FA Youth Cup Fifth Round
Charlton Athletic 0 Arsenal 2 (Iwobi 79, Maitland-Niles 90)
By Jeorge Bird @ Stonebridge Road
A heroic performance from goalkeeper Josh Vickers, added to by well-taken goals from wingers Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Alex Iwobi, ensured that Arsenal U18s progressed to the Quarter-Finals of the FA Youth Cup for the first time since 2009 with a 2-0 victory away to Charlton Athletic this evening.
Following a first-half that was packed full of endeavour but sorely lacking in terms of clinical finishing, Arsenal upped the ante considerably after the break, and the pressure applied by Carl Laraman’s side eventually paid dividends, although it may well have been a different story were it not for the exploits of Vickers, who made four outstanding stops to help his side prevail.
Charlton worked tremendously hard all evening and must be praised for preventing Arsenal from playing their favoured passing game for long spells, but the home side were left to rue some horrendous misses in front of goal, which, executed properly, could have swung the tie in their favour.
For all the justified criticism of their league performances, Arsenal’s development sides have made commendable progression in each of the three cup competitions they are involved in, and, on this evidence, there may well be a trophy to celebrate for the youngsters at the end of the campaign. It must not be forgotten, though, that their opponents in the last eight at Emirates Stadium will be Everton, the side who knocked them out of the competition last season.
Laraman received some hugely positive news just hours before kick-off, with right-back Tafari Moore passing a late fitness test to start. Leander Siemann was called upon in the absence of Stefan O’Connor, whilst Jack Jebb filled in for the injured Dan Crowley and Chuba Akpom started under the conditions of his loan deal with Coventry City.
subs: Dawkins (for Zelalem, 75), Dobson (for Jebb, 84). Not used: Lipman, Wright, Huddart.
The fact that the Charlton side contained two former Arsenal youngsters in Aaron Barnes and Regan Cook added an extra sense of spice to this tie, with Trevor Brooking, the FA’s Director of Football Development in attendance for this much-anticipated clash between two prominent academy sides.
The game was rather slow to get going, with both sides restricted to half chances in the early stages. Iwobi, stationed on the left flank, saw a cross easily gathered, before Charlton responded with their number eleven, Joshua Umerah, seeing a shot easily held by Vickers after a mazy run upfield.
Left-back Levander Pyke then struggled to test Vickers with a tame effort, with Arsenal then coming close after Iwobi headed just over from Jebb’s well-executed free-kick. Following that, Barnes managed to weave his way through the Gunners’ defence but couldn’t unleash a shot in time, then Glen Kamara shot just wide from Jebb’s corner.
Akpom subsequently did well to fizz the ball across the face of goal, with Jebb in an inviting position, but the midfielder, much in keeping with the nature of the first-half, failed to make a firm connection and the ball trickled out of play.
Charlton’s play was a little more direct than Arsenal’s, but they were always a threat on the counter-attack. On one such occasion, Vickers was forced to make an outstanding stop following a brisk move upfield, before Maitland-Niles received a yellow card for a petulant challenge that epitomised Arsenal’s frustration at that point.
Charlton were simply not allowing Arsenal to dictate play, with Gedion Zelalem in particular struggling to make a sustained impact on proceedings. The Germany U17 international is undoubtedly a phenomenal talent, otherwise he wouldn’t have been promoted to the first-team squad at the age of 16, but some of his performances for the youth teams this season have left a lot to be desired.
Cook, who was impressive throughout, saw his long-range shot held by Vickers, before a moment of ingenuity from Akpom almost put Arsenal ahead on the stroke of half-time. The striker pounced upon some hesitant defending to seize possession and subsequently forced a good save from goalkeeper Harry Doherty, who pushed the ball away for a corner.
That was a telling indication of what was to come in the second-half, with Arsenal, as the game gradually became more open, starting to assert themselves at long last. Their progress in their first two fixtures in this competition, against Torquay United and Peterborough United, was relatively serene, but this was their first major test and Charlton, at various points of the piece, looked likely winners.
Arsenal, though, were starting to threaten. Iwobi raced upfield almost immediately after the restart and drew a foul, with Jebb sending the subsequent free-kick into the well-organised wall. Soon afterwards Jebb played another free-kick straight into the path of the unmarked Iwobi, who shot wide.
Jebb was growing in prominence, with the midfielder forcing Doherty to tip his well-struck effort over the crossbar, but he was evidently tiring by the hour mark and Arsenal had to rely on other sources to continue their attacking onslaught.
Maitland-Niles saw a cross pushed away, then Iwobi, who was in the thick of the action again, saw his header saved after good work from Kamara. Archie Edwards was denied at the other end, then Zelalem, providing a rare glimpse of his brilliance, turned well before shooting just over.
A dangerous ball in from Maitland-Niles then struck the crossbar as Arsenal edged ever closer to an opener, but they still had to be alert at the other end, with Vickers doing well to clear the danger from a corner.
Then came what may well be looked back upon as the turning point in the match. A cross was swung in, with the ball falling invitingly for Umerah, but somehow, to the utter shock of the 1198 people inside the stadium, he failed to even find the target with just Vickers to beat.
At that point, you sensed that Charlton’s chance had come and gone. That assertion would prove to be correct, but Arsenal continued to live rather dangerously, with Vickers somehow scrambling the ball away following Barnes’ effort.
Eventually, after what seemed like an eternity, Arsenal found the breakthrough they had been searching for all evening, with a slick passing move culminating in Akpom finding Iwobi and the latter finding the net to the palpable relief of himself and his team-mates.
Brandon Hanlan hacked wide in retaliation for Charlton, but, by this stage, Arsenal seemed confident that they would progress. Iwobi put the ball in the net again, only to see his effort ruled out for offside this time, before the same player was denied by Doherty moments later.
Charlton continued to push forward, but, try as they might, they could not find a way past the might of Vickers, who pulled off several stupendous saves to preserve the scoreline. Any lasting ambitions that Charlton had of forcing extra-time were killed off when, in stoppage time, substitute Tarum Dawkins played in Maitland-Niles who continued his record of scoring in every round of the competition so far.
He, and Arsenal, will hope to maintain that feat until May.
FA Youth Cup 5th Round
Charlton Athletic v Arsenal
Stonebridge Road, 21.02.14, 7pm kick-off
Arsenal have made rather serene progress in this season’s FA Youth Cup so far, with Carl Laraman’s side dispatching of Torquay United and Peterborough United with relative ease, scoring a combined eleven goals across the two fixtures and conceding just one.
Now, though, things are going to become a little harder for them as Arsenal attempt to win the prestigious competition for the first time in five years. For tomorrow night’s visit to take on Charlton Athletic they will have to cope without the supreme talent of Dan Crowley, who is still recovering from an injury suffered whilst playing for the U21s last month.
Crowley has been Arsenal’s star performer in this competition so far, with his virtuoso performance against Peterborough, during which he played a key part in all six of his side’s goals, earning him widespread acclaim. His absence means that Jack Jebb, who has been called upon from the bench in the two previous rounds, is likely to be elevated into the starting line-up.
First-choice right-back Tafari Moore, who was stretchered off after suffering a dead leg whilst playing for the U21s against Reading on Monday, but the England U17 international is expected to be available. If he doesn’t make it then a defensive re-shuffle will be required, with Leander Siemann ready to start, whilst Julio Pleguezuelo could also fill in at right-back if needed.
Chuba Akpom will start, with the striker eligible to feature under the terms of his youth loan at Coventry City, meaning Austin Lipman will most likely have to settle for a place on the bench.
This is an exciting Arsenal side, possessing plenty of pace and power and, as evidenced against Torquay and Peterborough, a genuine goal threat, with wingers Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Alex Iwobi particularly dangerous. Glen Kamara adds resilience in midfield, whilst Gedion Zelalem should also feature.
Charlton dispatched of Nottingham Forest and Southampton to reach this stage, and this fixture will hold an extra sense of importance for two members of their squad. Right-back Aaron Barnes and midfielder Regan Charles-Cook both featured fleetingly for Arsenal’s U18 side in the first half of last season before being released. Both players have settled in well at Charlton and will be determined to prove a point against their former employers in what is sure to be an engaging encounter.
Initially scheduled to take place at The Valley last week, the game was postponed and will now be played at Ebbsfleet United’s Stonebridge Road ground.
The winners will host Everton in the Quarter-Finals, with the opportunity to play at Emirates Stadium a particularly inviting one for the young Gunners. First, though, they must negotiate their way past what is likely to be a tricky obstacle in Charlton.
Possible Arsenal team:
subs: Huddart, Mugabo, Dawkins, Siemann, Lipman.
Hector Bellerin, Kristoffer Olsson and Semi Ajayi all joined the first-team squad for their final training session at London Colney this morning ahead of tomorrow night’s Champions League encounter with Bayern Munich.
The inclusions of Olsson and Ajayi, who featured as the U21s lost 2-1 to Reading last night, were not too surprising, but Bellerin was involved after being abruptly recalled from his loan spell with Watford, which was due to last until the end of the season.
After impressing during his early outings for the Hornets, Bellerin had become something of a peripheral figure at Vicarage Road following the departure of Gianfranco Zola. It is not currently clear whether he will remain with Arsenal for the rest of the campaign or head out on loan elsewhere. Bellerin made eight appearances for the Championship side.
Bellerin’s recall coincides with the injury suffered by fellow right-back Tafari Moore whilst playing for the U21s last night, although it is understood that Arsenal would have recalled the Spaniard regardless of the severity of the injury to Moore.
None of the three U21 players who trained with the squad are expected to be involved in any capacity tomorrow night, although Olsson is the only member of the trio currently eligible to play in the Champions League.
Arsenal have no new injury concerns going into this game, with Tomas Rosicky poised to return to the squad after being rested at the weekend.
Mikel Arteta is suspended, whilst Abou Diaby, Theo Walcott, Aaron Ramsey, Thomas Vermaelen and Kim Kallstrom are all sidelined.
It would appear that Wenger only has two major decisions to make with regards to his team selection. Firstly he has to choose between Rosicky and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to start on the right flank, whilst also selecting either Serge Gnabry or Nicklas Bendtner for the final place amongst the substitutes.
Possible team: Szczesny; Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny; Gibbs; Flamini, Wilshere; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ozil, Cazorla; Giroud. Subs: Fabianski, Jenkinson, Monreal, Rosicky, Podolski, Sanogo, Bendtner.
U21 Premier League- Game 14
Reading 2 (Tanner 27, Tshibola 38) Arsenal 1 (Hayden 45)
Arsenal U21s suffered a double dose of misery at the Madejski Stadium this evening as they continued their disappointing recent league form by losing 2-1 to an impressive Reading side, whilst also seeing defender Tafari Moore stretchered off due to injury.
Reading scored twice in eleven minutes to leave Arsenal reeling, with Moore’s injury, which makes him a doubt for the FA Youth Cup tie with Charlton Athletic on Friday, compounding matters further. Isaac Hayden reduced the deficit with a well-taken goal on the stroke of half-time, but Reading came closest to scoring again in the second-half.
Steve Gatting made just two changes from the side that drew with Southampton last time out with Gedion Zelalem and Julio Pleguezuelo coming into the team in place of Stefan O’Connor and Yaya Sanogo. Ryo Miyaichi started up front for the second time this season.
subs: Fagan (for Moore, 35), Lipman (for Zelalem, 62), Kamara (for Pleguezuelo, 89).
Not used: Iwobi, Iliev
Arsenal started well, dominating the early stages in terms of possession without creating too many clear-cut chances.
Reading responded with a vengeance, however, with Aaron Tshibola forcing Matt Macey into a good save before the Arsenal goalkeeper was called upon again shortly afterwards to deny Gozie Ugwu.
Arsenal’s resilience was finally broken in the 27th minute courtesy of a fine Reading move. Sean Long found Jack Stacey in space and the latter delivered an expert cross into the penalty area which was met by Craig Tanner, who opened the scoring with a well-placed finish.
Arsenal’s misery was then compounded by a serious-looking injury suffered by right-back Moore which forced the England U17 international to be stretchered from the field. He was replaced by Zach Fagan, who was making his first competitive appearance of the season after a lengthy spell on the sidelines.
No sooner had he entered the fray, however, then Arsenal were two goals down. Once again an inch-perfect cross proved to be the Gunners’ undoing, with Tshibola this time on hand to provide the finishing touch.
It seemed as if the first-half was going to end in misery for Arsenal, but they earned themselves a lifeline just before the break when Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill swung in a good cross from the left flank and Hayden finished emphatically to halve Reading’s lead.
Arsenal sought to equalise as soon as the second-half got underway and they nearly found an opening after Kristoffer Olsson played in Jon Toral, but the Spaniard’s centre was cut out before it could cause any damage.
Austin Lipman then replaced Zelalem and Arsenal looked a better attacking unit with a recognised striker on the field. They nearly levelled through Hayden, but the midfielder’s effort was well held, whilst, moments earlier Eisfeld had directed a shot wide from distance.
Eisfeld, usually so clinical in front of goal, then passed up another presentable opportunity when he was found by Ryo and Arsenal were almost made to pay for their profligacy with Ugwu shooting just wide following a swift counter-attack before the same player rattled a post after getting the better of Ormonde-Ottewill.
Reading eventually prevailed, meaning Arsenal have now failed to win any of their last seven league games at this level, stretching back to November. Their progression in the U21 Premier League Cup has rather glossed over that statistic, but Gatting will be wary that Reading, should they overcome Wolverhampton Wanderers this week, will provide Arsenal’s opposition in the Semi-Finals of that competition.
U18 Premier League- Game 21
Chelsea 2 (Clarke-Salter 80, Abraham (pen) 85) Arsenal 2 (Smith 56, Mavididi 72)
Arsenal U18s came perilously close to registering their first away league victory of the season today, but a late penalty meant they had to settle for a point against an inexperienced Chelsea side at a blustery Cobham.
Coach Carl Laraman made four alterations to the side that defeated Southampton last week, with Renny Smith, Alfred Mugabo, Tyrell Robinson and Stephy Mavididi coming in for Glen Kamara, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Alex Iwobi and Austin Lipman.
subs: Johnson (for Uade, 59), Bola (for Mugabo, 81). Not used: Vickers.
Chelsea, whose starting line-up included seven players from their U16 side, were the dominant team in a first-half that yielded little in terms of clear-cut chances. Arsenal goalkeeper Ryan Huddart had to be alert, though, to gather Kasey Palmer’s dangerous free-kick, before later making impressive stops from Tammy Abraham and Muhktar Ali.
Arsenal’s most notable attacking forays in the opening period came courtesy of Robinson, with the schoolboy, who has been hugely impressive this season, causing considerable problems for the Chelsea defence with his pace and trickery down the left flank.
After much brinkmanship, the contest finally exploded into life in the second-half, and it seemed rather appropriate that Smith was the player to open the scoring. Released by Chelsea around this time last year, the youngster has adapted well to life at Arsenal and put the Gunners ahead by capitalising on a defensive mistake and lofting the ball over the on-rushing Chelsea goalkeeper Brad Collins.
Smith could have scored again shortly afterwards, but Arsenal’s second goal came from a different source with the lively schoolboy Mavididi finishing calmly past Collins for his third goal at this level this season.
Arsenal’s lead would be halved eight minutes later, though, with Jake Clarke-Salter latching onto Kyle Scott’s cross before firing the ball past the stranded Huddart.
Chelsea cranked up the pressure in the closing stages and it finally told with the referee pointing to the penalty spot after Abraham was alleged to have been fouled in the area. The striker, who has been with Chelsea since under-8 level, took the spot-kick himself and converted confidently past Huddart to earn the hosts a point.
It was a little disappointing for Laraman’s side to squander a two goal lead, particularly in such circumstances, but their overall level of performance has certainly improved in recent weeks, which is being reflected in some more positive results.
They are scheduled to face Tottenham Hotspur at London Colney next Friday, but that game may well be re-arranged due to Arsenal’s FA Youth Cup commitments.
UPDATE: Akpom has joined League One side Coventry City on loan until the end of the season, meaning he will be unavailable for the majority of Arsenal’s youth team fixtures in the coming months. It is possible that he could still feature in the FA Youth Cup against Charlton Athletic, but his temporary departure means that Austin Lipman, himself only just back from a loan spell with Boreham Wood, is now Arsenal’s only recognised striker at U21 level.
Chuba Akpom returned from his month-long loan spell with Brentford this week, with the 18 year old set to provide Arsenal’s various youth sides with a much-needed attacking option at a crucial point of the campaign.
Akpom featured four times for the League One side but failed to establish himself as a regular during his time at Griffin Park. The England U19 international, who has featured twice for the Arsenal first-team this season, could make his comeback for his parent club when the U21s travel to face Reading at the Madejski Stadium on Monday night in their latest league fixture.
With Arsenal languishing in 13th place in the table and some 14 points adrift of league leaders Fulham, albeit with two games in hand, the chances of Steve Gatting’s team being crowned Champions at the end of the season appear rather remote.
They do, however, have an increasingly realistic chance of success in the inaugural U21 Premier League Cup, a competition in which Akpom is poised to play a key part. After defeating Chelsea in extra-time in the Quarter-Finals, the Gunners will host either Wolverhampton Wanderers or Reading at home in the last four of the competition.
The games are coming thick and fast for the club at all levels, with the U19 side preparing to take on Shakhtar Donetsk in the Last 16 of the UEFA Youth League a week on Tuesday. Akpom has been Arsenal’s first-choice striker in the competition so far, scoring three goals in four starts in the group stages, and is expected to be entrusted with a starting berth again despite the fact that fellow forward Austin Lipman is temporarily back from his loan spell at Boreham Wood.
Akpom could also feature in the FA Youth Cup tie against Charlton in a week’s time, with Arsenal having learnt that their reward for a victory in that game would be a home tie, most likely played at Emirates Stadium, against either Sheffield United or Everton.
The U18s also have two much-anticipated league games on the horizon, with tomorrow’s trip to face Chelsea followed by a home game against Tottenham Hotspur, although the latter fixture may yet be rearranged due to Arsenal’s FA Youth Cup commitments.
Isaac Hayden has been rewarded for his fine recent progression with a new long-term contract which is believed to tie him to the club until the summer of 2017.
The 18 year old impressed on his first-team debut against West Bromwich Albion in the Captial One Cup in September and subsequently made the bench for Premier League fixtures against Liverpool and Manchester United, as well as being called upon to participate in many training sessions with the senior side.
Hayden has developed considerably since signing his first professional contract in March 2012. Now an England U19 international, he has amassed over 20 appearances for the club at U21 level and recently scored his first goal for the second-string in the defeat to Liverpool.
Capable of playing at centre-back, the youngster, who joined Arsenal from Southend United’s Academy in 2008, appears more comfortable as a defensive-midfielder and is likely to head out on loan next season to experience his first sustained taste of senior football.
Whilst Hayden’s short-term future at the club is secure, the same cannot be said for several other youngsters whose respective deals are set to expire at the end of June. The remaining six second-year scholars- Glen Kamara, Alex Iwobi, Tarum Dawkins, Alfred Mugabo, Josh Vickers and Arinse Uade- are yet to receive clarification as to which of them will be handed professional contracts, whilst several more established members of the U21 squad will be striving for a new deal in the final months of the campaign.
Kristoffer Olsson and Chuba Akpom, who have already featured for the first-team, are set to be offered new deals soon, but Chuks Aneke, Daniel Boateng, Ignasi Miquel and Benik Afobe, who are all currently out on loan, have question marks over their futures, whilst Zach Fagan and Zak Ansah, who have both struggled with injuries this campaign, are also out of contract in the summer.
When it is taken into account that first-team squad members Bacary Sagna, Tomas Rosicky, Lukasz Fabianski and Nicklas Bendtner are all out of contact in June, whilst Kim Kallstrom and Emiliano Viviano are unlikely to make their loan deals permanent, there could be a significant amount of departures from the club at the end of the season.
U18 Premier League- Game 20
Arsenal 2 (Dawkins 2, 89) Southampton 1 (Demkiv 67)
Tarum Dawkins scored very early on and very late in this match to earn Arsenal U18′s a 2-1 victory over Southampton on Saturday, with Carl Laraman’s side recording back-to-back wins for the first time this season.
Laraman made three alterations to the side that defeated Aston Villa last week, with Ryan Huddart, Elliot Wright and Austin Lipman all coming into the side.
subs: Mavididi (for Lipman, 73). Not used: Johnson, Smith, Robinson, Vickers.
Dawkins opened the scoring with just two minutes on the clock after he applied the finishing touch to a multi-pass move that stemmed from a well-timed challenge from Leander Siemann. Siemann found Jack Jebb, who did well to control the ball before finding Alex Iwobi, who in turn threaded the ball through to Dawkins, who continued his excellent recent form by finding the back of the net with a well-timed finish.
Southampton responded with the lively Ryan Seager sending a shot just wide of Huddart’s far post, before Isaac Neyemie almost made Arsenal pay for some hesitant defending early in the second-half, but the winger could only shoot straight at Huddart.
The visitors then equalised in rather bizarre circumstances. Jebb played the ball back towards Huddart and the Arsenal goalkeeper, confident that the pass had taken a deflection off an opponent, picked the ball up only for the referee to award a free-kick to Southampton inside the area for handball.
Seager snatched the ball out of Huddart’s hands, enabling Dan Demkiv to score before Arsenal had time to assemble a wall, but the goal still stood, despite the protestations of the Gunners’ players.
Huddart then redeemed himself somewhat by making a good block from another effort from Seager, but Arsenal responded to the visiting pressure with some style when Jebb, a renowned free-kick specialist, struck the crossbar from a set-piece after his defensive-midfield partner Glen Kamara was fouled just outside the area.
With time running out it seemed as if Arsenal were going to have to settle for a point, but they eventually secured their second win in successive games when Iwobi found Dawkins, who scored with a stupendous strike from distance with just two minutes remaining.
Arsenal’s FA Youth Cup tie against Charlton Athletic, which was scheduled for tomorrow night, has been postponed with a new date yet to be arranged. The winners of that game will host Sheffield United or Everton in the Quarter-Finals.
Benik Afobe scored his first goal for Sheffield Wednesday, with the striker earning considerable praise for his performance in yesterday’s 2-0 victory over Reading.
Afobe, who had a short loan spell with Reading two seasons ago, caused problems for the opposition throughout his 73 minutes on the pitch and made it 2-0 with a well taken effort from close range. He also won the penalty from which his side opened the scoring. Sheffield Wednesday manager Stuart Gray said: ”I’m grateful to Arsenal for letting us have Afobe. He’s got real talent and caused Reading a lot of problems with his pace and power.” Damian Martinez was an un-used substitute.
Chuks Aneke played the whole game as Crewe Alexandra drew 3-3 with Bradford City. Uche Ikpeazu gave Crewe the lead after Aneke’s shot was parried and the Arsenal midfielder teed up the same player to score again in the second-half. Aneke also came close to scoring himself late on.
Joel Campbell played the first 71 minutes but wasn’t amongst the scorers as Olympiacos trounced Veria 5-0.
It was a disappointing day for Arsenal’s loanees as Leicester City drew with Watford, with none of the Gunners’ three players featuring for a single minute. Hector Bellerin was an un-used substitute for Watford, whilst Ju-Young Park and Ignasi Miquel were left out of their respective squads entirely.
Francis Coquelin remained on the bench throughout as Freiburg drew 1-1 with Hoffenheim.
Daniel Boateng was an un-used substitute as Hibernian lost 3-2 to Raith Rovers in the Scottish Cup.
It seems as if Chuba Akpom has played his last game for Brentford, with the striker set to return from his loan spell tomorrow in time to play a part in Arsenal’s FA Youth Cup commitments.
Neither Austin Lipman or Josh Vickers were involved for their respective loan clubs this weekend, with both players set to feature for Arsenal in the FA Youth Cup this week.
Johan Djourou played the whole game as Hamburg lost 3-0 to Hertha Berlin, whilst Wellington came on as a late substitute as Murcia beat Deportivo La Coruna 1-0.
U21 Premier League- Game 12
Arsenal 0 Southampton 0
Yaya Sanogo completed 61 minutes on his first appearance since August as Arsenal U21s drew 0-0 with Southampton at London Colney today. The French striker failed to make a substantial impact on proceedings, but will be delighted to have finally received some match action after a lengthy spell on the sidelines.
This was not exactly a memorable encounter, with neither side possessing much in the way of attacking verve. Ryo intermittently threatened for Arsenal, but couldn’t find the net, whilst, at the other end, Matt Macey made a couple of good interventions to keep the scores level.
Coach Carl Laraman made three changes from the side that drew 2-2 with Norwich City last week, with Sanogo, Stefan O’Connor and Jon Toral all coming into the team.
subs: Lipman (for Sanogo, 61). Not used: Iliev, Fagan, Kamara, Maitland-Niles.
Kick-off was delayed by 15 minutes, but, once the game did get underway Arsenal wasted no time in asserting their authority, with Semi Ajayi coming close to opening the scoring when the tall centre-back connected with Kristoffer Olsson’s corner, but his header was narrowly wide.
Sanogo was then found by a perceptive pass by Thomas Eisfeld, but Jack Stephens stole the ball with the French striker racing down on goal.
Arsenal’s dominance continued with Ryo beating three opponents before shooting just wide. It has been a difficult week for the Japanese winger, who was left out of the club’s updated Champions League squad, but he appeared determined to impress here. Eisfeld then did well to find Olsson, but the latter’s effort was pushed away by goalkeeper Cody Cropper.
The start to the second-half was rather uneventful with both sides enjoying sustained spells of possession without being able to create any clear-cut chances. With an hour on the clock Southampton eventually carved out an opening, with Jake Sinclair forcing Macey into a good save after combining well with Sam McQueen.
Sanogo was then withdrawn as had been pre-planned, with Austin Lipman, seemingly back from a loan spell at Boreham Wood, entering the fray. Ryo then shot wide when well placed before Lipman had a shot blocked from close range after he was located by Toral.
Southampton had several half-chances in the closing stages, but Macey was alert to keep his clean sheet intact. This was not a game that will be remembered too fondly, but, on the positive side, the Gunners managed to avoid conceding a goal in a match for the first time since September.