Barclays Premier Reserve League
Arsenal 3 (Park, Gnabry, Aneke) West Bromwich Albion 0
By Jeorge Bird @ Underhill Stadium
On a night on which the focus was on the several first-team players who were called upon for Reserve action, it was two of the younger cast members in Chuks Aneke and Serge Gnabry who stood out against a young West Bromwich Albion side.
Aneke and Gnabry were impressive throughout as Arsenal enjoyed what transpired to be a comprehensive victory. Both players got themselves on the scoresheet, with the former also involved in the opening goal, teeing up Ju Young Park following a tremendous piece of skill on the halfway line.
As well as Park, four other first-team players received valuable run outs in Marouane Chamakh, Johan Djourou, Carl Jenkinson and Andre Santos, with the Moroccan demonstrating some good link up play and the other trio turning in decent performances throughout.
Arsenal began in dominant fashion, and particularly looked to work the ball down the left flank with Santos careering forward at every opportunity. Park found the Brazilian, who was making his first appearance in Arsenal shirt since December after a spell on the sidelines, but the latter’s shot went well over.
Santos then returned the favour for Park, but the South Korean couldn’t quite connect with a dangerous, whipped cross. The other full-back, Jenkinson, then had a fierce drive blocked after good work from Gnabry and Santos, before a sumptuous piece of skill and a diligent run from Gnabry culminated in a shot from Oguzhan Ozyakup which was also cut out by the visiting defence.
The pressure eventually told however when, after 17 minutes, Aneke worked the ball past the West Bromwich defence with a superb piece of skill before finding Park stationed on the right flank. Park cut inside slightly before unleashing an emphatic finish to open the scoring.
West Bromwich threatened sporadically thereafter, but failed to really test Damian Martinez in the Arsenal goal, with the majority of chances coming at the other end. Gnabry did well to cut inside but skewed horribly over, then Park and Jenkinson were denied in quick succession with the alert Aneke involved in the build-up once again.
West Bromwich subsequently enjoyed a sustained spell of possession but again couldn’t muster many opportunities, a tame free-kick sent dribbling wide the only real chance of note. Arsenal continued to threaten afterwards, though, with Park and Chamakh linking up well and the Moroccan demonstrating excellent close-control but not applying the finish to match.
He did, however, rather inadvertently play a part in the second goal. Aneke fed Chamakh who saw a shot saved before tumbling in the area. Ozyakup’s subsequent shot hit the striker and fell invitingly for Gnabry to stab home. It was a rather fortunate way to score a goal but Arsenal’s dominance of the half had merited a two goal cushion.
Arsenal’s dominance continued into the second period, with Santos seeing a shot well defended after a neat piece of skill. Santos then combined with Gnabry to find Aneke, who rivalled Park for goal of the night with a delightful curling effort.
Gnabry was desperate to extend the advantage and double his goal tally, with the young German denied again following an interchange with Park. Jernade Meade then replaced Santos, who went off to a rapturous reception, and the diminutive left-back immediately saw a shot blocked before Chamakh failed to turn home the rebound.
Jenkinson came close again, shooting narrowly wide from close range, then Ozyakup was denied after further good work from Gnabry. Benik Afobe also received a run out but wasn’t presented with too many goalscoring opportunities, save for the occasion when he saw a shot blocked from close range after renewing acquaintances with his partner-in-crime Aneke.
In truth, Arsenal could have had plenty more, with West Bromwich heavily reliant on the isolated Romaine Sawyers up front. It proved to be a beneficial exercise for the first-team players, whilst Aneke demonstrated his class for the second week in succession and Gnabry’s breakthrough can justifiably be seen as one of the most pleasing aspects of this second-string campaign to date.
Damian Martinez (6) Had very little to do save for a few tame shots from Sawyers.
Carl Jenkinson (7) Pushed forward well and provided a threat with his crosses.
Johan Djourou (7) Impressively marshalled the backline.
Ignasi Miquel (6) Comfortable on the ball, although not really challenged defensively.
Andre Santos (7) Broke forward effortlessly and impressed with his enthusiasm before being withdrawn.
Nico Yennaris (6) Had a quietly efficient game breaking up play in midfield.
Oguzhan Ozyakup (6) Demonstrated his impressive passing range.
Ju Young Park (7) Took his goal well and involved in several other moves.
Chuks Aneke (8) At the heart of much of Arsenal’s good work, he has returned from an indifferent spell at Stevenage with renewed vigour.
Serge Gnabry (8) Delightful to watch, he caused havoc with his trickery and directness.
Marouane Chamakh (6) Tried and toiled up front, demonstrating good link up play but still lacks effectiveness when shooting.
Jernade Meade (for Santos) (6) Slotted into the fold well, bursting forward and demonstrating his efficiency on the ball.
Benik Afobe (for Chamakh) Only one real chance and still lacking a little sharpness as a certain Frenchman might say.
Martin Angha (for Park) Deployed on the right wing, although he drifted inside at every opportunity.
Not used: James Shea, Gavin Hoyte.