‘BOO’ and Hayden make Reserve debuts in Stevenage stalemate

Pre-season friendly

Stevenage 0 Arsenal 0

By Jeorge Bird @ The Lamex Stadium.

Arsenal’s Reserves continued their pre-season preparations with a goalless draw away to Stevenage at the Lamex Stadium this afternoon, although the two sides did not conjure up the most entertaining affair in Hertfordshire as both teams struggled to impose themselves on the game.

Coach Terry Burton was able to call upon Serge Gnabry for the first time, with the German youngster fit again following an injury sustained late last season, with James Shea and Daniel Boateng also coming into the side. Chuba Akpom, meanwhile, started up front at the expense of the comparatively experienced Sanchez Watt.






subs: Monteiro (for Boateng, 46), Bellerin (for Angha, 46), Watt (for Gnabry, 46), Hayden (for Hajrovic, 46), Ormonde-Ottewill (for Rees, 46), Neita (for Olsson, 62), Jeffrey (for Meade, 72), Roberts (for Akpom, 77). Not used: Charles-Cook, Bihmoutine.

Stevenage included former Gunners Luke Freeman and James Dunne in their line-up, neither of whom made a competitive first-team outing for the Gunners, and it was the hosts who were the most dangerous side early on, drilling an effort wide before Freeman got in behind the Arsenal defence but couldn’t find the finish to match his sharp movement.

A highly-talked about prospect when he signed from Gillingham in 2008, Freeman grew frustrated at a lack of first-team opportunities at Arsenal, as he failed to even make the Carling Cup squad. However, he thrived on loan at Stevenage before making his move permanent midway through last season and seems well settled at the Lamex Stadium.

Arsenal’s first chance was, as it would transpire, the most exciting moment of a rather turgid 90 minutes, as Boateng hit a superb diagonal ball out to the left flank, where Gnabry controlled it well before rattling the crossbar with a fierce strike. The young German, who enjoyed such a successful first campaign with the club, was far from his energetic best today as he worked his way back to fitness, but that moment was a reminder, if it was needed, of the 17 year old’s undoubted class.

Freeman was still dangerous at the other end, however, even if his team-mates weren’t quite on the same wavelength when he delivered a dangerous cross. Gnabry headed another chance over following a good cross from Jernade Meade, whilst Akpom, who struggled for service in the lone striker role, saw a cross drift out of play.

Shea had to make a couple of good saves, including one from Freeman, before the half’s denouement, with Burton then introducing five new players at the break, with Hector Bellerin, Watt, Elton Monteiro, Isaac Hayden and Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill, or ‘BOO’ as he has been referred to, all entering the fray. The latter pair were making their Reserve debuts and Ormonde-Ottewill in particular was impressive with his raids down the left flank as Meade reverted to his previous left wing role.

Ormonde-Ottewill almost teed up Akpom with a telling cross, then Shea chased down a Stevenage attacker on the edge of his area, leaving his goal exposed in the process, but thankfully an acrobatic Stevenage effort drifted wide.

Henderson saw a free-kick go wide, Akpom headed over from a corner and Neita, still without a goal since December 2010, dragged an effort wide. In the midst of all that a moment of ingenuity from Freeman almost paid off when the 20 year old’s dipping volley went just over, before another Arsenal substitute, Philip Roberts, perhaps should have done better when a chance was presented to him late on.

Stevenage briefly threatened towards the end, with a free-kick whistling past Shea’s near post, but Arsenal held on for a commendable draw, even if this game will rather quickly be forgotten, such was the lack of tempo or attacking activity.

Nonetheless, some positives can be taken from this experience, as Martin Angha and Boateng delivered composed performances at the back whilst also contributing to attacking moves. Henderson completed his first 90 minutes for a considerable time. Bellerin, meanwhile, impressed again at right-back. It was the other full-back, Ormonde-Ottewill, however, who impressed the most. The first-year scholar has just one appearance for the under-18s to his name but has already trained with the first-team and, from these early signs, looks a good prospect.

The presence of Freeman and Dunne on the other side, however, was a pertinent reminder of just how difficult it is to make the grade at Arsenal, whilst simultaneously offering hope that it is possible to prosper elsewhere.



  1. It seen as if Arsenal don’t have a target stricker in there reserve, some good players, but one to put the ball in the back of the net.

    Might want to invest in some young target stricker, so they cast them an arm and a leg in the future.

  2. Burton seems the perfect coach for the Reserve team if his team selection is anything to go by, Apkom is the future and if he can become a regular for the reserve then it will fast track his development by at least a season
    Last season we were crying for a decent LB at the U18 level but BOO never got a chance with either U18 or Reserve but Burton again seeing the talent in him and giving him a chance that’s exactly what our youngsters need
    Thumps up from me

  3. exciting players! NexGen will be brutal this year with lots of new teams and much harder to win too. Hope arsenal show the matches at least post-live.

  4. I know it’s been a LONG time since Nigel Neita scored a goal, but he might turn out to be a similar player to Kanu maybe??? Kanu didn’t score a tonne of goals, but his hold-up play was extraordinary and he did a lot for the team. I’ve only seen clips of Neita’s play, but his link and hold up play seem to be very good, and he’s young enough, that he could go on a scoring spree and learn how to score in no time. Some young players are like light switches…they just suddenly turn on and “get it” so to speak. They suddenly understand how to play.

    1. Agree. Things like that does happen but its rare. His finishing are bad. He can play football though. Chamakhs football took his team to a league trophy and Arsenal. His finishing are bad as hell. I like him for his overall play but he needs to score more goals. Ansah has got more ability and his finishing are top class. I rate him highly and think he will be one to watch out for. He is very consistent since a young age.

    2. I think neita will end up as a left winger or even drop further back. its strange how some kids score as a schoolboy then dont as they hit under 18s or reserve level whilst others who are not that prolific as a schoolboy can suddenly find goals later in their careers. i was around the same borough team as martin hayes jimmy carter and teddy sheringham. of the 3 martin hayes was by far the best goal scorer jimmy carter was the better player whilst sheringham mainly got on because of commitment and persistance rather than ability. all 3 at one point were with arsenal liverpool and millwall and you would have thought at the time that was right. liverpool were the better team and carter was there hayes was with us whilst sheringham was at millwall then forest. then as we all know it all changed hayes and carters careers fizzled out whilst sheringham went on to win many trophies and england caps. when they was all 14-21 years old you would never have predicted that

    3. Maybe he’ll come good, and not all strikers have to be goal machines, but not a single goal in 18+ months? That’s terrible, he’s a regular in one of the best youth sides in the country. I can’t say I agree about Neita’s general play either, I always watch the highlights and Neita hardly ever even appear in them. Almost every player crops up with a good moment or two but with Neita even an exciting run or good cross are rare. As I understand it he was very good at U16 level so I don’t get why he’s been so poor at U18. I don’t remember him having any injuries.

      At least it makes a mockery of the xenophobes who always love a moan about ‘average’ foreign kids being signed to take the place of brilliant English lads. We’ve never signed a foreign youngster anywhere near as poor as players as Neita or Jamie Edge have been for us.

  5. JB – i thought shea was supposed to be on trial with pne? either they werent impressed or it hasnt started yet?

    u have to think that out of shea martinez charles-cook vickers and huddart that it is shea’s arsenal.career that looks most unlikely. having said that mannone was far from impressive the other day and with fabianski in his last year who knows what might happen. its a real dilemma when you have promoted such a young keeper to the no.1 slot. as your 16-20 year olds are looki.g ahead and seeing a 21/22 year old ahead of them and thinking where do i go from here. as for the keepers already older than him they must be thinking well thats that for me here.

  6. Heard today that arsenal have applied to the fa to recommend wellington for a special talent visa. Do u know of this or is it bull?

  7. i may be saying this out of hope more than anything else but is the following statement by wenger on arsenal.com a reference to gnabry, olsson and toral?

    “On tour we have Chuks Aneke who has shown quality and of course Ryo. We also have younger players who are 16 or 17, who are not with us on tour, who will certainly appear this season. We are faithful to what we want to do whicih is to promote young players and give them a chance at that level.”

    1. well its safe to say gnabry, olsson and toral is one of them. Akpom certainly is too.. but its doesn’t really matter. Everything can change in 1 year. those who are not mentioning a lot might show some quality. Like eastmond did in the midfield. And now people are saying he is not good enough…. as long as they keep working hard and develop it doesn’t really matter at the moment.

    2. It must be, and maybe Bellerin or Akpom too. If Wenger really means it, that they’ll appear this season, and hasn’t just said it to motivate said youngsters to work hard in the hope there might some C1C game time for them, then it’s a sign that we will go back to playing a young team in the league cup. I’d be very happy with that, I don’t like seeing us play a near full strength side in the league cup and exhausting our players just so we might win a cup and say we’ve broken the drought. The naysayers won’t accept a league cup as a ‘proper’ trophy anyway so f*ck it. Give Afobe, Aneke, Ryo, Eisfeld, Bartley, Yennaris, Martinez, etc., valuable experience instead and have Gnabry, Toral, Olsson on the bench to bring on for 10 minutes.

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