Barclays Under-21 Premier League- Game 3
Arsenal 1 (Gnabry 34) West Bromwich Albion 0
By Jeorge Bird @ Emirates Stadium
Ryo Miyaichi may be two years older than Serge Gnabry, but, on the evidence of tonight’s U21 Premier League encounter with West Bromwich Albion in front of over 2000 supporters at Emirates Stadium, it is the young German who is closest to making an impression in the senior side.
Indeed Gnabry scored the goal that proved to be the difference between the two sides, with the Germany U19 international latching onto Isaac Hayden’s long pass and volleying emphatically past Jack Rose in the 34th minute. Ryo, in contrast, looked rather lost, with the winger squandering an inviting opportunity from point blank range in the opening stages. It is true that he is still working his way back to fitness following injury, but, at this moment in time, Gnabry certainly seems the most likely to make an impression at a higher level.
The pair were joined in the side this evening by another member of the first-team squad in Emmanuel Frimpong, who was largely impressive as he completed 75 minutes on his first outing at any level this campaign. There were also further opportunities to impress for trialists Matthew Macey, a goalkeeper from Bristol Rovers, and Semi Ajayi, a centre-back who was most recently with Charlton Athletic. Both players came through their latest audition well, with Macey in particular catching the eye with some vital saves late on.
subs: Iwobi (for Ryo, 62), Maitland-Niles (for Gnabry, 62), Kamara (for Frimpong, 74). Not used: Iliev, Siemann, Jeffrey.
West Brom were able to call upon the experience of Zoltan Gera, whilst they handed a start up front to Morgan Ferrier, who came through Arsenal’s Hale End academy but was unable to earn a scholarship deal with the club.
Having accrued four points from their opening two fixtures this season Arsenal were in flamboyant mood immediately from the kick-off, with Gnabry doing superbly to find Ryo in space, but the Japanese winger somehow managed to direct his effort off target when it appeared far easier to score.
Macey was then called into action for the first time, with the goalkeeper having to keep out a header from Kemar Roofe, but the majority of the action was occurring at the other end, with Gnabry coming close twice in quick succession before later shooting just wide after latching onto Ryo’s cross.
Kristoffer Olsson, who again captained the side, then delivered a superb cross into the area, but Ajayi, who scored against Blackburn Rovers last time out, couldn’t direct his header on target this time around.
Arsenal continued to crank up the pressure, with Hayden, who continued to push forward even though he was deployed at centre-back, finding Chuba Akpom, but the striker shot straight at Rose.
The momentum of the game was then heavily disrupted by a lengthy stoppage after West Brom left-back Bradley Garmston required treatment following a collision with Hector Bellerin. He was eventually replaced by Jordan Francis, with the delay forcing nine minutes of stoppage time at the end of the first-half.
Before that, however, Arsenal would take the lead, with Hayden playing another superb, searching ball out from the back which fell invitingly for Gnabry. The former Stuttgart player controlled it well and fired home a well-struck effort to open both the scoring and his account for the campaign.
Now officially part of the first-team squad, Gnabry is surely not too far away from adding to his four senior appearances for the club. Hayden nearly doubled the advantage himself not too long afterwards, with the 18 year old directing his diving header just wide of the target, whilst Gnabry and Akpom also came close with further efforts before the interval.
Arsenal continued to dominate proceedings after the break, with Olsson doing well to drive forwards only to shoot well over prior to Frimpong, who has racked up over half a century of appearances for the club at reserve and youth level, seeing his shot repelled by Rose.
Akpom then headed over, but, at the other end, Macey was forced into an impressive save to preserve Arsenal’s lead. Steve Gatting then introduced Alex Iwobi and Ainsley Maitland-Niles for Ryo and Gnabry respectively, and the latter almost made an instant impact after receiving the ball from Ajayi, but Rose was equal to his shot.
Glen Kamara replaced the tiring Frimpong as the clock ticked on, but Macey then had to make another commendable save to deny West Brom an equaliser. The re-bound was eventually turned home, but, by that point, and much to Arsenal’s relief, the offside flag had already been raised.
West Brom, perhaps sensing some vulnerability in the Arsenal defence, went all out for an equaliser, with Olsson having to make a crucial clearance before substitute Alex Jones shot wide when he really should have scored.
Daniel Boateng, who was impressive as an unorthodox left-back, could have sealed Arsenal’s win late on but he directed his effort just wide following a mazy dribble. A 2-0 scoreline might have been a little harsh on West Brom, who put up a valiant fight, but the rather familiar result of 1-0 to the Arsenal seemed just about right on this occasion.