U18 Premier League- Game 23
Arsenal 0 West Ham United 3 (Bywater 5, Amoo 8, Onariase 86)
Arsenal U18s saw their recent good form come to an abrupt halt as they were beaten 3-0 by West Ham United at London Colney this morning.
Carl Laraman made three changes from the side that dispatched of West Bromwich Albion last week, with Alfred Mugabo, Kaylen Hinds and Marc Bola coming into the team, the latter making his first start of the season.
subs: Robinson (for Lipman, 59), Mavididi (for Dawkins, 65). Not used: Iliev, Kamara, Maitland-Niles.
Arsenal struggled to get going, with West Ham dominating from the off. The visitors took the lead with just five minutes on the clock after Jerry Amoo cut the ball back into the path of Kieran Bywater, who finished past Ryan Huddart in the Arsenal goal.
West Ham’s dream start then got even better, with Amoo capitalising on some static defending at a corner to double West Ham’s advantage.
Having awoken from their early slumber, Arsenal gradually began to assert themselves, but Huddart still had to be alert to deny Emmanuel Onariase from a corner.
Arsenal’s best chance fell to Hinds in the second-half, but the England U16 international couldn’t find the target with a volley from the edge of the area. Hinds later came closer with a free-kick, whilst Hale End Academy product Jordan Brown was denied a goal on his return to Arsenal by some resolute defending.
Arsenal struggled to carve out any more meaningful chances and West Ham merely confirmed their victory in the closing stages when Onariase headed in from close range.
It was a disappointing result for Arsenal given their recent performances, but Laraman is likely to change his entire starting line-up for Monday’s FA Youth Cup Quarter-Final against Everton at Emirates Stadium on Monday.
*Updates via @tommywathen
Promising goalkeeper Ryan Huddart has today signed his maiden professional contract with Arsenal, becoming the first member of this season’s group of scholars to commit his future to the club.
Signed from Charlton Athletic as a schoolboy, Huddart has developed well this season, with the shot-stopper making 15 appearances for the U18s to add to the two run-outs he received at that level last campaign. In addition, the England U17 international has made the bench in the U21 Premier League, the U21 Premier League Cup, the UEFA Youth League and the FA Youth Cup. He made his debut for the U21s as a substitute during the defeat to Colchester United in pre-season.
Huddart only turned 17 yesterday, with the promptness of his new deal highlighting just how highly regarded he is by the club, despite the fact that he has several other young goalkeepers ahead of him in Damian Martinez, Matt Macey, Deyan Iliev and Josh Vickers.
Given that there appeared to be no complications in Huddart signing his contract, it is a little surprising that Gedion Zelalem and Julio Pleguezuelo, who have been eligible to sign a professional deal since January, have not yet put pen to paper. Zelalem is already part of the first-team squad at just 17, whilst Pleguezuelo has established himself as a key component of the U21 side since joining from Barcelona in the summer.
It is expected that right-back Tafari Moore and the hugely promising midfielder Dan Crowley will be offered professional contracts when they turn 17 later this year, whilst winger Ainsley Maitland-Niles and centre-back Stefan O’Connor have both been hugely impressive this campaign. Renny Smith and Elliot Wright are the other current first-year scholars, with both players having featured regularly for the U18s.
The club are also no closer to making a decision on the respective futures of the remaining second-year scholars, although it is expected that Alex Iwobi, Glen Kamara, Josh Vickers and Tarum Dawkins will all be offered extended stays, with Alfred Mugabo and Arinse Uade facing a fight to prolong their Arsenal careers.
Arsenal’s youngsters have some important matches on the horizon, with games to come in the latter stages of the FA Youth Cup, UEFA Youth League and the U21 Premier League Cup in the next few weeks, but their preparations suffered something of a blow yesterday when an Arsenal U19 side lost 3-0 to their Vietnamese counterparts in a behind-closed doors friendly at London Colney.
Arsenal were without several players who were on international duty, but still fielded a side containing the likes of Ryan Huddart, Tafari Moore, George Dobson, Elliot Wright, Arinse Uade, Renny Smith, Glen Kamara, Chris Willock and Austin Lipman. Canadian trialist Caniggia Elva also featured, with the striker coming close to scoring.
Arsenal U18s face West Ham United on Saturday morning before taking on Everton in the FA Youth Cup at Emirates Stadium on Monday.
Joel Campbell- Costa Rica 2 Paraguay 1
Campbell scored Costa Rica’s first goal on the stroke of half-time, with the Arsenal loanee then being substituted at the break.
Yaya Sanogo- France U21 1 Belarus U21 0
Sanogo started and played the first 56 minutes as France continued their U21 European Championship Qualifying campaign with a victory over Belarus.
Carl Jenkinson- England U21 1 Wales U21 0
Jenkinson played the whole game at right-back, with Nathan Redmond’s goal edging England closer to qualification for the U21 European Championships.
Kristoffer Olsson- Malta U21 1 Sweden U21 2
Olsson emerged off the bench in the 74th minute to make his debut for Sweden at U21 level during their victory over Malta.
Deyan Iliev- Portugal U21 2 Macedonia U21 0
Arsenal goalkeeper Iliev was an un-used substitute as Macedonia U21s lost out to Portugal.
Thomas Eisfeld- Germany U20 3 Switzerland U20 2
Eisfeld made his first appearance for Germany for several years, with the midfielder playing the final 17 minutes of Germany U20s’ win over Switzerland.
Isaac Hayden, Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill- England U19 3 Turkey U19 0
Hayden played the whole game as a defensive-midfielder as England U19s eased to victory over Turkey, whilst Ormonde-Ottewill, who was a late call-up to the squad, replaced Matt Targett after 67 minutes to make his debut at this level.
Hector Bellerin- Spain U19 1 Netherlands U19 2
Bellerin gained more international experience as he was involved in Spain U19s’ defeat to the Netherlands.
Thomas Eisfeld had been waiting for this moment for three years. Last Tuesday it finally arrived as the midfielder learnt that he had been called up by the German U20 side for their friendly against Switzerland this week, ending his prolonged absence from the national team set-up.
Eisfeld could be said to have been in need of a boost. Despite scoring on his maiden start for the first-team in the Capital One Cup win over West Bromwich Albion in September and now appearing to be fully over the injury problems that plagued the early stages of his development, the 21 year old has struggled to receive much of a look in for the first-team and has had to watch on as his compatriot Serge Gnabry has made the breakthrough into the senior set-up.
A deadline-day signing from Borussia Dortmund in January 2012, Eisfeld immediately made his presence felt at Arsenal by finding the net with regularity, and his goalscoring record since joining the club has been mightily impressive as he has scored 14 times in 35 appearances for the U21 side to date, operating in numerous positions across the attacking line and even, on occasion, as a striker.
Now, though, Eisfeld is approaching a pivotal stage in his development. His contract expires at the end of next season and, with an abundance of creative players ahead of him in the first-team squad (Jack Wilshere, Mesut Ozil, Santi Cazorla and Tomas Rosicky are the most prominent), he will certainly have his work cut out to earn an extended stay.
Given his situation and the fact that he surely has little new to learn from second-string football, it was rather surprising that Eisfeld didn’t join the likes of Benik Afobe and Chuba Akpom in heading out on loan in January. He may well go on temporary transfer next campaign, with his performances elsewhere likely to dictate whether he will still be at the club in two seasons’ time.
A hard-working player with good movement, concerns have arisen regarding Eisfeld’s tendency to drift out of games, offering the impression that if he fails to score then he contributes little else, which, for a midfielder, is not exactly ideal. His performance level certainly seems to have picked up somewhat in recent weeks, though, as he impressed for the U21s away to Reading at the Madejski Stadium, a ground where he made his first-team debut last season.
Two years on from joining Arsenal, Eisfeld has just two competitive appearances for the first-team to his name, and the fact that he has not been called regularly to train with the senior side this season indicates that he still has some way to go in order to make a breakthrough.
His call up to represent Germany, however, for whom he hadn’t featured since U17 level, just goes to show that sometimes, if you are patient and put in enough hard work, you will eventually get your reward, even if you didn’t anticipate it.
Chuks Aneke set up a goal, missed a penalty and struck the crossbar during an eventful afternoon for the 20 year old as Crewe Alexandra drew 1-1 with Swindon Town. Aneke stepped up to take the spot-kick after the ball had struck Ryan Harley’s arm, but he sent his effort well over the target. The midfielder then struck the crossbar in the second-half before finally receiving a reward for his endeavours when he teed up Vadaine Oliver to equalise.
Chuba Akpom started and came close to scoring as Coventry City drew 0-0 with Shrewsbury Town. The striker shot just wide early on and was eventually replaced with 72 minutes gone.
Daniel Boateng made his debut for Hibernian, with the defender coming off the bench in the 71st minute during his temporary side’s 3-1 defeat to Dundee United.
Joel Campbell played the whole game as Olympiacos suffered a surprise 3-0 defeat at home to Panathinaikos, whilst Johan Djourou couldn’t prevent Hamburg from losing 1-0 to Hertha Berlin.
Josh Vickers was involved in an entertaining encounter as Canvey Island beat Carshalton Athletic 3-2 in a game that saw two penalties and two red cards.
Ju-Young Park was an un-used substitute as Watford trounced Blackpool 4-0, with Ignasi Miquel again not being called upon for Leicester City, who beat Charlton Athletic 3-0. Benik Afobe remained on the bench throughout Sheffield Wednesday’s 1-0 victory over Middlesbrough, whilst Damian Martinez was left out of the squad entirely.
Francis Coquelin wasn’t involved as Freiburg drew 0-0 with Hertha Berlin. Wellington was named amongst the substitutes for Real Murcia’s game against Numancia this evening.
U18 Premier League- Game 22
West Bromwich Albion 1 (Oldnall 30) Arsenal 2 (Dobson 3, Willock 6)
Arsenal U18s continued their recent resurgence with a commendable 2-1 victory away to West Bromwich Albion this morning.
Carl Laraman’s side won just one league game between August and January, but have turned a corner since then, with today’s success ensuring that they have taken ten points out of the last 12 available.
Goals from schoolboys’ George Dobson and Chris Willock, their first strikes at this level, saw Arsenal establish an early lead, and, although Ged Oldnall reduced the deficit before half-time, Laraman’s side held on to secure the win.
There were four changes from the side that drew 2-2 with Chelsea a fortnight ago, with Tafari Moore, Alex Iwobi, Austin Lipman and Willock all coming into the side, whilst Kaylen Hinds returned from international duty to play the final half an hour.
subs: Hinds (for Lipman, 61), Robinson (for Willock, 69), Olomola (for Smith, 90). Not used: Mavididi, Bola.
Arsenal host West Ham United at London Colney next Saturday before taking on Everton at Emirates Stadium in the FA Youth Cup two days later.
It has long been known that Arsene Wenger takes considerable interest in the development of Arsenal’s many youngsters, but, this season, it seems as if the Frenchman has been affording opportunities to impress to a wider range of prospects than before.
There are always a batch of players who are on the cusp of the first-team squad, with the likes of Isaac Hayden, Chuba Akpom and Hector Bellerin currently falling into that category, but, this campaign, several other players have been invited to train with the senior side.
It was the turn of right-back Tafari Moore this week, with the 16 year old receiving a deserved reward for his performances for the club’s development sides this season. Still just 16, Moore has amassed six appearances for the U21 side, whilst also featuring in the UEFA Youth League and the FA Youth Cup.
Earlier this season winger Ainsley Maitland-Niles, another player who has made considerable progression during his first season as a scholar, trained with the first-team, with the hugely promising schoolboy Chris Willock doing likewise last month.
In addition, versatile attacker Alex Iwobi made the bench for the first-team’s Capital One Cup victory away to West Bromwich Albion in September, whilst centre-back Semi Ajayi has been a regular in Wenger’s training sessions since joining the club following a successful trial.
Wenger certainly seems to be taking a close look at each and every player coming through the ranks at the club, but it is Ajayi who could make the quickest elevation into the first-team. The 20 year old, who spent the majority of his formative years at Charlton Athletic, has started all 15 games at U21 level since joining the club and could be a genuine contender for a place in the senior squad next season, particularly given that the club is currently short of cover in his position.
A strong physical presence and a good reader of the game, Ajayi is not the most adept technically, but he has been rather impressive in his performances to date and, should he continue his progression, the Nigeria youth international may well be promoted next season, particularly if Ignasi Miquel departs.
Joel Campbell has been in impressive form all season, scoring seven goals and providing ten assists in 19 league appearances for Olympiacos so far this campaign, but last night was the occasion on which he demonstrated his potential in front of the watching world.
The 21 year old, who may finally make a return to Arsenal in time for next season, was impressive throughout his 67 minutes on the field during his temporary side’s 2-0 victory over Manchester United in the Champions League. Campbell doubled Olympiacos’ advantage nine minutes after the break with an excellent finish, and his performance will hopefully go some way towards dispelling doubts that his showings in Greece this campaign couldn’t be judged properly due to the lower quality of the league in that country.
His previous loan spells, with Lorient in France and Real Betis in Spain, may not have yielded much in terms of goals, but this season Campbell’s game has gone up several levels. He had already made something of an impact in international football, memorably scoring against Spain in a friendly in 2011, but this is his first campaign since joining Arsenal in which he has delivered a consistent level of performance, leading to calls that he should be part of the first-team squad at Emirates Stadium next season.
On this evidence, those claims are very difficult to argue with. Campbell possesses a blend of pace, power and trickery that would suit the Premier League and, although, like most players, he would probably require some time to adapt to the English game, it would surely be better to afford him some opportunities to impress at Arsenal rather than wondering what might have been.
Ryo Miyaichi’s future at the club has come under increasing scrutiny after the Japanese winger was left out of Arsenal’s latest Champions League squad, and Campbell certainly seems capable of making more of an impact on the Arsenal first-team than Ryo has done. Serge Gnabry possesses much promise but may head on loan at some point next season to further his development, whilst Campbell could provide a feasible back-up option to Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
In a way, with Walcott sidelined for the remainder of the campaign, it is something of a shame that Campbell will not be available to play for Arsenal this season, during a campaign when Arsene Wenger has experimented with numerous different options on the right flank (Oxlade-Chamberlain, Gnabry, Jack Wilshere and Tomas Rosicky).
Campbell has had to be mightily patient for his chance since joining Arsenal in 2011 and there have been some murmurings of late that the club would be prepared to allow him to join Olympiacos permanently in the Summer. Hopefully his performance last night will have gone some way towards persuading the manager that he should be used next season, in some capacity at least.
UEFA Youth League- Last 16
Arsenal 3 (Toral 24, Olsson 70 (pen), Gnabry 73) Shakhtar Donetsk 1 (Boryachuk 44)
By Jeorge Bird @ Meadow Park, Borehamwood
At long last Arsenal’s youngsters will be able to test themselves against the might of Barcelona after they battled their way past a spirited Shakhtar Donetsk side this evening to secure their place in the last eight of UEFA’s elite youth competition.
The Gunners had started well, with Jon Toral, one of three La Masia academy products in Arsenal’s starting line-up, opening the scoring, but Shakhtar levelled through Andriy Boryachuk on the stroke of half-time and the Ukranian side looked the more likely victors in the early exchanges of the second period.
Arsenal’s quality eventually shone through, though, with substitute Kristoffer Olsson putting his side in the lead from the penalty spot after Chuba Akpom was bundled over in the area and Serge Gnabry, making his first appearance below first-team level for over three months, making it 3-1 shortly afterwards, rendering Glen Kamara’s late red card of little relevance.
Arsenal called upon the big guns for this fixture, with Gedion Zelalem, Hector Bellerin and Akpom joining Gnabry in the starting line-up. Isaac Hayden and Stefan O’Connor missed out through injury, with Leander Siemann and Kamara being elevated into the starting line-up.
subs: Olsson (for Zelalem, 65). Not used: Lipman, Jebb, Iwobi, Uade, Moore, Vickers.
Arsenal had some defending to do in the early stages, with goalkeeper Deyan Iliev, who impressed throughout, doing well to push a free-kick away for a corner. The corner was eventually cleared at the second attempt, with Arsenal subsequently carving out their first chance of note when Akpom rose to meet a cross, but the striker couldn’t direct his header on target.
Akpom, who will resume his loan spell with Coventry City tomorrow, then exchanged passes with Ainsley Maitland-Niles, with Akpom seeing his shot blocked and Maitland-Niles, who was Arsenal’s most dangerous player in the first-half, striking the woodwork with a fierce effort.
Maitland-Niles then directed a cross into the side-netting before shooting wide following intricate build-up play from Toral and Akpom. Akpom then used his considerable strength to brush off the attentions of a defender and subsequently sent the ball into the penalty area, but his hard work was to no avail as Gnabry couldn’t connect with the ball and Maitland-Niles failed to hit the target from close range when he perhaps should have done better.
Shakhtar were always a threat on the counter-attack, and Iliev was fortunate that he just managed to come off his line in time to smother the danger on one occasion. The visitors appeared to grow in confidence as the first-half progressed, sending one shot wide and then striking the near post after Bellerin was left with very little defensive support from his team-mates.
The pressure eventually told, with Boryachuk equalising just before half-time, with the number 11 firing home after being found from a free-kick before Iliev even had time to react.
Shakhtar’s dominance of proceedings continued after the break and Arsenal were very nearly punished when Zelalem attempted one turn too many and was robbed of possession. Shakhtar broke forwards at ease, but Artur Miranyan couldn’t apply the finishing touch when required.
Iliev then did well to claim a dangerous cross, then, at the other end, Gnabry took his time before unleashing a venomous effort that went just over the crossbar.
Shakhtar continued to press forwards when the opportunity presented itself, however, with Iliev making a rare misjudgement in spilling the ball following a free-kick. Thankfully, from Arsenal’s point of view, the visitors were unable to take advantage.
Shakhtar came close twice more, on one occasion striking the outside of the near post, but Arsenal sought to change things, with Olsson introduced in place of Zelalem, whose performance was much improved from his showing against Charlton Athletic in the FA Youth Cup on Friday.
Olsson had only been on the pitch for five minutes when he was called upon for the moment that would decide the game. Renowned as a calm penalty taker, time appeared to stand still as the Swedish midfielder readied himself, but he eventually dispatched the spot-kick with authority, putting Arsenal ahead at a crucial time.
The goal injected Arsenal with some much-needed confidence, with Gnabry and Maitland-Niles linking up well and Akpom then being bundled over in the penalty area again, only to see the flag raised for offside this time instead.
There was still time for more drama, though, with Akpom performing a superb piece of skill before having his subsequent shot saved. Maitland-Niles shot straight at the goalkeeper from the re-bound, but Gnabry was on hand to finish from close range and effectively secure the victory with 17 minutes remaining.
Arsenal, by this stage, were firmly in control, but they lost their composure a little when Kamara was sent off for a high challenge, ruling the midfielder out of the trip to Barcelona. Shakhtar threatened in the closing stages, but failed to seriously test Iliev and it was simply a matter of counting down the minutes until Arsenal’s victory was confirmed.
This was not a vintage performance by the youngsters, but it was still a very good one and, as they have demonstrated in numerous cup competitions this season, there is a strong sense of determination and belief amongst this group of players. Boreham Wood’s pitch did not exactly suit Arsenal’s passing game, but there were several positives to take from the evening, with Akpom continuing to impress, centre-back Julio Pleguezuelo developing well and Olsson delivering an impressive cameo after surprisingly being left out of the starting line-up.
Barcelona now await and, for Bellerin, Toral and Pleguezuelo in particular, the trip to Spain promises to be an intriguing one.