UEFA Youth League- Matchday 1
Borussia Dortmund 0 Arsenal 2
The Arsenal first-team may have suffered a deeply disappointing 2-0 defeat in Dortmund last night, but the club’s young prospects were victorious by that scoreline in their opening UEFA Youth League fixture.
Kaylen Hinds scored both goals in the first-half, with assists being provided by Dan Crowley and Chris Willock. This was a commendable victory for a young team comprised almost entirely of English players with the exception of Gedion Zelalem.
Without many of the players who helped them to reach the latter stages in last season’s competition, you could have been forgiven for predicting that Arsenal would struggle here.
However, they more than held their own, with Willock and Hinds particularly impressive.
Arsenal’s next fixture in this competition is at home to Galatasaray.
Arsenal: Huddart; Johnson, O’Connor, Wright, T. Moore; Maitland-Niles, Zelalem; Iwobi, Crowley, C. Willock; Hinds.
Subs: Mavididi (for Iwobi), Robinson (for Willock), Dobson (for Johnson). Not used: House, M. Bola, Sheaf, Smith.
Hector Bellerin has had to be rather patient for his chance to impress at Arsenal.
The Spaniard has delivered numerous consistent performances for the club’s development sides since joining from Barcelona in 2011, but, over the next few weeks, he could finally be cast into the first-team spotlight.
For all his potential, Bellerin is yet to start a competitive game for the Arsenal first-team, with his only official appearance to date coming as a substitute against West Bromwich Albion last season in the Captial One Cup.
Bellerin is in line to feature against Southampton when that competition gets back underway next week, but, before then, he could have a part to play away to Borussia Dortmund tonight in the Champions League if Calum Chambers is declared unavailable.
With regular right-back Mathieu Debuchy expected to be out for some time through injury, there could be further opportunities for Bellerin in the coming weeks with defensive options thin on the ground.
If Chambers was asked to cover at centre-back, for example, then Bellerin, who enjoyed a short but largely successful loan spell at Watford last season, may well be drafted in at right-back.
A hard-working player and a willing runner, Bellerin’s attributes in the attacking third have never been in doubt. There has been some criticism of his defending in the past,
but he has improved commendably in that regard, something he will be looking to showcase if he is called upon for the first-team in the near future.
U18 Premier League- Game 4
Norwich City 0 Arsenal 3 (Mavididi 23, 50 (pen), 83)
Stephy Mavididi scored a hat-trick as Arsenal U18s comfortably dispatched of Norwich City with a 3-0 win yesterday morning.
Having opened the scoring midway through the first-half, Mavididi later found the net from the penalty spot before finishing well again with seven minutes remaining. The first-year scholar has now scored seven goals in his first four games and could be involved when the U19s take on Borussia Dortmund in the UEFA Youth League next week.
In a side primarily composed of first-years, Portuguese youth international Jonatas Centeno made his first appearance of the season at right-back, whilst Josh Vickers featured in goal as an over-age player. Chris Willock also returned to the fold having missed out last week due to international duty.
Arsenal are at home to Reading next week. Frans De Kat’s side sit top of the table having taken nine points out of a possible twelve so far this campaign.
subs: Huddart, Johnson, Eyoma, Hinds.
Benik Afobe scored another goal as MK Dons beat Barnsley 5-3 in a pulsating game in League One. Afobe opened the scoring in the 33rd minute, with MK Dons racing into a 5-0 goal lead only for Barnsley to score three times in the last eight minutes. The striker was replaced with 21 minutes remaining and has now scored six goals this season.
Ryo played the last 20 minutes as a substitute as FC Twente beat Go Ahead Eagles 2-1. It was the Japanese winger’s first appearance at any level since March after he recovered from a serious injury.
Kristoffer Olsson made his debut for FC Midtjylland as a 78th minute substitute in their 3-2 victory over Odense BK. The midfielder scored a hat-trick for Sweden U21s last week.
Wellington started and was largely impressive as Almeria drew 1-1 with Cordoba. The 21 year old caught the eye with his pace and trickery, but he also picked up a yellow card and was replaced midway through the second-half.
Jon Toral played the last 15 minutes of Brentford’s 3-2 win over Brighton & Hove Albion after coming off the bench.
Austin Lipman completed 75 minutes as Boreham Wood trounced Chelmsford City 4-0, with the striker seeing a shot saved by the opposition goalkeeper. On Monday Lipman scored twice as the Conference South table toppers beat Eastbourne Borough 5-2.
West Ham United take on Hull City on Monday, but Carl Jenkinson is unlikely to have returned from injury in time to feature.
Arsenal have submitted their list of eligible players for their upcoming UEFA Youth League campaign, with 13 schoolboys included, several of whom are yet to feature for the club at U18 level.
The list is comprised of 39 players in total, with Gedion Zelalem, Julio Pleguezuelo, Alex Iwobi, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Stefan O’Connor and Dan Crowley some of the more recognisable names that have been included.
Notably the four new foreign signings- Hugo Keto, Kristopher Da Graca, Ilias Chatzitheodoridis and Savvas Mourgos- have also been included, suggesting that their respective registrations have been received and they are now eligible to play for the club.
As far as the schoolboys are concerned, the youngest player in the squad is 14 year old Reiss Nelson, an attack-minded England U16 international who was born in December 1999.
Defender Kwai Marsh-Brown, midfielders Charlie Gilmour, Tyler Hayles, Rugare Musendo, Nathan Tella and striker Edward Nketiah are all included.
Jake Clarke-Salter, the Chelsea youngster, is listed in Arsenal’s squad, but that is believed to be an administrative error, with Aaron Eyoma included instead.
Arsenal will have to decide before each fixture which 20 of these players will be eligible for that particular game. Their campaign starts away to Borussia Dortmund next week.
Arsenal’s UEFA Youth League squad
Ryan Huddart, Julio Pleguezuelo, Tafari Moore, Stefan O’Connor, Elliot Wright, Renny Smith, Dan Crowley, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Gedion Zelalem,
Hugo Keto, Kristopher Da Graca, Ilias Chatzitheodoridis, Marc Bola, Jonatas Centeno, Chiori Johnson, Harry Donovan, George Dobson, Chris Willock, Ben Sheaf, Kaylen Hinds, Tyrell Robinson, Stephy Mavididi, Savvas Mourgos, Aaron Eyoma.
2015 scholars (potential)
Brad House, Tolaji Bola, Mich’el Parker, Kwai Marsh-Brown, Tyler Hayles, Owen Moore, Rugare Musendo, Marcus Tabi, Charlie Gilmour, Joshua Da Silva, Nathan Tella, Edward Nketiah, Joe Willock.
2016 scholars (potential)
U21 Premier League- Game 4
Aston Villa 0 Arsenal 2 (Akpom 28, 85)
Chuba Akpom continued his mightily impressive start to the season by scoring both goals as Arsenal U21s beat Aston Villa 2-0 at Villa Park this evening.
In a game televised on Sky Sports, Arsenal caught the eye with some slick passing moves and merited their victory, even though Villa threatened with increasing regularity in the second-half.
There were numerous positives to take from an Arsenal perspective, with Akpom and captain Isaac Hayden delivering stellar showings, whilst Abou Diaby and Francis Coquelin both completed 90 minutes. Goalkeeper Damian Martinez, meanwhile, was assured on his first start at any level this season.
subs not used: Macey, Moore, Ajayi, Jebb, Iwobi.
Villa, in front of a small crowd, had the first sight of goal, with Jerell Sellers shooting straight at Martinez, but it wasn’t long until Steve Gatting’s side, who remain unbeaten this season, took control of proceedings.
Akpom, along with Hayden and Hector Bellerin, took part in the first-team photocall at London Colney before making the trip to Birmingham. The striker is yet to be officially promoted to the senior squad but he could hardly have championed his cause any more tonight.
Akpom demonstrated that there is far more to his game than just goals when he played a neat pass through to Ainsley Maitland-Niles, whose dipping effort struck the crossbar.
That served as a warning sign for Villa, with both of Arsenal’s full-backs, Bellerin and the reinvigorated Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill, attacking with increasing regularity.
Martinez had to make a couple of interventions early on, with the Argentinian demonstrating the calm demeanour that has seen him promoted to the first-team set-up.
Arsenal, though, were coming ever closer to scoring. Coquelin did well to win the ball back and find Maitland-Niles, who in turn threaded the ball through to Akpom. The England U20 international was denied by a sliding defensive challenge, but he managed to find the net shortly afterwards.
It was a goal much of his own making. Akpom hassled Villa captain Lewis Kinsella out of possession, won the ball and then rounded the Villa goalkeeper before scoring.
It was a hard-earned strike and Akpom could have doubled his tally before the interval when Diaby found him with a long-range pass, but he failed to unleash a shot on this occasion.
With Coquelin and Diaby providing an effective shield in midfield and the authoritative Hayden marshalling the defence, Villa found it difficult to muster any attacking momentum, despite the best efforts of the sprightly Callum Robinson.
Hayden, this time popping up on the right flank, crossed for Maitland-Niles, who sent a header over.
Gedion Zelalem, who didn’t see much of the ball in the first-half, became increasingly influential in the second period.
The German youth international did well to find Crowley, who shot straight at the goalkeeper. Diaby then played a trademark raking pass into the path of Bellerin, with the ball eventually falling to Akpom, but the threat was cleared before he could get a shot away.
Villa gained considerable momentum as the game wore on, with Courtney Wildin almost capitalising after Bellerin was caught upfield, but the win was secured with five minutes remaining when Zelalem unlocked the defence and found Akpom, who finished well with the assistance of the post.
Akpom already has six goals in four U21 games this season and, as has been mentioned previously, appears a suitable alternative to Yaya Sanogo at present. The acquisition of Danny Welbeck may mean he’ll have to wait a little longer for his chance, but the 18 year old will certainly receive his opportunity eventually.
Arsenal, as a whole, remain unbeaten so far in Divison 2 of the U21 Premier League, having taken a commendable 10 points out of a possible 12. Newcastle United are next up at Borehamwood, with Theo Walcott a candidate to feature as he steps up his return from injury.
Ambitious midfielder Kristoffer Olsson provided another reminder of his undoubted quality yesterday as he scored a hat-trick to help Sweden U21s secure a play-off place.
Olsson’s three goals, added to by a stoppage time strike from Oscar Hiljemark, ensured Sweden beat Turkey 4-3 in a dramatic final qualification fixture.
Olsson’s first goal was a finish from close range, with the 19 year old then doubling his tally by chipping the ball over the Turkish goalkeeper. Olsson completed his hat-trick with a well-struck effort from just outside the area. Turkey staged a commendable fightback, but Hiljemark’s goal in the second minute of stoppage time gave Sweden victory.
Whether Olsson will still be an Arsenal player when the U21 European Championship Finals take place next year is a matter of some debate. Having expressed his frustration at his lack of first-team football in North London, he has relocated to Denmark, joining FC Midtjylland on loan, initially until January.
Olsson may be afforded some time off after his international commitments, meaning that Friday’s game against OB may come too soon for him to make his debut, but he should feature away to Norsjaellland the following week.