U21s report- Bennacer makes debut as Arsenal thrash West Ham

U21 Premier League

Arsenal 5 (Hinds 14, Mavididi 15, 49, Kamara 58, Sheaf 89 (pen) West Ham United 0 

By Jeorge Bird @Emirates Stadium

Hinds and Mavididi both have three goals so far this season

Hinds and Mavididi both have three goals so far this season

Arsenal U21s maintained their immaculate start to the new season as they trounced their West Ham United counterparts at Emirates Stadium this evening, with the young Gunners’ attacking quartet continuing to thrive.

Stephy Mavididi scored a brace, whilst Kaylen Hinds was also on the scoresheet and wingers Jeff Reine-Adelaide and Alex Iwobi caused several problems for the opposition defence. There were two more unlikely scorers for Arsenal as well, with Glen Kamara capping off an excellent individual display with a goal before Ben Sheaf scored a penalty against his former side in the closing stages.

There were several other positives to take away from proceedings, with Matt Macey looking assured in goal, Krystian Bielik faring well at centre-back and Hinds continuing to provide a threat in the number ten position. There was also a debut for summer signing Ismael Bennacer, who impressed with some neat passes.

It is still very early days, with 19 matches remaining this season, but so far Arsenal have made the best possible start in their quest to gain promotion back to the top tier of U21 football. This was easily their most convincing performance yet, so it may come as a surprise to some that West Ham actually started the brighter of the two sides. Quick-fire goals from Hinds and Mavididi, however, shifted the momentum in Arsenal’s favour and the visitors, who contained two Hale End products in their line-up in George Dobson and Jordan Brown, never recovered.

Coach Steve Gatting made a solitary change to the side that beat Derby County 3-2 last week, with Matt Macey replacing Ryan Huddart in goal. Bennacer, meanwhile, made the bench at the expense of Tyrell Robinson.




Reine Adelaide-Hinds-Iwobi


Subs: Bennacer (for Mavididi, 79), C. Willock (for Hinds, 79). Not used: Eyoma, O’Connor, Huddart. 

West Ham started well and they could have taken the lead early on, but Macey was quick off his line to thwart the on-rushing Brown.

Dobson, who left Arsenal this summer to join his boyhood club, was impressive early on as he played some quick, snappy passes, but the youngster was at fault for the opening goal as it was his mis-timed ball that was seized upon by Reine-Adelaide and, after the French youngster’s cross was blocked, Hinds was on hand to score his third goal of the season and put Arsenal ahead.

West Ham looked dishevelled and they still hadn’t recovered by the time the game re-started. Arsenal raced downfield and quickly doubled their advantage, with Reine-Adelaide very much at the forefront of proceedings once more. His cross this time found Mavididi, who headed past Sam Howes to make it 2-0.

The visitors sought to respond thereafter, but Macey remained calm under pressure. It was a first-half of few clear-cut chances, but Arsenal gradually started to assert themselves and squandered an excellent opportunity to put the game beyond doubt when Reine-Adelaide shot wide after he was found by Hinds.

The second-half showcased all of Arsenal’s best qualities as they attacked relentlessly, causing havoc for the distressed West Ham defence.

It was 3-0 shortly after the restart when Mavididi, who was called up to the England U18 squad this week, seized upon a weak pass and finished cleverly.

Arsenal then started to create a plethora of chances, with Hinds seeing an effort deflected wide after he was found by Iwobi, before Reine-Adelaide had a header saved by Howes.

Dobson was enduring a difficult evening and the youngster then found himself dispossessed by Mavididi, who in turn found Hinds. On this occasion the striker’s effort was parried, but the Gunners continued to charge forwards with Bielik coming close to scoring following a well-worked corner.

Kamara was then on hand to make it 4-0, with the Finland youth international applying the finishing touch to a neat move. Even without the considerable creative talents of Dan Crowley and Gedion Zelalem, there is much to admire about the link-up play in this Arsenal side.

Arsenal looked to punish West Ham as much as possible, with Mavididi seeing another shot saved before Gatting saw fit to introduce Bennacer for his debut alongside Chris Willock.

It is a measure of the strength of this Arsenal U21 side that Bennacer and Willock, in addition to Stefan O’Connor, were amongst the substitutes this evening.

Indeed, Willock provided a measure of his undoubted quality as he made an instant impact, being fouled in the area and winning a penalty.

Sheaf stepped up to take it and got the better of Howes. It was a rather emotional moment for the midfielder, who progressed through West Ham’s academy before joining Arsenal last year.

In all, this was a hugely impressive display from the young Gunners. They end August with three victories from three games and will be confident of tackling the numerous challenges that lie ahead. It is worth noting that all three of Arsenal’s fixtures so far have been at home, whilst the squad will inevitably become depleted as the season progresses and loans, injuries and first-team call-ups take their toll.

For now, though, there is much to be positive about with regards to Arsenal’s U21 side, something we haven’t been able to say for quite some time.

Nelson, Agyei-Tabi, Da Silva + Malen train with Arsenal first-team 

Four promising youngsters trained with the Arsenal first-team squad at London Colney this morning as Arsene Wenger’s side participated in their final training session prior to tomorrow’s game away to Newcastle United.

Marcus Agyei-Tabi, Josh Da Silva, Donyell Malen and Reiss Nelson were all called upon to train with the senior squad, with Per Mertesacker still absent through illness. Laurent Koscielny, however, trained after recovering from injury.

Jack Wilshere, Tomas Rosicky and Danny Welbeck are all still out, whilst, with the U21s taking on West Ham United at Emirates Stadium this evening, Wenger had to call upon several young talents for training this morning.

Nelson, who is still a schoolboy, has impressed for the U18s in he early weeks of the season and can operate as an attacking midfielder or a winger, whilst Agyei-Tabi, who can also play centrally or out wide, enjoyed an excellent 2014/15 campaign.

Striker Da Silva, a product of the club’s Hale End academy, is very highly regarded, as is Malen, another forward, who was signed from Ajax last month but isn’t yet eligible to play for the club competitively.

Joel Campbell, meanwhile, continued to train, but is likely to miss out on the matchday squad for the Newcastle game.

Loan report- Crowley scores against Everton; Zelalem assists for Rangers

They are undoubtedly two of the most talented youngsters in Arsenal’s academy system and tonight Dan Crowley and Gedion Zelalem both had hugely positive experiences as they become accustomed to senior football.

Crowley started and scored as Barnsley lost 5-3 to Everton in the second round of the Capital One Cup. The midfielder scored Barnsely’s third goal with a neat strike on the hour mark, with the Premier League side eventually prevailing in extra-time.

Zelalem chalked up an assist on his debut for Rangers as his temporary side thrashed Airdrieonians 5-0 in the Scottish League Cup. The United States youth international was involved in the build-up to Rangers’ second goal as he found fellow Arsenal academy graduate Dean Shiels, who in turn played the ball through to Andy Halliday to score.

Zelalem himself was the provider for the third goal, with his ball finding Martyn Waghorn, who finished well. Zelalem was also involved in the build-up to Rangers’ fifth goal, which was scored by James Tavernier.

Chris Willock proves his worth for Arsenal U18s as Nelson impresses again



Arsenal U18s were outplayed for much of the first-half as they took on their Chelsea counterparts on Monday at London Colney, but they improved in the second period and eventually managed to salvage a point through Aaron Eyoma’s late header, which ensured that the game finished 1-1.

There were some elements of concern for coach Frans De Kat, with the central-defensive partnership of Kristopher Da Graca and Tolaji Bola not inspiring much in the way of confidence, but there were also some positives to take from the game, particularly in an attacking sense, with both Chris Willock and Reiss Nelson impressing.

Willock and Nelson are at different stages in their development. The latter has only just stepped up to full-time training at London Colney and is still a schoolboy, whilst Willock has already featured for the first-team, albeit only in non-competitive fixtures.

Against Chelsea, though, they were very much on the same wavelength, with both players dovetailing to excellent effect. Willock, operating primarily on the left flank, caused the opposition defence all manner of problems with his mazy dribbling, whilst his fellow Hale End product Nelson was dangerous throughout.

Nelson’s potential is such that he is starting U18 games ahead of both first year and second year scholars.

Willock can count himself a little unfortunate to be back in the U18 squad, albeit only on a temporary basis, but competition for places is strong for the attacking spots in the U21 side at present, with the likes of Jeff Reine-Adelaide, Alex Iwobi, Kaylen Hinds and Stephy Mavididi all heavily involved at that level.

Hugo Keto was impressive again in goal, although Yassin Fortune didn’t make much of an impact up front. The same couldn’t be said of substitute Eddie Nketiah, though, with the youngster emerging off the bench to rattle the woodwork with a fiercely struck effort.

Nketiah enjoyed an excellent pre-season and, despite being used as a substitute in the opening two league fixtures, looks to be full of confidence.

Arsenal, who were without Harry Donovan for this fixture, are still waiting to receive permission to field their new foreign signings- Ismael Bennacer, Kostas Pileas, Vlad Dragomir and Donyell Malen at this level.

The young Gunners take on Reading this weekend.

Gedion Zelalem- From Olney Rangers to Rangers



It was whilst he was playing for a club with Rangers in their name that Gedion Zelalem first came to Arsenal’s attention and now, having joined Scottish side Rangers on loan initially until January, he will be looking to make the club’s coaching staff take notice of his performances once more.

It has been quite a journey for Zelalem, who has developed well since joining Arsenal from Olney Rangers in 2012. There have been numerous ups and downs in the ensuing period, with the major highlights undoubtedly being his two senior appearances for the Arsenal first-team so far.

Now, having amassed considerable experience of U21 football, he will be seeking to prove that he is able to compete on a bigger stage. The Scottish Championship might not be the most high-profile league, but Rangers, with their renowned supporters, remain one of the most recognisable clubs in Europe.

Rangers manager Mark Warburton has a good track record of working with young players from his time at Brentford, and his preferred style of play should suit Zelalem perfectly.

The United States youth international midifelder sampled the Ibrox atmosphere for the first time yesterday as he attended Rangers’ game with Hibernian and he also trained with his new team-mates this morning. If all goes well, Zelalem could play a part when Rangers take on Airdrieonians on Wednesday.

It was clear during the opening U21 game of the season against Fulham that Zelalem is one of Arsenal’s brightest talents at that level and, although he has some improvements to make physically, he should learn much from his stint with Rangers.

Having seen Dan Crowley and Ainsley Maitland-Niles get off to flying starts with their loan spells this season, Zelalem will be seeking to do likewise. He has come in for some criticism for failing to be heavily involved in matches, but the youngster, who is still only 18, is renowned for his penchant of unlocking defences with precise through-balls.

Of late Zelalem also seems to have started to pay greater attention to the defensive side of the game. He now closes players down much more readily than he did previously, whilst his tactical awareness has always been superior to most of his colleagues at youth level.

Zelalem reportedly turned down offers from several Championship clubs to join Rangers, and he will be seeking to prove that he made the right decision in linking up with Warburton’s team. His journey so far has been intriguing to watch as he has developed physically, whilst continuing to make good use of his undoubted technical gifts.

Now the hope is that he can impress sufficiently at Rangers to earn a chance of receiving even greater opportunities in the future.

Eyoma’s late goal rescues point for Arsenal U18s against Chelsea

Eyoma has enjoyed an excellent start to the season. (Zimbio.com)

Eyoma has enjoyed an excellent start to the season. (Zimbio.com)

U18 Premier League

Arsenal 1 (Eyoma) Chelsea 1

Arsenal U18s showed determination to come from behind and eventually draw 1-1 with their Chelsea at London Colney this morning.

The Gunners prevailed with a 5-1 victory in the corresponding fixture last campaign, but Chelsea were dominant early on today and eventually took the lead early in the second-half through Charlie Wakefield. Arsenal, however, rallied in the closing stages and scored a late equaliser courtesy of a diving header from Aaron Eyoma.

Chelsea started brightly, with Ike Ugbo coming close to scoring, but Arsenal responded with Chris Willock shooting just wide.

The visitors, though, soon started to click into gear, with Ruben Sammut twice being denied. Miro Muheim then had a shot saved as Chelsea upped the ante further.

Their dominance was rewarded four minutes into the second period, with Muheim crossing for Wakefield to finish.

Arsenal started to get back into the game in the second-half, but Chelsea were still creating plenty of chances, with Ali Suljic striking the crossbar with a header.

Arsenal looked more lively following the introduction of Edward Nketiah as a substitute, and the Hale End product, who scored last week against Norwich City, struck the post, before Chelsea came close to doubling their advantage through Mukhtar Ali.

To their credit, Frans de Kat’s side refused to give up and they eventually equalised late on through Eyoma. Chelsea had a claim for a penalty turned down just prior to the goal, but the young Gunners won’t be worrying about that as they remain unbeaten so far this season.

As far as Eyoma is concerned, the youngster has enjoyed an excellent start to the season and is the only player to feature in all of the U21s and U18s games so far this campaign.

Arsenal’s next game at this level is away to Reading on Saturday.


Osei Tutu-Da Graca-T. Bola-Robinson

Agyei Tabi-Da Silva

Eyoma-C. Willock-Nelson


Subs: Huddart, Mourgos, Tella, Nketiah, Chatzitheodoridis.

Info via @ChelseaFC and @AFCFixtureNews

Loan report- Jenkinson sent off; Szczesny, Gnabry and Wellington make debuts



Carl Jenkinson endured a difficult day as West Ham United were beaten 4-3 by Bournemouth, with the right-back struggling throughout against the dangerous Max Gradel before receiving a red card for committing a foul against the winger in the penalty area.

Wellington, at long last, made his first competitive appearance in English football, with the winger impressing as Bolton Wanderers drew 1-1 with Nottingham Forest. Deployed on the left wing, Wellington was particularly effective in the early stages before being replaced by Emile Heskey in the 84th minute.

Serge Gnabry was introduced for his West Bromwich Albion debut in the 78th minute as they lost 3-2 to Chelsea.

Wojciech Szczesny made his competitive debut for Roma as his temporary side drew 1-1 away to Hellas Verona.

Chuba Akpom played 64 minutes before being substituted as Hull City lost 2-1 against Charlton Athletic. Akpom had a shot saved, whilst Hull’s other Arsenal loanee, Isaac Hayden, was introduced in the 58th minute and came close to scoring as his effort hit a post late on.

Jon Toral retained his place in the starting line-up and played 67 minutes as Birmingham City drew 1-1 with Derby County. The Spaniard, who has already found the net twice for his loan club, missed an inviting opportunity to score early in the second-half.

Last week Toral reflected on his impressive start to the campaign. He said: “I have to thank the team and the gaffer for giving me the confidence. It’s been a great start for me and I need to keep it going.”

Ainsley Maitland-Niles was brought on as a substitute in the 62nd minute as Ipswich Town beat Preston North End 2-1. The youngster, who claimed an assist in the midweek game against Burnley, was the subject of a rash challenge from Bailey Wright.

Dan Crowley played the whole game and was booked as Barnsley drew 0-0 with Bradford City.

Emiliano Martinez was an un-used substitute as Wolverhampton Wanderers were beaten 2-0 by Cardiff City.

Yaya Sanogo wasn’t part of the Ajax squad for their game against NEC.