Author: Jeorge Bird
U18 Premier League- Game 28
Arsenal 1 (Mavididi 32) Newcastle United 0
Arsenal U18s salvaged some pride from what has been a difficult week for the youth system as they beat Newcastle United 1-0 at London Colney today courtesy of a strike from Stephy Mavididi.
Mavididi scored his fifth goal in ten starts at this level this season to earn Arsenal victory, whilst the game was also notable for the debuts of two promising youngsters. Jonatas Centeno, recently recruited from Fulham, impressed at right-back, whilst schoolboy Joshua Da Silva came on as a second-half substitute.
There were two other changes from the side that lost to Tottenham Hotspur, with Marc Bola and Aaron Eyoma also starting. None of the players on show today are expected to start Thursday’s FA Youth Cup tie against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Alfred Mugabo, who spent time on trial at Sheffield Wednesday last week, was amongst the substitutes.
subs: Vickers, Mugabo, Maitland-Niles, Da Silva.
Arsenal have three remaining league fixtures at this level this season, with games to come against Wolverhampton Wanderers, West Ham United and Fulham.
U21 players Semi Ajayi, Kristoffer Olsson, Isaac Hayden and Hector Bellerin trained with the first-team this morning as Arsene Wenger’s side concluded their preparations for tomorrow’s trip to face Everton in the Premier League.
Gedion Zelalem was also involved, whilst Aaron Ramsey and Nacho Monreal, who have made full recoveries from injury, also participated and are likely to be in the squad tomorrow. However, Kieran Gibbs and Serge Gnabry are doubtful having sustained minor problems. Nicklas Bendtner wasn’t present.
Abou Diaby is back training individually, but is not yet fit enough to join in with the main group, whilst Laurent Koscielny could return for next week’s FA Cup Semi-Final against Wigan Athletic. Theo Walcott, Jack Wilshere, Mesut Ozil and Ryo are all still sidelined.
Players involved in training today:
Szczesny, Fabianski, Viviano, Sagna, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Rosicky, Flamini, Arteta, Cazorla, Giroud, Podolski, Oxlade-Chamberlain,
Ramsey, Kallstrom, Sanogo, Monreal, Jenkinson, Zelalem, Bellerin, Olsson, Ajayi, Hayden.
U21 Premier League- Game 17
Everton 2 (Gueye 5, 48) Arsenal 1 (Maitland-Niles 67)
Ainsley Maitland-Niles’ first goal at U21 level was not enough to prevent Steve Gatting’s side from suffering their third defeat in a week as they lost 2-1 away to Everton this evening. Maitland-Niles, back from international duty, scored with a fine strike in the second-half, but only after Magaye Gueye had struck twice to put Everton in control. This result follows recent defeats to Tottenham Hotspur and Bolton Wanderers.
Chuba Akpom and Kristoffer Olsson returned from injury and illness respectively to start in place of Zak Ansah and Gedion Zelalem. Maitland-Niles, meanwhile, replaced Glen Kamara.
subs: Ansah (for Maitland-Niles, 84) Not used: Huddart, Kamara, Zelalem, Iwobi.
Everton were on top early on, with Christopher Long shooting just over. They were ahead with just five minutes on the clock when Gueye, who has 24 Premier League appearances to his name, beat Matt Macey with an excellent free-kick.
It could very easily have been 2-0 just moments later, with Long coming close again before Conor McAleny, who made his Everton first-team debut against Arsenal in 2011, shot wide after capitalising on yet another slack pass from Semi Ajayi.
Arsenal began to gather some momentum in an attacking sense as the half progressed. Hector Bellerin was a constant threat against Bolton Wanderers on Monday, and the right-back won a corner after linking well with his compatriot Jon Toral.
Isaac Hayden shot wide just before the interval, but Everton soon re-affirmed their dominance after the break, with Gueye making it 2-0 with a well-struck effort that left Macey stranded.
Calum Dyson then came close with a header from Luke Garbutt’s corner, but Arsenal gave themselves a lifeline with 67 minutes on the clock when Hayden and Olsson exchanged passes, before the latter found Maitland-Niles in space on the right flank. The England U17 international wasted no time in finding the net and making it 2-1.
Maitland-Niles, boosted by that goal, then played in Thomas Eisfeld, but the German, usually so clinical in front of goal, couldn’t find the target. Toral then shot over after yet more good work from Bellerin, but Everton provided a reminder of their attacking threat when Conor Grant’s shot struck the side-netting.
On the day that he learnt that he will continue as Arsenal’s U21 coach next season, working alongside Carl Laraman, Gatting couldn’t prevent Arsenal’s youngsters from suffering yet another defeat. Since Christmas, they have won just one league game out of nine, something they will be looking to address when Manchester City visit Borehamwood on Monday night.
Arsenal have announced a considerable re-structuring of their coaching staff at youth level following the appointment of Andries Jonker as the club’s new Head of Youth Development.
Steve Gatting, somewhat surprisingly, will remain in his position as coach of the club’s U21 team, where he will be joined by Carl Laraman. Dutch coach Frans de Kat will take charge of the U18 team alongside Kwame Ampadu, whilst another new arrival, Jan van Loon, will oversee the development of the U16 side. Terry Burton’s departure from the club has also been confirmed after the 61 year old was overlooked when the club decided to appoint Jonker as Liam Brady’s replacement.
The appointments of de Kat and Ampadu will mark the third change in coaching staff at U18 level since Steve Bould was promoted to the first-team set-up less than two years ago. After some wretched results under the stewardship of Pat Holland and then Laraman, the new pairing will be hopeful of improving the perception of the club’s youth set-up. With 14 new scholars poised to commence their careers in the summer, this is a time of considerable change for the Academy. Ampadu, a former Arsenal player who made two appearances for the first-team, has impressed since re-joining the club as U16 coach, whilst de Kat has vast experience of coaching in Dutch football, with the national team, ADO Den Haag and Willem II.
van Loon has also worked with the Dutch national team’s youth set-up and will be tasked with helping the club’s next batch of promising schoolboys, including the talented Charlie Gilmour, to progress to full-time scholarships.
The decision to retain both Gatting and Laraman would, on the face of it, appear rather bizarre, with both coaches having come under criticism from regular attendees of youth team matches for the disappointing results and performances in league matches that have occurred during their reign. That said, both have guided Arsenal’s youngsters to the latter stages of cup competitions this campaign. Results are not the most important aspect of youth-team football, but Gatting and Laraman certainly do not inspire as much confidence as their predecessors, Bould and Neil Banfield.
It is clear that Jonker, whilst introducing some of his compatriots as coaches, wants to maintain a sense of continuity at the club by retaining some of the existing staff. Whether that will prove to be a wise move remains to be seen, but next season will certainly be another campaign of upheaval for the Arsenal youth department.
Arsenal youngster Alfred Mugabo is on trial with Championship side Sheffield Wednesday and featured in a game against Leeds United’s U21 side yesterday.
The 18 year old, who has been capped by Rwanda at senior level, has struggled for form and fitness at Arsenal this season, making just 11 appearances in the U18 side, whilst also featuring twice as a substitute in the FA Youth Cup.
An extremely versatile player who is capable of playing as a right-back, centre-back, defensive-midfielder or a winger, Mugabo featured for Arsenal’s U21 team during the first year of his scholarship but is now a prime candidate to be released when his contract expires at the end of June.
The club are yet to formally announce their decisions with regards to the remaining second-year scholars, but Glen Kamara, Alex Iwobi and Josh Vickers seem likely to be offered extended stays, whilst the respective futures of Tarum Dawkins and Arinse Uade are less clear.
As things stand, Arsenal will be taking on 14 new scholars for next season, including the recently recruited Jonatas Centeno.
U18 Premier League- Game 27
Tottenham Hotspur 3 (Harrison 11, Akindayini 42, Oduwa 57) Arsenal 1 (Dobson 79)
Arsenal’s youngsters were subjected to another defeat by their North London rivals as Tottenham Hotspur emerged from London Colney with all three points in this re-arranged U18 league fixture today.
Like in the meeting between the two teams at U21 level on Friday, Tottenham were the superior side, with the visitors scoring twice before the interval and adding a third goal early in the second-half. Schoolboy George Dobson reduced the deficit late on, but this result brought an end to Arsenal’s brief revival in fortunes at this level.
Despite the fact that the U21 side are taking on Everton tomorrow, coach Carl Laraman was still able to call upon the considerable talents of Dan Crowley and Jack Jebb. Elliot Wright and Olufela Olomola came into the side.
subs: Vickers, Donovan, Robinson, Ejaria, Eyoma.
Tottenham started brightly, with Kyle Walker-Peters finding Shayon Harrison, whose shot was tipped onto the crossbar and over by Arsenal goalkeeper Ryan Huddart.
Harrison would score with his next attempt. He exchanged passes with Harry Winks, who was so impressive on Friday, before beating Huddart with a well-struck effort.
Arsenal responded through Austin Lipman, with the striker’s effort being cleared off the line by the alert Walker-Peters. Just prior to that Arsenal had the ball in the net, but the strike was ruled out for offside.
Walker-Peters was seemingly everywhere in the first-half and he played in substitute Daniel Akindayini, who made it 2-0 just before the interval.
Tottenham effectively sealed victory just before the hour mark when Harrison found Nathan Oduwa, who scored the goal of the game after he cut in from the left flank and found the net with an excellent strike.
Arsenal restored a smidgen of pride when Dobson headed in unmarked from a corner for his second goal at this level, but Tottenham could have inflicted further damage in the closing stages, with Harrison and Oduwa both coming close to doubling their respective tallies.
After a couple of impressive performances recently, this result will go down as yet another disappointment for the U18s this season. They have four league games remaining this campaign, starting with the visit of Newcastle United on Saturday morning.
U21 Premier League- Game 16
Bolton Wanderers 2 (Lester 68, Kellett 86) Arsenal 1 (Eisfeld 62)
Arsenal U21s suffered their second defeat in quick succession as they lost to Bolton Wanderers this evening despite taking the lead through Thomas Eisfeld. There was a marked improvement from the disappointing display against Tottenham Hostpur, but the young Gunners failed to build upon Eisfeld’s goal and were eventually punished by a hard-working Bolton team.
There were two changes to the team that lost at White Hart Lane, with Hector Bellerin and Zak Ansah coming into the side. Dan Crowley, meanwhile, made the bench following his impressive performance for the U18s against Blackburn at the weekend.
subs: Lipman (for Ansah, 77), Crowley (for Zelalem, 81). Not used: Huddart, Jebb, Iwobi.
Bolton, like Arsenal, have struggled for consistency at U21 level this season, but it was the hosts who created the first notable opportunity when Arsenal squandered possession and Chris Lester shot wide. It was to prove to be a warning sign, with Lester pestering the Arsenal defence all evening.
Arsenal gradually began to garner some attacking momentum, with Jon Toral playing an incisive pass into the path of Ansah, whose shot was off target, before Isaac Hayden, who was sent off against Tottenham on Friday, came a little closer just moments later.
Hayden has been playing in a more advanced position than normal in recent weeks and the 19 year old was involved in Arsenal’s next attacking move as he found Toral, but the experienced Bolton goalkeeper Arran Lee-Barrett was quick off his line to deny the Spaniard.
It was then Bolton’s turn to go close, with Lester finding Tom Walker, who shot just wide of Matt Macey’s far post. Bolton continued to assert themselves, with Macey doing well to push Lester’s fierce strike wide, but Arsenal were still dangerous themselves on the counter and forced Lee-Barrett into action again when Toral latched onto Bellerin’s cross.
The 30-year-old shot-stopper was able to turn the ball over the crossbar, with the two sides remaining level at the interval.
Arsenal started the second-half well at the County Ground, with Hayden finding Ansah, who shot just wide. Their hard work eventually paid dividends in the 62nd minute when Bellerin provided another accurate cross from the right flank and Eisfeld scored with a header to open the scoring. It was the German’s fifth goal of the campaign at this level and his first since January.
The lead lasted just six minutes, however, with Bolton exploiting Arsenal’s high line and Zach Clough finding the ever-dangerous Lester, who beat Macey to equalise.
Bolton then came close to inflicting further damage upon Arsenal, but Macey added to his growing catalogue of impressive saves by denying Luke Woodland.
Arsenal then introduced Austin Lipman and Crowley as they sought to increase their attacking momentum. It had the opposite effect, however, as Bolton took the lead with just four minutes remaining after Andy Kellett weaved his way through the Arsenal defence and beat Macey with a well-placed effort.
Arsenal could muster little in response and slipped to their sixth defeat of the season. They have five games remaining this campaign, with their next assignment a trip to face Everton on Thursday.
Benik Afobe scored a consolation goal as Sheffield Wednesday lost 4-1 to Watford. The striker scored with a header after 54 minutes, but by that point his temporary side had already conceded four goals. Afobe was withdrawn with 11 minutes remaining, whilst goalkeeper Damian Martinez watched on from the bench. Ju-Young Park wasn’t involved for Watford.
Wellington started for Real Murcia and set up his side’s goal in their 1-1 draw away to Cordoba. The Brazilian winger, who played 83 minutes, crossed for Dominic Malonga to score.
Chuks Aneke came close to scoring a late equaliser as Crewe Alexandra lost 2-1 to Coventry City. The midfielder played the whole game.
Joel Campbell came on at the start of the second-half as Olympiacos beat Aris 1-0.
Johan Djourou played the whole game but couldn’t prevent his Hamburg side from losing 3-1 to Borussia Monchengladbach.
Josh Vickers played the whole game and kept a clean sheet in Canvey Island’s 2-0 victory over Margate.
Daniel Boateng was an un-used substitute as Hibernian lost 2-0 to Hearts.
Francis Coquelin wasn’t involved as Freiburg beat Nuremberg 3-2, whilst Zach Fagan was again absent through injury as Boreham Wood drew 0-0 with Dover Athletic. Ignasi Miquel missed out as Leicester City beat Burnley 2-0.
U18 Premier League
Blackburn Rovers 0 Arsenal 1 (Crowley 73)
Dan Crowley scored the winner and completed 85 minutes as Arsenal U18s beat Blackburn Rovers 1-0 earlier today.
Crowley scored with a free-kick with 17 minutes remaining. He was replaced by the promising James Blanchfield, who made his debut at this level.
A young Arsenal side containing five schoolboys from the offset gained a creditable victory in Lancashire that will provide them with confidence going into their final five games of the season.
Ryan Huddart, Alfred Mugabo and Renny Smith, who were on the bench for the U21s last night, all started, whilst schoolboy Harry Donovan made his first start for the U18s.
Arsenal: Huddart; Mugabo (Olomola 59), Dobson, Uade, Bola; Donovan; Smith, Crowley (Blanchfield 85), Hinds, Dawkins (Ejaria 81); Mavididi.
U21 Premier League- Game 15
Tottenham Hotspur 2 (Coulibaly 28 (pen), Winks (84) Arsenal 0
By Jeorge Bird @ White Hart Lane
After the euphoria of Monday’s impressive win over West Ham United, Arsenal U21s were sent crashing back down to earth tonight as they were beaten 2-0 by a Tottenham Hotspur side who were utterly dominant following the first-half sending off of Isaac Hayden.
Hayden was dismissed after allegedly bringing down the dangerous Ruben Lameiras in the penalty area, and, after Souleymane Coulibaly dispatched the spot-kick, there was no way back for the young Gunners, with Tottenham, after a succession of chances, eventually adding a second late on through the effective Harry Winks.
This result all but ends any distant hopes Arsenal possessed of winning the U21 Premier League title this season. They did start relatively well, with Gedion Zelalem seeing much of the ball and Thomas Eisfeld looking dangerous early on, but the red card sapped them of both their momentum and creativity.
This was still a memorable experience for the youngsters, however, as they played at another Premier League stadium and were cheered on by a sizeable contingent of Arsenal fans.
Coach Steve Gatting was forced to make several changes from the West Ham game, with Chuba Akpom and Kristoffer Olsson missing through injury and illness respectively. Austin Lipman and Glen Kamara came into the side, whilst Matt Macey replaced Deyan Iliev in goal.
subs: Ansah (for Lipman, 62), Jebb (for Iwobi, 80). Not used: Huddart, Mugabo, Smith.
Arsenal started well, with Eisfeld, who has been in impressive form of late, seeing a shot saved, before Lipman put the ball in the back of the net but only after the flag had been correctly raised for offside.
Tottenham gradually began to assert themselves, with Macey having to collect a dangerous cross, but Arsenal continued to threaten, particularly through Eisfeld, whose weak effort was deflected into the grasp of Jordan Archer.
From that point onwards Tottenham upped the ante considerably, with Arsenal’s defence struggling to cope. Macey did well to save a header from point blank range, before centre-backs Semi Ajayi and Hayden made impressive clearances in quick succession.
Hayden’s next act, however, would see him sent from the field and, ultimately, decide the course of the game. Having struggled to keep up with Lameiras, Hayden was deemed to have brought down the Tottenham player in the area, and, despite his lengthy protestations, he was sent off.
Coulibaly, evidently full of confidence, never looked as if he was going to miss the resultant spot-kick, and he dispatched the ball past Macey emphatically.
Arsenal were all at sea defensively for the remainder of the first-half, with Hayden’s dismissal prompting a tactical re-shuffle that saw Kamara move to right-back, with Leander Siemann slotting in alongside Ajayi at centre-back.
Tottenham struck a post, with left-back Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill then doing well to clear the danger after yet another chance was created by the home side. Arsenal, in contrast, lacked any attacking momentum whatsoever, with their primary tactic seemingly being to send long balls in the general direction of Lipman, who was without any sort of support up front.
Marshalled by the £8.5 million summer signing Vlad Chiriches, who was making his return to action, Tottenham’s defence proved too difficult for Arsenal to breach, with Eisfeld, Alex Iwobi and Jon Toral, so impressive against West Ham, all struggling to make much of an impact.
After the interval Tottenham continued from where they had left off, carving out chances with considerable ease. A shot struck the side-netting, then, after Zelalem carelessly gave the ball away, Macey had to push Coulibaly’s shot away at short notice.
Arsenal brought on Zak Ansah for Lipman and the striker had something of an impact, forcing Archer into a good save, but that was a rare attack in a half that was almost entirely dominated by Tottenham.
Macey was then nearly caught out by a shot from Winks, who was fast becoming the game’s most influential figure. The 18 year old shot over and then, with six minutes remaining, he eventually received his reward when he beat Macey with a well-executed effort.
Tottenham rattled the woodwork late on for good measure, but they had already inflicted enough damage upon Arsenal’s wounded youngsters.
Similarly to the defeat to the same opponents at Underhill last year, there were very few positives to take from this encounter from an Arsenal perspective, although the absences of Olsson and Akpom were perhaps contributing factors to the serious dearth of attacking ingenuity.
Macey, despite conceding twice, made some good interventions, whilst Kamara, although he was forced to play out of position for much of the game, was persistent in his attempts to shackle the Tottenham attack. This will ultimately go down as a disappointment for Arsenal, but there is an instant chance to respond when they travel to face Bolton Wanderers on Monday.
On a side note, the Arsenal fans who attended provided fantastic support, whilst it was also good to see the likes of Serge Gnabry, Hector Bellerin and Akpom sitting amongst the crowd. The latter should only be out for around a week through injury, and he will be hopeful of being ready for Arsenal’s FA Youth Cup double-header against Chelsea.