Report – Nelson’s superb strike gives Arsenal U23s hard-earned win over Porto

Premier League International Cup

Arsenal U23s 1 (Nelson) Porto U23s 0 

By Jeorge Bird @ Meadow Park

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A stunning second half goal from Reiss Nelson gave Arsenal U23s a 1-0 victory over Porto in their first Premier League International Cup.

It was a hard earned three points for the young Gunners, with Porto retaining possession very well and hitting the crossbar on one occasion, while Arsenal goalkeeper Deyan Iliev had to make some important stops.

Arsenal managed to prevail, however, and it was fitting that Nelson, who became increasingly influential in the second half, was the hero.

Calum Chambers and Mathieu Debuchy, who are likely to feature in the Europa League game against Cologne next week, were both involved tonight, with captain Julio Pleguezuelo moving out to left wing-back and Josh Dasilva reverting to midfield.

Eddie Nketiah, who trained with the first-team today, wasn’t involved, but there was a place on the bench for Emile Smith Rowe, who was part of England’s World Cup winning squad at U17 level.



Osei Tutu-Willock-Dasilva-Pleguezuelo



Subs: Smith Rowe (for Chambers), Medley (for Debuchy), T. Bola (for Dragomir). Not used: Keto, Moore, Fortune.

Porto, who beat Reading in their opening fixture, signalled their attacking intent early on with an effort that tested Iliev.

Arsenal responded as Nelson, deployed as an attacking midfielder, cut inside and won a corner before Joe Willock saw an effort saved.

The first half was largely uneventful, however, with Porto seeing a lot of the ball and restricting the space available to Arsenal.

Arsenal’s best opening of the opening period came when Chuba Akpom swivelled smartly in the penalty area but the striker’s subsequent shot lacked conviction.

Porto looked most likely to score for much of the half, although they squandered an inviting opportunity to find the net when Arsenal were guilty of losing possession in midfield.

It was goalless at the break, but the standout observation from the first half was the performance of Ben Sheaf, who frequently demonstrated his composure in possession while looking comfortable as part of a back three.

Porto started the second half well but the game needed a moment of brilliance to spark it into life and Nelson certainly provided it.

Following good work from Akpom, who did well to create space, Nelson received possession and then found the net with an excellent effort from distance.

It was another moment of brilliance from a youngster who certainly has a very good chance of making the grade at Arsenal.

Porto responded in dramatic fashion as an effort rattled the crossbar, indicating that Arsenal had much work to do to retain their lead.

Chambers and Debuchy, as had been planned prior to the game, were substituted midway through the second half, with Zech Medley and Smith Rowe entering the fray, the latter filling in at left wing-back for a period.

Arsenal had chances to extend their lead, with Vlad Dragomir and Nelson both being thwarted, but the vast majority of the action was taking place down the other end, where Iliev, who is now much more reliable than he was previously, made some vital interventions.

It was clear that Arsenal couldn’t afford to push forwards with too much regularity, given the threat that Porto possessed.

Tolaji Bola came on for Dragomir, providing Arsenal with greater defensive security and enabling Smith Rowe to play behind the striker.

Iliev made another stop in the closing stages and, after four minutes of injury time, Arsenal managed to hold on and take all three points.

Nelson’s quality once again shone through, with the 17-year-old showcasing his ability to weave his way past defenders, while he was at the heart of much of what was good about Arsenal’s attacking play.



Report – Balogun strikes again as Arsenal U18s ease past Norwich

U18 Premier League 

Arsenal 3 (Balogun 5, Ballard 22, M. Smith 89) Norwich City 0


Folarin Balogun

Folarin Balogun was on the scoresheet again as Arsenal U18s returned to action with a 3-0 victory at home to their Norwich City counterparts today.

Coach Kwame Ampadu made four changes to his side. Trae Coyle and Xavier Amaechi came in for their first starts of the season after recovering from injuries, whilst Matt Smith and Zak Swanson were also given starts, with Zech Medley, Bukayo Saka, Tyreece John-Jules and Emile Smith Rowe the players replaced.

Midfielders Robbie Burton and James Olayinka returned from injury to make the bench.

Former Arsenal defender Shae Hutchinson was on the bench for Norwich.



Benson-M. Smith



Subs: Burton (for Coyle, 61), Olayinka (for Amaechi , 61), John-Jules (for Balogun, 74). Not used: Barden, Spencer-Adams.

Arsenal started brightly and took the lead with just five minutes gone when Swanson found the clinical Balogun, who scored his fifth goal in eight U18 games this season.

The young Gunners doubled their advantage midway through the first half when Daniel Ballard found the net following good work from Josh Benson.

Further gloss was added to the scoreline in the closing stages as Olayinka emerged off the bench to tee up Matt Smith for his first goal at this level.


Nketiah and Olayinka amongst four youngsters to train with Arsenal first-team pre-Tottenham


Arsenal held their final first-team training session this morning ahead of tomorrow’s North London derby at home to Tottenham Hotspur, with striker Eddie Nketiah amongst four academy players in attendance.

Goalkeepers Matt Macey and Deyan Iliev also trained, along with first-year scholar James Olayinka, with the prospect, who can play as an attacking midfielder or winger, making his return from injury.

Regarding first-team players Shkodran Mustafi, Rob Holding, David Ospina and Danny Welbeck were all back in training, with Olivier Giroud, Jeff Reine-Adelaide and Santi Cazorla the only main injury absentees.


Which of Arsenal’s young goalkeepers are most likely to succeed?



At times in recent years Arsenal have often not had enough young goalkeepers but now they have several options in that regard, to the extent that some of them have seen their playing time restricted at U23 level this season.

Here’s an assessment of Arsenal’s young goalkeepers and a look at who is most likely to make the step up to the first-team.

Matt Macey earned praise from Arsene Wenger after featuring for the first-team against Norwich City and Red Star Belgrade and the 23-year-old is certainly very close to becoming a bonafide senior player.

There is a chance that Macey could be officially promoted next summer, although he will surely have to be patient for further game time this season, especially once David Ospina returns to full fitness.

Deyan Iliev has finally emerged from his injury nightmare and made the bench for the first-team for the first time against Norwich recently.

The Macedonian has continued to train regularly with the first-team and, while it was initially anticipated that he may be released when his contract expires at the end of this season, it now isn’t a foregone conclusion that he will be let go.

Iliev appears to have improved of late, although at the age of 22, he may look to go out on loan at some stage to gain experience of first-team football.

Ryan Huddart was once tipped to make the breakthrough into the first-team squad and was on the bench for Champions League games against Anderlecht at the age of 17.

Now 20, Huddart is still awaiting a subsequent first-team call-up and, while he remains an impressive shot-stopper, it wouldn’t be entirely surprising if he was to leave next summer.



Hugo Keto has endured a frustrating start to the campaign as he has started just one game for Arsenal U23s.

Keto is capable of making some excellent saves and is certainly one of the most talented young goalkeepers at Arsenal’s disposal but he needs more playing time.

If either Iliev or Huddart were to go on loan in January then it would help Keto’s cause immensely but the latter could be forgiven for being rather frustrated with his situation.

Meanwhile, Joao Virginia continues to perform regularly for the U18s and has also been involved with the U23 squad.

The Portuguese youngster has produced some impressive displays and seems to have the potential required to eventually challenge for a place in the first-team squad.

Virginia needs to be given time to develop, though, and will still be eligible to feature for the U18s next season as an overage player.

Alex Crean is in his second season at Arsenal but hasn’t featured at all so far this campaign due to injury. It is hoped that he will be able to return for the U18s soon.

First-year scholar Daniel Barden has also endured injury problems but he is now back available and will look to gain some experience at U18 level.

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Schoolboy goalkeeper Arthur Okonkwo has made quite an impact this season as he has trained with the first-team, played for the U18s and also broken into the England U17 squad. Big things are expected of the Hale End product, who is also eligible to represent Nigeria internationally.

Overall, Macey certainly seems the most likely to step up should a vacancy arise in the first-team goalkeeping department, while Huddart and Keto have seen their progress hampered by Iliev’s return from injury.

Virginia will be hopeful of eventually fulfilling his vast potential and there is also much excitement about Okonkwo’s progress, with Arsenal certainly very well stocked for young goalkeepers at present.


Nketiah scores winner for England U19s against Iceland; Nelson features


Eddie Nketiah scored the winner as England U19s beat Iceland 2-1 in their latest European Championship qualifier today.

After scoring four goals in the thrashing of the Faroe Islands, Nketiah was alert to finish from close range in the closing stages on this occasion as England secured another victory and he continued his excellent run in front of goal.

England took the lead through Mason Mount but Iceland levelled when Daniel Hafsteinsson found the net.

Iceland weren’t level for long, however, as Nketiah intervened to secure victory for England.

Reiss Nelson, meanwhile, played 88 minutes as a right winger and Joe Willock was an unused substitute.

England are back in action on Tuesday when they take on Bulgaria.


Arsenal to face Sheffield Wednesday in FA Youth Cup 3rd round – competition preview


The draw for the third round of the FA Youth Cup was made yesterday, with Arsenal to commence their campaign with a home game against Sheffield Wednesday which must be played before December 16th.

Arsenal haven’t won the competition since 2009 and went out at the third round stage last season when they were beaten in controversial circumstances by Blackburn Rovers, so they will be aiming to enjoy a lengthy run this time around.

Here’s a look at what team Kwame Ampadu could field in the competition, with players who were born between September 1st 1999 and September 1st 2002 eligible to feature.


Whilst Arsenal U23s have played with three at the back in recent games, the U18s have persisted with a 4-2-3-1 formation, and it is likely that Ampadu will continue with that system.


Joao Virginia is firmly established as Arsenal first-choice goalkeeper at U18 level and first-year scholar Daniel Barden could be his back-up, with Alex Crean having not played this season due to injury.


It seems likely that Vontae Daley-Campbell, who recently made his debut for England U17s, will start at right-back.



Zech Medley

Joseph Olowu and Zech Medley both have experience of U23 football and are likely to start in this competition.

Daniel Ballard is a useful alternative, along with first-years Harry Clarke and Bayli Spencer-AdamsMark McGuinness is injured.


This is one of the positions that is most up for debate in the side as, while Dominic Thompson has been the regular left-back at U18 level, Tobi Omole is also capable of playing there.

At present it seems that Omole, who has already been involved with the U23s, could be chosen to start, although that could well change.


Second-year scholar Josh Benson seems likely to start. Meanwhile, with Robbie Burton and James Olayinka currently struggling with injuries, Ballard could be moved into midfield, where he impressed earlier in the season. Matthew Smith, who has produced some encouraging performances this campaign, will hope to be involved.


This is where matters start to get both interesting and complicated. Arsenal usually tend to play their strongest available side in this competition but Reiss Nelson‘s involvement will be dependent upon his first-team commitments.

Thankfully, Ampadu has some alternative options, including Xavier Amaechi, who is fit again, while it would be a tough decision to leave impressive schoolboy Bukayo Saka out of the squad. Jay Beckford remains injured.

Central attacking midfield

If Nelson starts on the right wing then Trae Coyle could well be deployed behind the striker. Tyreece John-Jules will definitely be in the squad. Jordan McEneff, meanwhile, is still sidelined.


Fresh from helping England to win the U17 World Cup, Emile Smith Rowe will also be going for glory in the Youth Cup. Zak Swanson can provide back-up in this position. Nathan Tormey is recovering from a serious injury.



Folarin Balogun

Folarin Balogun has scored four goals in seven games for the U18s this season and is expected to lead the line, although John-Jules could alternatively be used in this position.

Other eligible players

Arthur Okonkwo, Tom Smith, Stan Flaherty, Josh Martin, Armstrong Okoflex, Matthew Dennis, Hubert Graczyk, Yunus Musah, David Agbontohoma, Miguel Azeez.


Possible team


Daley Campbell-Olowu-Medley-Omole


Nelson-Coyle-Smith Rowe


Subs: Barden, Clarke, Thompson, Amaechi, John-Jules.




Nketiah scores four; Nelson and Willock feature as England U19s thrash Faroe Islands


Arsenal youngster Eddie Nketiah continued his prolific form as he scored four goals and also provided an assist in England U19s’ 6-0 victory over Faroe Islands in Bulgaria today.

The young Lions got their European qualification campaign underway in fine fashion but they had to wait until the 23rd minute to open the scoring through the clinical Nketiah, who hit the headlines as he scored a brace for Arsenal in the Carabao Cup against Norwich City recently.

After Reiss Nelson, who produced an encouraging performance himself, had hit the post midway through the second half, Nketiah pounced to make it 2-0 and the striker completed his hat-trick from the penalty spot in the 78th minute.

In between Nketiah’s second and third strikes, Sunderland’s Elliot Embleton had also found the net, while Benjamin Brereton of Nottingham Forest also got on the scoresheet later in the game.

It was Nketiah who stood out the most, however, as he added another goal in stoppage time to complete his quartet of goals. He now has seven goals in three games for England U19s.

Midfielder Joe Willock, meanwhile, completed 70 minutes and played some impressive passes.