article last week, this one is a bit more streamlined. 🙂
Benjy McCabe – Scholarship Contract – 17 years old – LB/RB
Benjy failed to rack up a whole season due to getting injured in the second half of the campaign. Due to the full-back shortage, he was deployed at both RB and LB across the season, meaning he was tested on both sides.
Across the season he showcased his aggressive, disciplined nature which enabled him to win the majority of his slide challenges – an area of strength in his game.
To counteract that, McCabe struggled to deliver good quality on his final ball into the box. Furthermore, he had a tendency of getting beat out wide by an opposition direct winger, which results in the central defenders being put under pressure.
McCabe will spend 2023-24 with the U18s, striving to put in good performances, to potentially earn a professional contract at the end of the season.
Uriah Djedje – Professional Contract – 17 years old – CDM
While the first team is not investing in the defensive central midfield position, the academy certainly is, and reaping the rewards is ball-winning midfielder, Djedje.
Uriah’s positional understanding is outstanding – constantly getting into the correct positions to win second balls – and he is a forward-thinking, aggressive midfielder with his other strengths being his ability to tackle and intercept. He was a vital player in the U18s team last season, being part of the central spine alongside the two centre-backs, Waylon Renecke and Alfie Doy.
To counteract those qualities, his aggression can be deemed illegal at times and he collected numerous bookings across the season. In addition, his consistency in playing accurate forward passes after winning back possession was often unreliable, leading to him giving the ball away in dangerous areas.
There’s no doubt that with the correct coaching, he can go on to play for the first team one day, but just needs to work hard, develop his game, and be more reliable. If Djedje fails to play significant minutes with the U21s this season, it would be a huge disappointment as he could potentially be a long-term solution for the first team’s central defensive midfield issues.
Hugo Valencia-Gomez – Scholarship Contract – 16 years old – CM
Hugo, or HVG as he is known, is another exciting midfield prospect. The tenacious South American, revitalised the U18s midfield with energy and dynamism across the second half of the campaign.
He is technically gifted, with a wonderful first touch that enables him to play on the half-turn. In addition, he looks to be penetrative when driving into space as demonstrated by the goal he scored against West Brom (h), with a lovely run from deep that led to him tucking the ball away from a tight area. He also adds intensity from a defensive perspective, attempting to push back the opposition at any given opportunity.
On the other hand, he is sometimes guilty of not playing forwards quickly enough which can be demoralising, especially as the U18s look the most dangerous from counter-attacking situations. In addition, there’s an overreliance on HVG to use his left foot that needs to be assessed.
After just signing as a scholar, HVG will want to make an impression with the U18s this season and I expect him to. If he continues his form from the second half of last season, he may have an opportunity to feature for the U21s.
Finley Welch – Professional Contract – 18 years old – CM/CAM
Welch is arguably the most promising talent in the entire academy and had an incredible 2022-23, playing at an impeccably high level for the U18s while also blistering onto the U21s’ scene.
He demonstrated an array of positive attributes, one of which was winning fouls in important areas. His understanding of doing this in deep areas aided the U18s massively across the season, as there were instances in which the team overplayed. Furthermore, his courage in driving the ball from deep to the opposing penalty area didn’t go unnoticed, and in doing so he created numerous chances. As well as his driving ability, his ball control is exceptional – controlling many aerial, and fast-paced passes.
To counteract that, Welch has some areas in his game that need more consistency. One of those is his final ball. He gets into brilliant positions and shows good vision to pick out a pass but that final ball needs to be more convincing. His consistency in delivering them is unreliable, meaning his assist tally isn’t as good as it could be.
Fin will spend the season with the U21s but if he continues on the same trajectory as last season he might be an outsider to break into the first team in 2023-24.
Toby Chilvers – Scholarship Contract – 16 years old – CM
Chilvers featured in a handful of games across the season, most notably the FA Youth Cup encounter vs Burnley, in which he brought energy to the midfield across the second half.
In his U18 appearances, he showcased his tenacious personality on the pitch, looking to press aggressively and win duels for the team. In addition, he is a forward-thinking midfielder with a tendency to drive play forwards. But, despite his desire to always play on the front foot, his forward passing needs to have better execution.
He will look to build on his U18s appearances last season and play a bigger proportion of matches for the U18s.
Miles Bracking – Scholarship Contract – 16 years old – CDM
Similarly to Toby Chilvers, Bracking featured for the U18s in the first half of the season, playing in defensive midfield and at right back.
He demonstrated his ability to drive forward when winning the ball, which implies he is a forward-thinker. Another notable strength of Bracking’s is his ability to intercept the ball on a consistent basis.
To counteract that, he needs to develop his game more from a tactical perspective as his positioning isn’t always reliable, and he needs to be winning more successful tackles due to the importance of the CDM position.
It’s unclear the volume of minutes Miles will play this season, as Uriah Djedje is likely to be the preferred starter.
Dubem Eze – Professional Contract – 18 years old – CAM/CM
After not featuring for the first few games of the U18s season, Eze finished off the season superbly, ranking as one of the top goalscorers in the side.
His ball-carrying ability was tremendous, pushing defences back at every given opportunity, which was extremely effective as the U18s played on the counterattack for large proportions of the season. In addition, Eze generates vicious power on his shots, which aided his goal tally.
On the other hand, he has a tendency to hold onto the ball for too long, which often stifles the momentum of attacks. This correlates to Eze’s decision-making as he also often fails to find a progressive forward pass and instead shoots from range.
Dubem will spend the season with the U21s but might find game time difficult to come by as Finley Welch and Flynn Clarke will be above him in the pecking order.
Pedro Amadou – Scholarship Contract – 17 years old – RW/ST
Unfortunately, Pedro was another example, of a player who had an injury in the second half of the season, despite showing promise at the start.
He showed his dangerous burst of pace across the season, which assisted his direct style of play. Amadou dribbles at a scintillating pace making it difficult for opposition defenders to nullify, and is effective when cutting in sharply from the right flank, giving him space to fire off a quick shot.
On the flip side, it could be concluded that Pedro’s game is a bit one-dimensional on the ball as he’s particularly fond of constantly cutting back inside. Furthermore, he is notable for losing the ball cheaply as he often attempts to take the difficult route past a defender,
Pedro has the opportunity to have a promising season with the U18s as he offers a different dimension to the other strikers with his direct running abilities.
Alex Roberts – Professional Deal – 17 years old – ST
Roberts had a deflating 2022-23 season due to some horrible misfortune with injuries.
But, despite having limited minutes across the campaign, it was still evident that Alex has attacking intelligence. This can be specifically applied to the variation of promising runs he makes, especially in behind central defenders. Roberts also displays a willingness to work the flanks, which supports the midfield and wide players.
To counteract the positives, he has lacked a burst of pace this season, which is concerning as most of the defenders in the U18PL are athletic and quick. Also, Roberts has lacked the strength to hold off defenders, meaning he’s often unsuccessful in retaining the ball in attacking areas. But, as mentioned above, he had a long time out with injury, so his sharpness could have been lacking.
The club has put faith in Roberts and will want to see him thrive for the U18s in 2023-24.
Ken Aboh – Professional Deal – 18 years old – ST
Ken Aboh had a marvellous season, accumulating 12 goals across the U18s and U21s.
One of his greatest strengths is his directness, driving at extreme speed toward the opposition penalty box. To compliment his direct game, Aboh’s physical strength is also apparent as he was holding off tall centre-backs brilliantly across the season; an especially impressive quality due to Ken being small in stature.
One criticism is he can hold onto the ball for too long and not get his head up. Aboh needs to improve on this aspect as U21s defenders are more likely to stay with him than cover runners. In addition, he needs to be more clinical in front of goal.
Ken will spend the season playing regularly for the U21s. With his professional contract expiring at the end of the season, it remains unclear if he will stay on.
Damari Daley – Scholarship Contract – 16 years old – ST
Damari is another example of a player that was originally with the U16s last season. but played a handful of minutes with the U18s.
He is a lively striker, with an abundance of pace, meaning he’s effective at latching onto forward through balls.
On the other hand, he found it difficult to get into games at U18s level, whether that be containing defenders or coming deep to receive the ball.
He will spend the season playing with the U18s, looking to fight for his position in 2023-24.
Harrison Thompson – Scholarship Contract – 17 years old – ST
Across 2022-23 Harrison made an abundance of cameo appearances off the subs bench.
A positive element of his game was his ability to hold up the ball against agile and mobile defenders. This was extremely effective as it allowed his fellow attacking teammates, such as Reindorf and Aboh, to play off him. In addition to that, Thompson has a tremendous work ethic – arguably the most energetic player in the academy.
To caveat the positives, there were some limitations evident in his game, one of which was his unreliable end product. He had numerous opportunities presented to him from close range this season but failed to convert. In addition, he gets dispossessed too easily, which can halt the team’s momentum.
Thompson will be playing with the U18s this season, trying to claim a starting spot despite some tough competition.
Elliot Myles – Scholarship Contract – 16 years old – ST/CAM/CM
Despite being an U16s player, Elliot played lots of minutes across 2022-23. He also racked up some major international milestones this season, starting as an England striker, then as a Wales striker, and finally captaining the Welsh side at U16s level.
His game on the ball is a joy to watch. One of his strengths is his forward-thinking nature, always looking to play on the front foot. He has exceptional vision, enabling him to access his brilliant variation of long passing, with this ability creating numerous goals, including from outside-the-boot passes. He is also exceptionally clinical in front of goal, scoring five times from midfield.
To counteract his tidy game on the ball, Myles still needs to become more effective without it. There were occasions across the season where he wasn’t overly committed to stopping opposition attacks, causing extra strain on the backline.
Elliot will start the season playing for the U18s, but hoping his positive performances can elevate him into U21s matchday squads. He has rich talent and if coached correctly then he could play for the first team in the future.
Michael Reindorf – Professional Deal – 18 years old – ST
After missing the opening games of the season, Reindorf slowly built into the campaign before it started to accelerate for him from December onwards. His form across the season deservedly earned him a professional contract.
One of his biggest strengths is his directness, taking players on from the left wing and then cutting in. Reindorf is effective at this as he’s brilliant at skipping past multiple defenders due to his power. Also, his passing range is excellent, executing a high volume of accurate long diagonals. From a defensive perspective, his ability to win the ball back in high areas was pleasing especially due to how the U18s play stylistically.
It’s no secret that he needs to improve in front of goal. There were many games across the season, in which Micheal had golden opportunities to convert but struggled to tuck them away. Reindorf could have easily got into double figures but unfortunately ended up with only half that tally.
Reindorf will spend the season with the U21s, striving for a starting position. He’ll want to play alongside Ken Aboh, as they both had great success playing with each other last season.