Joe Edwards reflected on mixed emotions after seeing his side claim the Premier League 2 points in spite of a series of defensive errors away at Arsenal.
A chaotic contest swung both ways as the Blues recovered from an early deficit to lead 3-1 before going in level at the break. A brief period of calm in the second half didn’t last for long before three further goals settled the game, with Billy Gilmour winning it late on with a drive from outside the box.
Afterwards, Edwards admitted the visitors were fortunate to come away with the points that helped them leapfrog the Gunners into third.
‘It was a crazy game and one you might think would be great for the neutrals but I thought there was a lack of quality, particularly at the back, which is so strange when you’re talking about two of the best footballing teams in the league and a pitch full of talented players,’ he told the official Chelsea website.
‘I’ve seen a lot of Chelsea versus Arsenal academy games over the years but rarely have I seen so many sloppy and silly mistakes and when you have quality attacking players up either end of the pitch, those mistakes are going to be punished. It was a defensive nightmare for both teams in the first half.
‘In terms of shape and trying to defend as a team, both sides were well set and it was making it cagey and difficult to play through. However, in and around the defensive third, both teams were poor. We gave away three goals in the first half that we were furious with ourselves about but we were actually grateful to come in level and still look like we had a decent chance of winning the game.’
The positives were the points, another five-goal haul four days after a 5-0 Checkatrade Trophy win at Plymouth and a resilient reaction to a below-par first half display.
‘The response in the second half was good, after some very harsh words from me at half-time,’ continued Edwards. ‘We were definitely better after the break, without being anywhere near our best. Our togetherness as a team was also a positive and you couldn’t question the work-rate because physically the boys really put a shift in again.
‘To score five goals is always a plus because we’ve had some home games this season where we haven’t looked like scoring. We’re here for results as well as development and performances so we’ll take coming away from home and beating a strong team like Arsenal, though we certainly know we’re better than that.’
This was the fifth of six games in 18 days for our development squad and Under-19s, a challenging schedule for a mostly teenage team. Results have been predominantly positive and Edwards believes the group have coped well with the physical and mental demands.
‘It’s been harsh but good,’ he said about the busy programme. ‘You only have to follow the Championship and the Premier League to know this is what it’s like in the real world so it’s a good experience for the players. We’ve played a lot of games but the players look strong and like they can keep going so physically I think we’ve coped really well.
‘This was our final PL2 game for a few weeks so it was nice to get some more points on the board because the league is very competitive. Now hopefully we can finish off this busy period with a good performance and result in Sweden in the UEFA Youth League.’
Edwards takes his Under-19s to IF Elfsborg this week for the second round of the UEFA Youth League domestic champions pathway. Kick-off on Wednesday evening is 5pm UK time and there will be updates on our official @chelseafc Twitter.