match reports

Reserves rampant as Aneke and Emmanuel-Thomas open accounts against Woking

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Pre-season Friendly

Woking 0 Arsenal XI 3 (Ricketts o.g., Aneke, Emmanuel-Thomas)

Shea

Hajrovic-Bartley-Boateng-Meade

Ozyakup-Henderson

E-Thomas-Aneke-Watt

Afobe

subs: Brislen-Hall, Murphy, Galindo, Yennaris, Freeman. Not used: Roberts.

The Arsenal XI side that lined up to take on Woking this evening may be slightly different to the one that opens the Premier Reserve League season against Manchester United next month, with many of this group expected to go on loan before then, but this gentle workout proved to be satisfactory preparation nonetheless, whatever direction the various career paths of these players take this season.

Jay Emmanuel-Thomas, back from an indifferent loan spell at Cardiff, was particularly to the fore, causing havoc for the Woking defence throughout. The gangly 20 year old was involved in the first and last goals; his swirling corner was deflected off Ricketts to open the scoring before he finished himself with a neat strike late on.

Sandwiched in between that, Chuks Aneke, who may experience his first loan spell this season, had doubled Arsenal’s advantage with a ferocious finish following a further demonstration of his almost telepathic understanding with Benik Afobe.

This is a big season for the likes of Emmanuel-Thomas, Sanchez Watt and Rhys Murphy, with the trio’s long-term futures at the club likely to be decided throughout the course of the campaign. Samuel Galindo (pictured), by contrast, made his first appearance in an Arsenal shirt this evening after emerging as a second-half substitute and looked lively, although work permit issues are likely to dictate that this coming campaign will be spent in Spain again.

Whatever threat Woking did possess was sporadic and intermittent, with Kyle Bartley posed few problems at the heart of defence on his return from injury, whilst James Shea was also untroubled, meaning that Tony Roberts, the Arsenal goalkeeping coach who was named on the bench with Damian Martinez preparing for the FIFA U20 World Cup, thankfully did not need to be called upon.

Another plus point of the evening was the return of Nico Yennaris at this level for the first time since his injury suffered against Chelsea in the FA Youth Cup defeat at Stamford Bridge last season.

Oguzhan Ozyakup, who, after much deliberation, signed a contract extension earlier this summer, was hugely impressive and dictated play throughout, instantly rekindling his partnership with Conor Henderson in the midfield axis. Ozyakup is in a similar situation to Aneke in that a loan is surely beckoning this season, meaning that the Reserves are likely to change shape once more as the season progresses.

For now, though, tonight’s match represents a fairly comfortable start to pre-season, with further matches to come before that aforementioned United clash. Gavin Hoyte and Craig Eastmond are likely to miss the entirety of the pre-season preparations as they recover from long-term injuries picked up on loan last season, whilst Henri Lansbury could yet feature for the first-team this season, possibly against Cologne, if not at the Emirates Cup.

U18s report- Arsenal 5 Bristol City 0- Aneke shines in masterclass

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Arsenal under-18s bounced back from their defeat to Leicester to record their biggest win of the season so far against an inept Bristol City side at London Colney.

After the disappointment of last week’s surrender against the Foxes this was a reminder of just how good Steve Bould’s youngsters can be when they are on their game. All of the goals came in the first-half with Luke Freeman and Benik Afobe hitting braces and Chuks Aneke also finding the net.

Bould rang the changes for the visit of City, continuing his policy of rotating Sean McDermott and James Shea in goal. Rhema Obed shifted to right-back at the expense of Sam Byles, who dropped to the bench, whilst Sead Hajrovic came in for only his second start. There were also welcome returns from injury for midfield pair Emmanuel Frimpong and Conor Henderson, whilst Nico Yennaris made the bench after shrugging off a back complaint.

Shea

Obed-Boateng-Hajrovic-Evina

Ozyakup-Frimpong

Aneke-Henderson-Freeman

Afobe

subs: McDermott, Yennaris, Deacon, Byles, Brislen-Hall.

In contrast to last week, when Arsenal found themselves 3-0 down early on, it was the Gunners who burst out of the traps this time. After some early City pressure a quick breakaway saw Benik Afobe find Aneke who threaded the ball through to Freeman who opened the scoring with just two minutes on the clock. It was a breathtaking move and there would be much more to come.

Just three minutes later Aneke, the provider for Freeman’s goal, turned scorer when he nodded Henderson’s arrowed corner past the City ‘keeper for his second of the season.

City were shellshocked and, although they pressured Shea’s goal intermittently, the truth was that they were just simply not good enough to cope with Arsenal. Under Bould’s orders they continued to pile on the pressure, with Obed’s cross reaching Freeman but the former Gillingham striker couldn’t convert on this occasion.

He would soon be celebrating for the second time in the game, however, and Aneke was at the hub of the move once more, splitting the defence with an accurate ball for Freeman to lap up and finish.

It was game over and it had barely begun.

The goals had provided Arsenal with much confidence and Cédric Evina, who scored a sensational strike against Leicester last time out, tried his luck again but this time skewed his shot wide after a neat passing move. Afobe, who had been quiet up until that point, then forced the busy City keeper into a save after a raked pass from Oguzhan Ozyakup. Obed delivered another telling cross but Freeman couldn’t connect, although it only seemed a matter of time before the fourth goal went in.

It did eventually come, albeit in rather fortuitous circumstances. Afobe turned away from his marker sharply and appeared to be brought down by the ‘keeper. Contact, if there was any, seemed minimal but the England u-17 international didn’t care and stepped up to convert the spot-kick low to the ‘keepers right.

Obed was continuing his rampages forward and his cross found Aneke whose shot went high and wide to the right. Frimpong then hit a drilled effort on goal from distance which was fumbled but eventually smothered by the City keeper.

With just 25 minutes on the clock it was 5-0 and the final goal proved to be the best of the lot. Henderson delivered an equisite pass into the path of Afobe who showed terrific composure to prod the ball forward, jump over the ‘keeper, and knock it in once on the other side.

It seemed there would be no end to the goals, with Aneke curling wide following a neat interchange between Freeman and Henderson, whilst Afobe had another chance after wriggling away from his marker.

There was to be more goalmouth action before the break, with Frimpong rolling in Freeman who struck a post and Frimpong hitting the woodwork himself soon after.

Henderson had the final opportunity of the half but couldn’t find the finish to match his equisite skill.

As happens so often, the second period failed to match the first in terms of entertainment but this was partly down to Bould telling his players at half-time to protect the lead and also because City had adopted a more physical approach.

This was certainly evident early in the second-half when Aneke, having been fouled himself moments earlier, picked up a yellow card for a crunching challenge.

Shots were few and far between, but Shea had to make a superb save to deny City a consolation.

Bould opted to change things on the hour, with Yennaris replacing the tiring Frimpong. The first-year had a crack at goal soon after his arrival before a double change soon after saw both full-backs withdrawn and replaced by Sam Byles and George Brislen-Hall, the latter making a superb clearance under City pressure.

There was time for more gloss to be added to the scoreline, with Freeman, Ozyakup, Afobe, Henderson and Aneke all squandering chances but five was more than enough.

What would have pleased Bould more than anything was that his side managed to earn a clean sheet for the first time this season, although their passing wasn’t their best in the second half.

Having significantly boosted their morale, Bould’s side travel to face Fulham at Motspur Park next week before hosting Crystal Palace a week later as they commence the 18 fixtures against teams in Group A.

Player ratings:

James Shea-7-Had little to do but reliable when called upon

Rhema Obed-7-Looked so much more composed at right-back

Daniel Boateng-7-Drove forward from the back

Sead Hajrovic-8-Cotninued to impress with his reading of the game

Cédric Evina-6-Not his best game and wasted too many attacking chances

Emmanuel Frimpong-6-Not yet match fit but involved in some class moves

Oguzhan Ozyakup-7-Excellent technically and some great through balls

Chuks Aneke-9-Physically superior and technically superior, a real class act

Conor Henderson-8-Some absolutely amazing passes

Luke Freeman-7-Got two goals but maybe should have got more

Benik Afobe-7- Led the line well

Subs:
Nico Yennaris (for Frimpong, 61)-5- Struggled to get into game

Sam Byles (for Obed, 68)-6-Did well going forward

George Brislen-Hall (for Evina, 68)-7-Made a crucial interception

Not used: Sean McDermott, Roarie Deacon.

Match report- Arsenal 1 Stoke 0- Wenger watches on as winning start continues

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Arsene Wenger was at Underhill this evening to watch Arsenal Reserves continue their winning start to the Reserve League South this season with a well deserved victory over a Stoke City side who made life difficult for the Gunners. Rhys Murphy’s 50th minute strike which was aided in by the Stoke keeper was the decisive moment in a game lacking in attacking opportunities, although Neil Banfield will have been impressed with the way his side coped against a physically imposing outfit.

Neil Banfield made six changes from the side which comfortably disposed of Birmingham a fortnight ago. Wojciech Szczesny replaced Vito Mannone in goal, with Ignasi Miquel coming in for Armand Traore at left-back. Elsewhere, Philippe Senderos made his first appearance in an Arsenal shirt since pre-season after replacing Gavin Hoyte at centre-back. Francis Coquelin, Gilles Sunu and Fran Mérida all missed out because of international commitments, with Roarie Deacon coming in for his first reserves start and Rhys Murphy and Nacer Barazite also starting. On the bench there were call ups for first-year scholars Daniel Boateng and Oguzhan Ozyakup.

Arsenal, lining up in a 4-2-3-1 formation with Murphy as the lone striker, Arsenal began their high pressing game, allowing Stoke limited time on the ball.

When you hear Stoke mentioned, it usually evokes images of physically imposing seasoned professionals who do not shirk a challenge. This occasion was no different with Matthew Lund scything down Craig Eastmond early on.

Opportunities were initially hard to come by, with both sides enjoying sporadic spells of possession. The Gunners created the first notable opening, Deacon embarking on a mazy run which bamboozled veteran Andy Griffin. His shot was parried and fell to Barazite, who saw his shot saved.

Stoke replied with an opportunity of their own, Leon Cort nodding over from Griffin’s in-swinging free-kick.

When chances did arise for the Gunners, Deacon was usually at the heart of the move and it was his burst down the right and pass to Eastmond which presented a chance for Murphy, whose snap shot was well saved.

Deacon continued to exert his influence on proceedings, this time cutting in from the left wing having swapped sides with Barazite. On this occasion he saw his shot saved after being teed up by Sanchez Watt, but it was another demonstration of the Londoner’s vast potential.

There were further flashpoints in a rather uneventful first half; Randall hit a superb volleyed pass into the path of Barazite but the Dutchman couldn’t get his shot away, whilst Stoke’s midfield menace Diego Arismendi became the latest player in a black shirt to clatter Eastmond.

The referee’s half-time whistle came rather as a relief than a hindrance, but Deacon’s presence was certainly felt in front of a certain Frenchman.

Arsenal made a double change at the break. Sanchez Watt and Mark Randall went off and were replaced by Luke Freeman and Ozyakup, the latter making his reserve debut.

The changes signalled some positional alterations for Banfield’s side; Freeman went to the left of the three man attack behind Murphy, with Deacon shifting into the centre and Barazite going to the right.

The Gunners accustomed quickly into their new roles and opened the scoring just five minutes into the new period. Eastmond, who was impressive throughout, slipped the ball through to Murphy who launched a clinical shot at goal. Dave Parton fumbled and, in doing so, helped the ball into the net for Arsenal’s eighth goal of the season.

Scoring breeds confidence and Murphy had an opportunity to double his tally soon after, but skewed wide following a delicious pass from Ozyakup, who was making quite an impact. Gilbert then hit a rushed shot well over.

It was a pity Deacon hobbled off with an injury because he may well have played himself into Carling Cup contention with his blistering start to the season, which continued tonight.

There were a few other incidents; Freeman should have done better after good link up play involving Eastmond and Barazite, whilst Szczesny claimed Tom Soares’ free-kick with ease as Stoke piled on the pressure late on with numerous long throws.

Freeman came close after lifting the ball over Shotton and Barazite hit it over before the referee blew his whistle.

Ultimately, though, it was not a free-flowing game and certainly not one which will live long in the memory. With Stoke involved, however, that was to be expected but the bare facts of this embryonic season make impressive reading. Three games, three wins, eight goals scored, none conceded. What makes it even more impressive is that only two players have played every minute so far; Kyle Bartley and Kerrea Gilbert. The latters experience aids the former, who is growing into quite a prospect. The pair could continue their partnership on the right side of the defence at Emirates next week against West Brom.

The reserves don’t play again until next month, when Chelsea visit Underhill. The Carling Cup will now take centre stage and, who knows, somebody may well have played themselves into the squad this evening.



Szczęsny ( 6)

Gilbert (6)-Bartley (7)-Senderos(6)-Miquel(6)

Randall (5)-Eastmond (7)

Deacon(7)-Watt(7)-Barazite(6)

Murphy (7)

subs: Freeman (for Watt, 46, (6) ), Özyakup (for Randall, 46, (7) ) , Evina (for Deacon, 66, (6), Boateng, Shea.



U18’s- Arsenal indebted to Szczesny as Murphy marks his comeback with winner

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Arsenal u-18s reached the Premier Academy League play-off Final after beating Manchester City by the same scoreline as they did in the FA Youth Cup semi-final first leg.

The young Gunners had exited the competition at this stage in the previous two seasons, but took an early lead through Cedric Evina. City responded with Abdisalam Ibrahim levelling proceedings, but Rhys Murphy struck the winner 14 minutes from time on his return from injury.

Steve Bould named his Youth Cup side with two exceptions; Wojciech Szczesny replaced James Shea in goal, whilst Evina filled in for Jack Wilshere, who is away with England U17s in Germany.

————————————Szczesny—————————

Eastmond——Bartley——————————-Ayling———–Cruise

—Thomas——–Coquelin——————————Frimpong——-Evina

———————–Sunu———————————–Watt——————-

subs: Shea, Deacon, Henderson, Murphy, Boateng.

City were without their prolific Liberian striker Nimely because of injury and his absence proved to be a vital one as the Gunners started brightly, with Evina’s low cross causing panic in the City ranks.

However, the hosts responded at a subdued City of Manchester Stadium, with Szczesny called into action for the first time when Robbie Mak fired a shot on goal.

But it was Arsenal who took the lead on 14 minutes when City ‘keeper Joe Clegg could only parry Gilles Sunu’s cross from the right. It fell to Cedric Evina who gratefully dispatched it into the net for his first goal since September 2007.

The Gunners had Szczesny to thank for a succession of superb saves which kept out Elabdellaoui and Kieran Trippier. Perhaps his best stop came soon after when he made a stunning stop from Ball.

However, despite his heroics, the Pole was unable to prevent City’s equaliser, with Ibrahim nodding home from Chris Chantler’s free-kick.

Arsenal recieved an injury blow at half-time when Tom Cruise suffered a foot injury. He was replaced by Conor Henderson, with Evina switching to left-back.

Szczesny made two more invaluble saves; first from Ball and then Chantler and was looking every inch the perfect ‘keeper.

That was until a bizzare error of judgement saw him almost caught out after a weak punch found its way to the alert Ball, who attempted to lob the pole from distance. However, Luke Ayling came to the rescue and Arsenal survived the terrifying scare.

A superb challenge by Ayling ensured that the Gunners kept things tight at the back, but going forward they still needed another goal to avoid extra time.

They got it through the prolific Rhys Murphy, who was returning from the latest in a catalogue of injuries. This time Evina turned provider and Murphy’s instinct saw him finish with aplomb and prove that class is permanent, no matter the circumstances.

A couple of late substitutes from City failed to alter proceedings and the Gunners prevailed from a tricky task, despite only having three shots on target all game.

Sunderland or Spurs await in the Final, whilst there is still business at hand in the FA Youth Cup in the form of Liverpool.

The double is still on.

Arsenal U16s hold their own against determined Spurs

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Whilst Arsenal U18s were locked in a tense 2-2 draw with their North London rivals yesterday, Steve Gatting’s under-16 side played out a classic 3-3 draw with Spurs at London Colney.

Steve Gatting welcomed back Nico Yennaris from an ankle injury, whilst Samir Carruthers returned following his trial at Aston Villa. Nigel Neita also came back into the fold after a two-week holiday, with the entire starting XI consisting of players who have featured in the u-18s this season.

——————————————–Mann——————————————–

——Glasgow————Yennaris———————-Wynter—————Brislen-Hall

——Meade————–Webb—————————Rees——————Carruthers

—————————–Ansah————————-Neita——————————–

subs: Chambers, Bihmoutine.

The U18s game was delayed by 15 minutes as Spurs had forgotten to pack their kit onto the coach and the under-16s had to borrow some of Arsenal’s footballs and cones to warm up with.

What Spurs lacked in equipment, they certainly made up for with desire, peppering Charlie Mann’s goal with attempts from all angles.

Despite going two goals down, the young Gunners held firm and pulled one back through substitute Samir Bihmoutine.

Tricky winger Jernade Meade then equalised, but Spurs responded to restore their one-goal cushion.

However, Arsenal’s hard work paid off when Zak Ansah, who scored a brace on his first start for the u-18s last week, drilled home a cool finish to level proceedings.

Gatting’s side are now preparing for the Atalanta Tournament and they will leave for Italy on Tuesday full of confidence.

FA Youth Cup semi-final: Arsenal 4 (6) Man City 1 (2)-Young Gunners reach Final after comprehensive victory

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Arsenal reached the FA Youth Cup Final for the first time since 2001 after a comprehensive demolition of holders Manchester City at Emirates Stadium.

Leading 2-1 from the first leg, the young Gunners knew that a draw would be enough to see them reach the Final for the first time since 2001, but they went for the jugular and it paid dividends.

Steve Bould demanded that his players took nothing for granted going into this game and they certainly obliged taking the lead with just 34 seconds on the clock through Sanchez Watt.

Jack Wilshere passed a late fitness test and exerted his influence on the game by converting from the penalty spot when Watt was brought down by City’s keeper Joe Clegg.

Wilshere turned provided for the third when his corner was met by Kyle Bartley, before Sanchez Watt extended the lead with another cool finish.

City pulled one back just before the break through Ibrahim Benali but it proved to be little consolation in a one-sided tie.

Bould kept faith with the same line-up from the first leg, but altered his formation slightly. He plumped for a 4-1-4-1, with Emmanuel Frimpong shielding the back four and Jay Emmanuel-Thomas and Jack Wilshere occupying central roles.

Backed by a strong following at the home of football, the Gunners burst out of the traps and took the lead after just 34 seconds.

Luke Ayling had to be alert to prevent a Robbie Mak chance and then played the ball forward to the skipper Emmanuel-Thomas who delivered an inch-perfect lofted through-ball which Watt ran onto and scored with a calm finish.

Arsenal were in the ascendancy and had further chances soon after, Gilles Sunu had his powerful left-foot drive parried by Clegg and Francis Coquelin glanced a header narrowly wide following a teasing cross from Thomas Cruise.

The Gunners’ dominance paid off when they made it 2-0. The lively Watt beat the City defence and the hapless Clegg was left with no option but to haul the striker down. Clegg escaped without a booking, but nonetheless Wilshere made him pay with a penalty which just squeezed under the ‘keeper’s body.

Arsenal were now in cruise control and the game, and indeed the tie, looked to be over when centre-back Kyle Bartley rose, unmarked, to head home Wilshere’s corner for his second goal of the competition.

It was 4-0 within a blink of an eye after the prolific Watt capitalised on a comical mishap from Reece Wabara to score.

Despite their dominance, the Gunners did have to be alert at the other end and had Craig Eastmond to thank for a superb block to deny ‘Nimely’ a scoring chance.

Moments later Shea made a stunning double save to deny right-back Kieran Trippier.

‘Nimely’, who had been a constant thorn in the Arsenal side at the City of Manchester Stadium five weeks ago, saw his evening come to a premature end just before the interval due to injury.

His replacement, Jack Redshaw, had an instant impact, setting up Ibrahim Benali who beat Shea with ease.

Following a stern team-talk from Steve Bould, the young Gunners started the second period brightly, with Wilshere showing clever trickery to find Watt but the striker couldn’t capitalise and complete his hat-trick.

From then on, Arsenal had to survive something of a City onslaught with the visitors winning a procession of corners and heaping impounding pressure on Arsenal ‘keeper James Shea, who coped admirably.

Bartley, against the team he despised as a boy, made an expert block to deny the cunning Redshaw.

A fairly scrappy passage of play ensued, with Arsenal not creating another clear-cut chance until the 76th minute, when Wilshere cut inside and hit a dipping shot over the crossbar when he could have opted to play in Sunu.

With the clock ticking down, Arsenal made a double change with Benik Afobe replacing Gilles Sunu up front and under-18s captain Cedric Evina coming on for Thomas Cruise at left-back.

The game was fast fading away from City but they still had their moments, with Greg Cunningham testing Shea and then Tutte blazing over from the resulting corner.

Arsenal could have had a fifth in the dying moments, with Wilshere hitting  just over from long range.

Luke Freeman came on for his Arsenal FA Youth Cup debut in the closing stages, replacing Wilshere who received a standing ovation from the 9,226 fans in attendance in North London.

City had one final chance, but Ayling was alert to clear off the line.

Following their superb first-half display, the young Gunners looked comfortable for the rest of the evening as they humiliated a side who were heralded as the best youth team in Britain just 12 months ago.

The Gunners have now progressed to the two-legged final, where they will most likely face Liverpool, who hold a 3-0 advantage from their first-leg game with Birmingham City.

That game would prove to be the ultimate chance for revenge for the youngsters, who went out of this competition at Anfield in the Fourth Round last season.

Arsenal (4-1-4-1)- J Shea; C Eastmond, K Bartley, L Ayling, T Cruise (C Evina, 77); E Frimpong; G Sunu (B Afobe, 77), F Coquelin, J Emmanuel-Thomas, J Wilshere (L Freeman,87) ; S Watt.

Subs not used: C Mann, O Ozyakup.

Manchester City (4-4-2)- J Clegg; K Trippier, G Cunningham, R Wabara, D Boyatta; A Tutte, A Benali, A Ibrahim, C Chantler (J Guidetti, 81); R Mak (A Cieslewitz, 72), Nimely-Tchuimeni (J Redshaw, 42).

Subs not used:E Johanson, O Elabdellaoui.

Att: 9,226


Reserves report: Arsenal’s battling performance shines through despite Spurs defeat

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Arsenal Reserves salvaged some pride after a narrow 2-1 defeat by North London rivals Spurs at Leyton Orient’s Matchwood Stadium this evening.

Having been humiliated by Spurs in a 3-0 defeat at Underhill just five days earlier, the young Gunners could have been forgiven for fearing the worst when David Bentley, who began his career at Highbury, opened the scoring with a superb volley. The England international winger then doubled the advantage in the second-half with another jaw-dropping effort but Sanchez Watt gave the Gunners a glimmer of hope after latching onto Gilles Sunu’s cross to score Arsenal Reserves’ first goal since January 21st.

Banfield made three changes from the side which started last Thusday, with Wojciech Szczesny, who was an un-used sub for the first team against Wigan on Saturday, relegating James Shea to the bench. Elsewhere, French duo Francis Coquelin and Gilles Sunu came in for Fran Mérida and Amaury Bischoff. Sunu took up his position on the left-wing, with Jay Emmanuel-Thomas operating in the second-striker role behind the hard-working Sanchez Watt.

Spurs included a whole host of familiar names, such as Pascal Chimbonda, Gareth Bale, Frazier Campbell and former Arsenal players Jamie O’Hara and David Bentley.

Prior to the game a minute’s silence was impeccably observed for former Spurs player Jimmy Neighbour who passed away recently.

After five minutes of intense sparring, it was Spurs who created the first clear-cut chance when Alan Hutton crossed for Chimbonda, whose header caused no problems for the alert Szczesny.

Arsenal’s first attack came eight minutes later when a neat passing move culminated in right-back Craig Eastmond lashing a speculative effort well wide.

Both sides then had further chances, with Frimpong drilling a powerful shot straight at Ben Alnwick in the Spurs goal, whilst at the other end Frazier Campbell hit a shot over.

Soon after, Arsenal came close again after Mark Randall capitalised on a mistake by Chimbonda and fed Jay Emmanuel-Thomas, who in turn found Watt but the lone striker couldn’t capitalise.

Tottenham were still threatening, howver, and Jake Livermore, scorer of the third goal last week, hit narrowly over.

It was to be the hosts who took the lead when Bale skipped past Eastmond and Bartley with ease before whipping in a teasing cross which fell to Bentley who hit a spectacular first-time volley past Szczesny.

Szczesny was thanked by his defenders for denying Spurs the chance to extend their lead soon after, when he saved well from Bale from close range.

Szczesny was called into action once more when Bartley passed the ball straight to O’Hara who drilled a fierce effort at the Polish ‘keeper.

Frimpong and Randall hit shots over, but it was Spurs who went into the break the happier side.

Straight after the break, Szczesny made another superb save, this time from a Chimbonda header after a Bentley corner.

Emmanuel-Thomas hit a powerful drive wide in a rare Arsenal break, but Spurs were piling on the pressure, with Bentley coming close from a free-kick from a similar range to Gilberto and Ryan Mason’s last week.

Gareth Bale caused a scare when he struck the post from a free-kick and then hit the side-netting with the rebound.

Just two minutes later, he battered the same post again after shrugging off Eastmond and Ayling with ease.

Spurs eventually did double their lead on 68 minutes and it was another piece of magic from Bentley, this time catching Szczesny out with a superb shot. He seems to be developing a habit of scoring spectacular goals against his former club.

Whilst lesser sides would have wilted and died at 2-0 down, Arsenal’s response was instant. Sunu burst down the right-flank and crossed for Watt who slid home for the Reserves’ first goal since January 21st.

With that a huge weight was lifted off the younh Gunners shoulders as they pushed for a winner.

They still had to be alert at the other end, however, with Szczesny denying Maghoma.

Emmanuel-Thomas, who was impressive throughout, almost levelled after showing fantastic skill to leave Hutton for dead and subsequently skip past the grounded Rocha, but couldn’t find the finish to match the equisite build-up.

Arsenal introduced Cedric Evina eight minutes from time in place of Kyle Bartley, who picked up a slight knee injury, and was withdrawn as a precaution with next week’s FA Youth Cup tie with Manchester City in mind.

With the clock ticking down towards full time, Szczesny’s work for the night was far from over. He did well to save from Campbell and then Bale in quick succession and then he denied Maghoma once more in the dying moments.

So another defeat for Banfield’s boys, who are still awaiting their first win in 2009, but the goal will leave them full of confidence ahead of the final two games of the season, back-to-back fixtures against West Brom.

PLAYER RATINGS (average:6.1 )

Wojciech Szczesny-8

Made some absolutely superb saves to keep Arsenal in it at times and couldn’t really do anything about the goals.

Craig Eastmond-5

Adopted his usual rugged, no-nonsense approach, but was caught out far too often by Bale.

Kyle Bartley-6

Solid in the air on occasions, but, like Eastmond, was given the run-around by Bale.

Luke Ayling-6

Teamed up well with Bartley and has not let last week’s mistake affect him in a negative way.

Thomas Cruise-5

Once more he was exploited far too easily, but attempted to stand his ground.

Mark Randall-6

A much improved performance. His passing was more accurate but he must learn not to neglect his defensive duties.

Francis Coquelin-6

A quiet game but came to life after the goal.

Emmanuel Frimpong-7

Another impressive performance but needs to work on his shooting accuracy.

Gilles Sunu-6

Had a quiet game but must be credited for his assist.

Jay Emmanuel-Thomas-8-JB’S MAN OF THE MATCH

Revelled ‘in the hole’ and was equally effective out on the left, creating some fantastic opportunities and perhaps should have scored.

Sanchez Watt-6

Worked hard up front and finally got his reward.

SUBS:

Cedric Evina-6 (for Kyle Bartley, 82)


Got forward well and delivered one glorious cross.

Benik Afobe-5 (for Gilles Sunu, 85)

Didn’t touch the ball.

Luke Freeman-5 (for Sanchez Watt 85)

One reckless challenge.

Rhema Obed-N/A

Not used.

James Shea-N/A

Not used.

U18’s report-Lethal duo Afobe and Freeman team up again to see off Palace

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Arsenal under-18s cruised to a comfortable 4-0 victory over Crystal Palace at London Colney this morning.

Prolific marksman Benik Afobe set the Gunners on their way with a first-half brace and then Luke Freeman emulated his feat in the second-period as Bould’s boys look set to finish the season in style.

The Gunners were without the injured Oguzhan Ozyakup, Ignasi Miquel and Jonas Rasmussen but could call upon French duo Francis Coquelin and Gilles Sunu. James Shea came in for Wojciech Szczesny in goal.

——————————————-Shea—————————————-

—Obed——–Boateng—————————–Blackwood————Evina

—Deacon—–Byles——————————–Coquelin—————Freeman

—————————-Afobe———————Sunu——————————

subs: Ansah, Meade, Brislen-Hall.

The Gunners started brightly but found a resillient Palace difficult to break down.

Gilles Sunu embarked on a lung-busting burst down the right and squared for Afobe who saw his shot saved. Sunu, who was brimming with confidence, then almost scored himself after an equisite turn but couldn’t find the finish.

Luke Freeman, who also had a strong start to the game, had a shot saved but it wasn’t long before the Gunners were celebrating.

Francis Coquelin took a corner from the left, Afobe,unmarked, rose highest and headed into the back of the net for his eighth goal of the season.

From there on in there was no way back for Palace, no matter how hard they tried.

Arsenal continued to carve out chance after chance with Freeman twice coming close to extending the advantage. First, he glanced a header narrowly wide then he had an instinctive overhead kick easily caught.

Roarie Deacon, who revelled at cutting inside from the right-wing, headed wide after a great cross from Sunu.

Sunu, who couldn’t be faulted for work ethic, set up Freeman who was unlucky to see his effort scrape the post. The former Gillingham youngster, who signed his first professional contract last week, then had a shot saved after he showed good initiative to chase down a loose ball.

But the Gunners would double their advantage before the break and, suprise,suprise, it was Sunu who created it, laying the ball on a plate for Afobe who finished with aplomb.

Despite their blistering start, Steve Bould still picked faults in his players’ performances at the break, with Rhema Obed in particular coming in for some harsh treatment.

Palace came out for the second-period with renewed vigour and had a shot drilled wide. Shea was then called into action after Obed had been caught out upfield.

Arsenal were finding chances harder to come by, with Freeman’s scuffed shot wide the only notable attacking move so far.

Bould looked to his bench for inspiration and made a double change. Schoolboys George Brislen-Hall and Jernade Meade entered the fray in place of Gilles Sunu and Sam Byles.

Pint-sized Meade partnered his lookalike Francis Coquelin in the centre of midfield, whilst Brislen-Hall went to left-back with Cedric Evina moving forward to the left-wing.

Arsenal were occasionally troubled by Palace but not overly so, with Anton Blackwood on hand to mop up after an uncharacteristic error from his fellow centre-back Daniel Boateng.

A late flourish would ensure that Arsenal took all three points. Evina’s low cross evaded substitute Zak Ansah but the alert Freeman was on hand to steer it home.

Jernade Meade, who has made quite an impression for himself at u-16 level, marked his debut with a stunning assist for the final goal. A defence-splitting pass was latched onto by Freeman who drove it home to seal the win.

PLAYER RATINGS (average: 6.6)

James Shea-6

Made some good saves but perhaps could have caught the ball more rather than parrying it.

Rhema Obed-5

Often got exposed after his marauding runs forward and his passing wasn’t the best.

Daniel Boateng-6

One mistake late on but could be forgiven after a solid display. Easy to understand comparisons with Touré.

Anton Blackwood-5

Some good tackles but was exposed far too often.

Cedric Evina-7

Got forward well and delivered some decent crosses.

Roarie Deacon-7

Made some good inside runs and involved in neat passing moves.

Sam Byles-7

Quietly and effectively went about his business making some solid challenges.

Francis Coquelin-7

Didn’t get forward as much as he would of liked but played some killer through-balls.

Luke Freeman-8-JB’S MAN OF THE MATCH

A close run thing between him, Afobe and Sunu for man of the match but just shades it for work rate and effort.

Benik Afobe-8

Took his goals well to take his tally for the season up to nine in eight starts.

Gilles Sunu-8

Tired after the break, but fantastic running, dribbling and chance creation skills.

SUBS:

Jernade Meade-7 (for Sam Byles, 65)

Impressed on debut and played a delightful through-ball for Freeman’s second and Arsenal’s fourth.

George Brislen-Hall-6 (for Gilles Sunu,65)

Slotted in seamlessly at left-back.

Zak Ansah-5 (for Benik Afobe, 79)

Couldn’t really impose himself on the game.


Arsenal Reserves pay the price for poor defending in North London derby

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Arsenal Reserves suffered a humiliating 3-0 defeat at the hands of North London rivals Spurs at Underhill this evening.

In a fiercely competitive game, both sides had their chances but it was the visitors who made the most of theirs and that, ultimately, swung the game in their favour.

The first two goals were remarkably similar in style and execution and both were free-kicks from just outside the box. The first, on 10 minutes, was an expertly-struck set-piece from Gilberto which left James Shea standing and then Ryan Mason repeated the feat after the break. Jake Livermore capitalised on an uncharacteristic error from Luke Ayling late on to add undeserved gloss to the victory.

Neil Banfield made just two changes from the side which kept a clean sheet against Chelsea and it was the two players who came in, Shea and Ayling for Szczesny and Silvestre, who were at fault for the goals which the Gunners conceded.

A tense start culminated in a clumsy foul on the edge of the area and Gilberto took full advantage, curling an expert free-kick past Shea.

The Islington-born stopper could do nothing about that effort but showed his commitment to the cause with a fine stop with his legs just minutes later.

At the other end, Fran Mérida, Arsenal’s shining light, hit the home side’s first shot but it was straight at the impregnable Ben Alnwick.

Jay Emmanuel-Thomas then tried his luck but again Arsenal were nullified.

Arsenal were beginning to enjoy more possession but couldn’t turn it into goals. Mérida had a free-kick deflected over the bar and Bischoff came close with an instinctive chip.

The Gunners came close to levelling just before the break, but Sanchez Watt couldn’t convert after being put through expertly by Mérida.

Arsenal’s players were sent out early for the second-half after a rollicking from Banfield and the new period saw Jay Emmanuel-Thomas and the innefective Randall switch wings.

Arsenal continued where they left off, creating chance after chance without reward. Kyle Bartley saw his header deflected wide and then Emmanuel-Thomas came close from the resulting corner.

Tottenham’s sprinkling of first-team experience was clearly swinging the game in their favour and Alan Hutton came close with a header.

Arsenal had further chances, with Sanchez Watt trying and failing to replicate Emmanuel Adebayor’s superb scissor kick against Villarreal after being put through by Emmanuel-Thomas and the lone frontman then had a shot tipped over by Alnwick.

It proved to be his last meaningful contribution to the game as, on 63 minutes, he was taken off as part of a double substitution which also saw Amaury Bischoff withdrawn and French duo Gilles Sunu and Francis Coquelin enter the fray.

If Arsenal had hoped that the substitutes would help them find a way back into the game, it worked reversely.

Spurs doubled their lead from a Ryan Mason free-kick which, apart from being at the other end of the field, had more than a touch of déjà vu about it.

James Shea hadn’t organised his wall properly and recieved a torrent of verbal abuse from Emmanuel-Thomas after the ball had flown past him. The ‘keeper stood and shook his head at the lanky midfielder who replied by shouting ‘what?’ which could be heard above the mutterings of the noisy Underhill crowd.

Arsenal’s misery was compounded 13 minutes from time when Jake Livermore capitalised on a Luke Ayling effort to score. Again Shea was helpless and again Emmanuel-Thomas was livid.

So, a night to forget for Arsenal. However, if it is revenge which they seek, and they should do, then they won’t have to wait too long, these sides do battle again in the reverse fixture next Tuesday.

PLAYER RATINGS: (average: 5.6)

James Shea-5

Made a few good saves to keep Arsenal in it at 1-0 but suffered a massive blow to his confidence after the second free-kick flew past him.

Craig Eastmond-6

One or two mistakes but strong and robust in the challenge and deserves his professional contract.

Kyle Bartley-6

A mixed game with some superb crucnching challenges but a couple of mistakes as well.

Luke Ayling-5

Was solid up until the third goal, for which he paid for a dreadful moment of hesitation.

Thomas Cruise-6

Caught out a couple of times defensively but got forward well in the first-half.

Mark Randall-4

Clearly a talented player but is wasted out on the right and misplaced some passes.

Emmanuel Frimpong-7

Never ducked out of a challenge and won most of them with ease.

Fran Mérida-8-JB’S MAN OF THE MATCH

Arsenal’s shining light. A true genius with the ball at his feet, it was just a shame some his passes weren’t put to good use.

Jay Emmanuel-Thomas- 6

Tried to inspire his team but ultimately ended up demoralising them. Involved in some flowing passing moves.

Amaury Bischoff-4

A poor performance and his attitude is a serious concern. Made one or two decent passes but wasn’t good enough.

Sanchez Watt-5

Same old story. Worked hard up front but lacked that killer instinct in front of goal.

SUBS:

Gilles Sunu-6(for Sanchez Watt, 63)

Added pace and trickery to the attack.

Francis Coquelin-5(for Amaury Bischoff, 63)

Didn’t really influence the game.

Cedric Evina-5 (for Mark Randall,83)

Didn’t have enough time. Interesting to see him on the right-wing.

James Dunne-N/A

Not used.

Afobe and Freeman shine as Arsenal u-18s and u-16s beat Portsmouth

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Arsenal strikers  Benik Afobe and Luke Freeman marked their return from international duty with a brace in Arsenal u-18s 5-0 demolition of Portsmouth at London Colney this morning.

With the Premier Academy League title already wrapped up, Steve Bould once again opted to field some of the younger players at his disposal and his decision certainly paid dividends as the young Gunners took the South Coast side to the cleaners.

Roarie Deacon continued his excellent recent form by scoring his seventh goal of the season and from then on the hosts didn’t look back, with Afobe making it 2-0 ten minutes before the break.

Luke Freeman then hit a 21 minute brace after the break to kill the game as a contest and then Afobe added further gloss to the victory with his second of the game on 84 minutes. It was a comfortable victory and Wojciech Szczesny in the Arsenal goal was hardly tested.

The young Gunners have now wrapped up 60 points in Premier Academy League Group A and their reward is a place in the national semi-finals in May. The draw for these fixtures has now been made and is as follows:

Semi-Finals:

Sunderland v Tottenham/Aston Villa/Leicester

Manchester City v Arsenal

Ties to be played 16th May, 11am kick off

Final:

Winner Game 1 v Winner Game 2

23rd May, 11am kick off (All fixtures are single games with the side written first playing at home)


Arsenal under-16s were also in action today, beating the same opponents 2-1 thanks to goals from wingers Jernade Meade and Samir Bihmoutine, with Charlie Mann impressing in goal.