Not the most constructive of weeks for the academy. The EDS and the u18s both went down 3-1, ending Jason Wilcox's unbeaten start to the Barclays u18s Premier League campaign, and adding further misery to the EDS' difficult start to the season. The EDS played Leicester at the CFA and from the off It was a frustrating game for Vieira's men. They largely controlled possession, as ever, but as always seems to happen at this level, they went behind to the opposition's first real chance. A simple hoofed cross saw Leicester's beanpole of a striker out jump Kean Bryan to nod back across the goal into the far corner. Too easy. They scored another not long after, a deflected shot from twenty yards left Ian Lawlor stranded. There was a momentary fight-back, David Faupala brilliantly firing in from just outside the area in the second-half, but it didn't last long. Leicester immediately responded with an even better strike - a twenty five yarder, perfectly angled into the top left hand corner. From then on out, City huffed and puffed, creating a few decent chances but it finished 3-1 to the visitors in what was, truthfully, an uninspiring and relatively confusing watch.
There had been brief glimmers of hope last time around, the EDS stuffing Middlesbrough 5-1, but this was a vastly different team and it at times felt a little confused. A collection of players, not necessarily a team, with many out of position and no real shape. Bryan and Maffeo lined up in defence, and though neither were awful, both are better elsewhere and it told. Tattum and Smith-Brown couldn't really get into the game in the full-back roles and the game sadly passed Manu Garcia by a little. The ineffective Glendon was replaced at half-time for Nemane, who did add energy and drive - his usual zestful self basically, but the team lacked spark around him. It didn't happen for Thierry Ambrose either, snatching at chances and looking a little clumsy at times - he's still not reached peak form yet. The player of last season before his injury was a different beast altogether. That will come though, surely. Aleix Garcia was neat and tidy, though perhaps never really as in control as much as he would've liked to be, and Celina scuttled about on the left looking to create whatever he could - both found it tough. It was a frustrating afternoon and even the late addition of birthday boy Brandon Barker struggled to provide that necessary killer edge.
The u18s didn't fare much better, but this was a totally different set of circumstances. It was a bitterly cold morning at Everton's training ground. A frosty, biting wind spread across Everton's open and sprawling Finch Farm training ground - City's luminous third kit contrasting beautifully with what was the Autumnal of Autumnally possible days. It was bloody cold, and it didn't help City that Everton were up for it. They're good, the Merseysiders. They were unquestionably the better team in the first 45, pressing high up the pitch and creating several good chances with some strong, intelligent attacking play. They were second at the start of the day and it wasn't hard to see why, and it didn't help that City were far too generous defensively. They took advantage of City's indecision to go in two nil up at half-time. Their first goal was too easy. A corner headed in unchallenged from six yards out, bang centre of the goal. The second wasn't much better either,. Ciity hopelessly tried to clear a free-kick before it was eventually rifled into the roof of the net. There was chances at the other end, the ineffective Zack Faour really should have done better after a great counter attack involving Dilrosun and Diallo, but they went in deservedly behind.
The second half saw a fight-back of sorts. City started to dictate possession. The introduction of Nmecha and Patching told a little as City enjoyed some good spells in Everton's half, and there was some nice play by Fernandes as the little Spaniard starting to get more involved, yet Wilcox's team were hit by a sucker punch at the other end. Some uncharacteristically slack play from Marcus Wood gifted Everton the ball deep in our half and they promptly took advantage, firing a third past the stranded Haug. Credit where it's due, City's heads didn't drop and there was time for a simply wonderful goal from Lukas Nmecha. A beautiful solo effort, curled into the far left hand corner after he'd jinked and twisted past a handful of Everton players. It wasn't enough though and it finished 3-1 on a rather forgettable day. There wasn't much individually - the centre-back pairing of Oliver and Kigbu wouldn't have been best pleased with their displays. The latter in particular overcommitting a few times and being caught out of position. Bullock had a torrid time in the first-half in particular up against Everton's flying Bramall, and though they toiled, Fernandes and Dilrosun were not their usual incisive selves. Duhaney was competent, if quiet, and Davenport was overrun at times. Wood and Diallo, the former eventually ending up at CB after a switch around, struggled to control the game. By no means bad, but they were up against a good team. A hungry team that simply had a better day,, but that was to be expected at some point. They remain top of the league going into next week's derby at the CFA. I cannot wait for that.
The u16s continued their remarkable form. They were on the pitch behind the u18s and I managed to catch fifteen minutes of them during the half-time break - you can see them in the background in fact on the video highlights linked above. They were irresistible. They utterly destroyed what is, allegedly, a competitive and strong Everton side at this level. 7-1. An unstoppable machine. I managed to catch a few minutes at half-time due to overlapping times and I caught a few goals. The best being a simply marvellous curling effort from the pint-sized, but technically wonderful, Phil Foden. Luke Bolton grabbed a hat-trick from the right wing and Jadon Sancho, starting out as a centre-forward in the absence of Tyrese Campbell who was on international duty with England's u17s, scored the other three. It was a destruction. Tom Dele-Bashiru is a beast. He's stepped up to the 18s this year already, like Sancho, and it's not hard to see why. He looks a level above all at that age. Strong, fast, technically great. A complete midfielder. Matt Smith alongside him is equally everywhere. They all are. It's an impressive bunch. Several will surely make their debuts for the u18s before the season is out, and with players such as Nmecha and Patching now starting to make an impact at the EDS level opportunities will be there for them. Long before that, and this weekend, there's another game for the u18s. Newcastle at home. There's a rumour that Brahim Diaz has finally received his international clearance and may be eligible for inclusion. I seriously hope so. Fingers crossed. There will be a report on here on Saturday evening either way.
As an aside, I appeared on two videos this week for BlueMoonRising TV talking to Adam about the various EDS loanees, and the academy team's performances this year so far. Enjoy my emotive, rambling missives, if you like...
EDS, u19s & u18s