Report- Nketiah hits brace as Arsenal U19s thrash Ludogorets

UEFA Youth League

Arsenal 3 (Nelson, Nketiah (2)) Ludogorets 0


Arsenal U19s kick-started their UEFA Youth League campaign with an emphatic 3-0 victory at home to Ludogorets today, with Edward Nketiah hitting a brace and Reiss Nelson also getting on the scoresheet.

After drawing with Paris Saint-Germain and suffering an agonising late defeat to Basel, Arsenal were in need of a victory on this occasion and they achieved their aim, with Nelson scoring an early goal with a neat finish before Nketiah made it 2-0 from the penalty spot and later added further gloss to the scoreline.

Joao Virginia was given a start in goal, while Nketiah was also involved from the outset having impressed at U23 level of late. With Tolaji Bola not involved, first-year scholar Joseph Olowu was named on the bench.


Johnson-Bielik-Da Graca-M. Bola




Subs: McGuane (for DaSilva, 46), Hinds (for Dragomir, 57), Coyle (for Malen, 76). Not used: Keto, Olowu, Osei-Tutu, Mourgos.

Arsenal were eager to make an early impact and Ludogorets were unable to cope when a brisk move up-field culminated in Nketiah playing the ball into the path of Nelson, who finished well to open the scoring.

Chances were limited for much of the rest of the first-half, but it seemed clear that Arsenal’s quality would eventually shine through and that was what transpired when Nketiah scored from the penalty spot after being brought down in the area.

That was the forward’s first goal above U18 level and he got his second shortly afterwards when he headed home to cap off an impressive all-round display.

Positional changes aplenty- assessing Arsenal’s new look U23 side

After a challenging start to the season that encompassed some dismal results, Arsenal U23s appear to have turned a corner and have performed with a significantly greater amount of cohesion during their last two fixtures.

Perhaps that improvement is partly down to the coaching staff’s decision to try out certain players in different positions. It is commonplace for youngsters to frequently alter their role on the pitch as they progress through the ranks, and these four young Gunners have experienced such changes recently.

Ben Sheaf- Central-midfield to centre-back

Sheaf is used to playing in different positions having previously been used at right-back and on the right-wing, but nobody could have foreseen the 18-year-old excelling at centre-back this season.

The former West Ham United player had never played at the heart of the defence prior to this campaign but, despite some initial teething problems, he has settled in very well and was excellent in the goalless draw with Southampton as he made some fine interceptions and clearances.

What started out as a temporary experiment when Krystian Bielik was with the first-team has now turned into something more long-lasting, and Sheaf appears to offer Arsenal U23s much greater defensive security than Kristopher Da Graca, despite the latter being a natural centre-back.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles- right-wing to defensive-midfield

A comparatively subtle change, but a significant one nonetheless, Maitland-Niles has been anchoring the midfield for Arsenal U23s of late.

The prospect, who spent last season on loan at Ipswich Town, has been used in numerous positions for Arsenal and featured for the first-team at right-back against Nottingham Forest in the EFL Cup.

In the 2014/15 campaign Maitland-Niles thrived as a central-midfielder for the Arsenal second-string and he is now playing in a slightly deeper position. Although not a natural defender, he is still capable of breaking up play, while his midfield partner Gedion Zelalem occasionally drops deeper to allow Maitland-Niles to push forwards.

Ismael Bennacer- defensive midfield to right-wing


Bennacer delivered some impressive performances at the base of the midfield in his first season at Arsenal as the Algeria international showcased his ability to make a significant contribution both defensively and going forwards.

The youngster started the season slowly, however, and frequently found himself overrun in midfield, which prompted the coaching staff to move him out to the right-wing.

Of all the recent positional changes, this one seems the least successful so far as Bennacer doesn’t possess the pace and crossing ability required of wingers. He is, however, capable of linking play extremely well and can drift inside to good effect.

Stephy Mavididi- striker to number ten

A powerful, hard-working player, Mavididi has made a significant impact for Arsenal at youth level in recent years and has been a regular on the scoresheet.

Perhaps in a bid to improve the starlet’s link-up play, Mavididi has often played as a number ten this season and he has performed well, playing some slick passes, whilst still getting into dangerous attacking areas himself.


Zelalem trains with Arsenal first-team pre-Ludogorets 

Gedion Zelalem trained with the Arsenal first-team today as the midfielder was rewarded for his impressive performance against Southampton U23s. Carl Jenkinson was back training with the first-team. 
Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud, who are working their way back from injuries, trained separately but aren’t likely to feature in tomorrow’s Champions League game at home to Ludogorets. 

Per Mertesacker, Danny Welbeck, Yaya Sanogo and Chuba Akpom are still sidelined. 

Barden impresses but Arsenal U18s are held by Fulham

Arsenal U18s were held to a 1-1 draw by their Fulham counterparts on Saturday in a closely-fought encounter at London Colney.

Both goals came in the closing stages, with Josh DaSilva scoring a superb free-kick for Arsenal only for the visitors to equalise from the penalty spot after a clumsy foul by Zech Medley.

Medley, a former Chelsea defender on trial with the Gunners, wasn’t the only player making his first appearance at this level for Arsenal this season, with schoolboy goalkeeper Daniel Barden also featuring.

Barden isn’t guaranteed a scholarship for next season, especially after the recent signing of Alex Crean, but the youngster did his chances of getting a deal no harm at all as he produced a superb performance that saw him make several spectacular saves.

At the other end Trae Coyle, another schoolboy, continued to impress and is already one of the standout players in this team despite the fact that he is playing with a lot of individuals who are older than him.

Emile Smith-Rowe also caught the eye, but Arsenal’s overall link-up play was a little too slow at times, with coach Kwame Ampadu bemoaning the fact that his side didn’t carve out chances with their usual regularity.

Arsenal were, as is often the case at this level, vulnerable defensively, with Medley and Jordi Osei-Tutu both struggling, but Barden often came to his side’s rescue.

There was some good news for Arsenal, with Yassin Fortune named on the bench for the first time this season after recovering from injury.

Arsenal’s next U18 game is away to Reading, but prior to that many of these players will be involved when the U19s take on Ludogorets Razgrad in the UEFA Youth League.

Arsenal: Barden; Osei-Tutu, Olowu, Medley, Pileas; McGuane, DaSilva; J. Willock, Coyle, Smith-Rowe; Malen. Subs: Keto, Ballard, Fortune, Burton, Tella.


Arsenal take former Chelsea defender Zech Medley on trial


Chelsea FC

Arsenal have given a trial to former Chelsea centre-back Zech Medley.

The 16-year-old, who has been capped by England at schoolboy level, recently left Chelsea and played the full game for Arsenal U18s against Fulham at London Colney on Saturday.

However, Medley didn’t make the best first impression as he conceded a penalty in the closing stages that enabled Fulham to draw 1-1.

Arsenal are certainly in need of defensive reinforcements at U18 level, with the club having failed to strengthen in that position during the summer, but it remains to be seen whether Medley will be offered a contract.


Loan report-Asano, Nwakali and Pleguezuelo feature


Jack Wilshere played 79 minutes as Bournemouth trounced Hull City 6-1.

Wojciech Szczesny played the whole game as Roma beat Napoli 3-1.

Calum Chambers played the full game as Middlesbrough lost 1-0 to Watford. The 21-year-old started off at centre-back but later switched to right-back.

Takuma Asano was brought on in the 46th minute as Stuttgart were thrashed 5-0 by Dynamo Dresden.

Julio Pleguezuelo was introduced at the start of the second half as Mallorca lost 2-1 to Levante.

Kelechi Nwakali was brought on in the 82nd minute as Maastricht beat Dordrecht 2-1. Stefan O’Connor was an un-used substitute.

Glen Kamara was an un-used substitute as Colchester United lost 1-0 to Doncaster Rovers.

Dan Crowley was an un-used substitute as Oxford United beat Bradford City 1-0.

Ryan Huddart was an un-used substitute as Eastleigh beat Northleigh 6-0 to make it through to the first round of the FA Cup.

Jon Toral wasn’t involved as Granada were beaten 7-1 by Atletico Madrid.

Tafari Moore wasn’t involved as Utrecht beat Go Ahead Eagles 3-0.

Joel Campbell‘s Sporting Lisbon didn’t have a fixture this weekend.



Report- Jenkinson returns and Sheaf impresses as Arsenal U23s draw with Southampton


U23 Premier League

Arsenal 0 Southampton 0

Carl Jenkinson made his return to action as Arsenal U23s drew 0-0 with their Southampton counterparts in a hard-fought encounter.

Both sides created inviting opportunities but were unable to make the most of those chances on a night when defences and goalkeepers came out on top.

Krystian Bielik and Ben Sheaf were hugely impressive at the heart of the Arsenal defence, with the latter looking increasingly assured at centre-back. Meanwhile, Southampton had goalkeeper Alex McCarthy- a rather experienced individual in comparison to the other players on show- to thank for making some hugely impressive stops.

Arsenal’s approach play was encouraging at times, with the likes of Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Gedion Zelalem seeing plenty of the ball, while Stephy Mavididi and Edward Nketiah caused numerous problems for the Southampton defence, but the young Gunners were unable to make the breakthrough.

Nketiah was given a start ahead of Vlad Dragomir and Donyell Malen, while Chiori Johnson was named amongst the substitutes as a consequence of Jenkinson’s involvement, with the latter making his first Arsenal appearance in over two years.


Jenkinson-Bielik-Sheaf-M. Bola

M Niles-Zelalem

Bennacer-Mavididi-C. Willock


Subs: Johnson (for Jenkinson, 68), Malen (for Bennacer, 71). Not used: Keto, Dragomir, DaSilva.

Both of these clubs have a pass and move philosophy, but neither team was able to create many opportunities of note in the early exchanges, with passages of play frequently breaking down at the final hurdle.

Maitland-Niles and Zelalem were at the hub of much of what was good about Arsenal’s approach play, but Southampton’s defence initially prevented Mavididi and Nketiah from being able to have much influence.

Southampton, who boast an impressive academy, started to pose a threat at the other end but Arsenal were able to deal with everything that Radhi Jaidi’s side threw at them.

As the half wore on Arsenal gradually started to have more of an influence on proceedings and they embarked upon one swift counter-attacking move but Southampton were able to clear before Nketiah could get his shot away.

Jenkinson then made his first forward foray of the game, with the right-back’s cross finding Chris Willock, who shot straight at McCarthy.

Mavididi then sent a powerful effort wide as Arsenal upped the ante, and, although Southampton had one chance at the other end, it was the young Gunners who were the dominant force as the first-half drew to a close.

Arsenal continued to pour forwards with regularity, and the pressure very nearly paid off, with Ismael Bennacer’s fierce effort rattling the woodwork before McCarthy made an impressive stop to thwart Willock.

The second half was slightly more even, with Southampton posing an increased attacking threat, and Macey did well to keep out Harrison Reed’s free-kick.

Arsenal, though, continued to carve out chances with regularity, with Nketiah having an effort saved from close range before Maitland-Niles blasted wide.

There were further chances to come, with Mavididi driving forwards only to see his attempt stopped by McCarthy, who was perhaps the game’s outstanding performer.

Jenkinson played 68 minutes before being replaced by Johnson, with Donyell Malen then entering the fray as Arsenal went in search of a late winner.

A goal proved elusive, however, and in the end Arsenal were perhaps pleased to settle for a point as Southampton missed some inviting late chances.

Overall, however, this wasn’t a bad result for Arsenal, whose build-up play was rather impressive at times.

There are certainly some impressive talents in this team and the decision to deploy Sheaf at centre-back ahead of Kristopher Da Graca has provided the side with greater defensive assurance.

Arsenal lacked ruthlessness at times and it was evident that several players in this side are still adapting to new positions, with Maitland-Niles playing deeper than usual, Bennacer deployed on the right wing and Mavididi operating as the number ten.

There are certainly positives to build upon, though, going into the next game, which sees Gatting’s team face Manchester United away.

As far as Jenkinson is concerned, the 24-year-old was largely impressive, and, although he was caught too far up-field on a couple of occasions, that can be attributed to an element of rustiness as he has been out for so long.