Improvements needed but new-look U21s should be given time

A new day brings a new opportunity and today, as they assemble at the airport before departing for a tournament in Germany, Arsenal’s youngsters will be hoping to move on as quickly as possible from yesterday’s deeply disappointing 3-0 loss to Boreham Wood.

Arsenal struggled to play their favoured possession football until the latter stages of the game and, even then, failed to find a way through the home side’s resolute defence, having earlier been punished by some ruthless finishing from the Conference South team.

Much of the panache and dynamism that accompanied the first-half of last week’s 4-3 victory over Sutton United was painfully absent at Meadow Park, with the midfield struggling to provide the necessary protection to an inexperienced defensive line. Much has changed in the U21 set-up since the final league game of last season against Liverpool, with a whole host of players having departed on a permanent basis during the summer, whilst eight of the club’s best talents at this level are currently in Asia with the first-team squad, not to mention the absences of Hector Bellerin, Benik Afobe and Jon Toral amongst several others.

The side that was selected yesterday should, however, have performed to a much higher level, with wingers Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Anthony Jeffrey struggling to get into the game, whilst Austin Lipman received very little service up front. The second-half saw a marginal improvement, with Wellington unafraid to take opponents on with his brazen trickery, whilst Nico Yennaris, despite his obvious and expected rustiness, helped to organise the midfield into a more cohesive unit.

The remaining friendlies against Leyton Orient and Luton Town will provide an even more difficult test for the youngsters than the one they faced yesterday, but it is hoped that, by the time the new U21 season commences next month, they will be full of confidence and more gelled as a team.

Already during this pre-season programme several of the new first-year scholars have gained some valuable experience of second-string football, with young defenders Tafari Moore, Stefan O’Connor and Elliot Wright all receiving run-outs, whilst Maitland-Niles and new recruit Jamaal Raage have also featured in both fixtures so far. It is another of the new scholars, however, who has caught the eye the most, with Dan Crowley continuing to impress yesterday with his sublime dribbling. The 15 year old did play a couple of over-ambitious passes that were easily cut out, but, during his hour on the pitch, was undoubtedly Arsenal’s stand-out player as he helped to provide the Gunners’ only real driving force.

Questions have also been raised regarding whether Steve Gatting is a competent coach at this level, but it seems unlikely that the 54 year old will lose his job on the eve of the new campaign, and it is instead expected that he will remain in charge for the whole season. It has been a big step up for the former Arsenal player from coaching the U16s, a position he held for many years, to be propelled into the U21 set-up, but there are several problems that need to be addressed before the campaign gets underway in terms of overall team shape and play.

It is worth remembering, however, that the majority of the players on show for Arsenal yesterday have only fleeting experience of U21 football and many of them will still be eligible for the U18s next season. The manner of the defeat and the overall performance was incredibly frustrating, but the youngsters should be provided with further opportunities to prove their worth before sweeping statements can be made.




  1. Bad day at the office yesterday not helped by the team selection Yennaris should have started…. I dont read to much into these games even when we win. All these kids are learning to play football youth footy imo is about getting 1 or 2 players promoted to the first team. Thats the long term goal.

    I rather a youth team that produces 1 or 2 excellent players like Bellerin, Gnarby and win any nothing to a team of good player were none make it to the very top.

    Lastly its only the handful like Fabergas, Giggs etc who are amazing at 16/17 most should only start fulfilling there potential in there early twenties it seems to me this pressure to be world class so young is not relistic at all and fans need to be patient.

    PS I think the midfield players are huge in numbers and not much time is invested in the defence minded players. We have loads of talent coming through in attacking midfielders this is just one position and I understand its important but our scouts need to recognise the other areas strikers, full backs, centre halves etc.

  2. While you have to allow for the absence of 10 certain starters, I agree in a sense, but not because Gatting is incompetent. Imagine how inspiring it would be for the young players to have Bergkamp in the dressing room

  3. Being Arsenal legend do not automatically mean to be an excellent coach. Bergkamp has potential to be a good manager but he has a career with Ajax at the moment.

  4. arsenal legend or not the job should go to the best person that can do the job.

    Adams is a legend but so far has failed as manager, same as Merson. kids don’t need some one living off their past glory days, using ancient coaching methods etc. these days it’s the progressive innovative coaches that do the best.

    1. Dennis fucking Bergkamp is assistant manager at Ajax and is tipped to replace Frank De Boer when/should he depart. Why the fuck would he take a step down and come coach an U21 team? Use your fucking head!

      1. “Common Sense’ ….U fucking dont have any sense ……
        He is a legend here. If given an opportunity to coach a team, where u have a legendary status as well as u love and support that team , u would definately consider that option.
        And who knows if Wenger retires , he as well might get a chance to replace him.
        Coz its not mandatory that u21 coach cannot become a first team coach.
        Something to think about

      2. it doesn’t matter if he enjoys legend status or not. Perhaps if Wenger was to take him on as an assistant to himself then yeah maybe he could replace him, but that possibility merely proves my point. If he’s good enough to be an assistant now at one of the best clubs in Europe, then presumably he’s good enough to be an assistant at Arsenal, so again, why would he want to coach the U21s? right now he’s experiences champions league football. You think he’d want to drop down to the NextGen Series or the UEFA Youth League? No, its not something to think about, whats better training for him in view of a future managers role? An assistant at a top club or coaching 18/19 year olds? FFS! You can’t just disregard people’s personal ambitions just because you have a soft spot for them. Former players are more than just “legends” they’re people with aspirations and ideas on how they want the next stage of their careers to go. I’m just asking for people to think before they post their stupid drivel!

  5. agree with john, we dont seem to bring up many defensive minded players, yes we have brought through good full backs but other than that i cant remember the last time a defender has come through the ranks , even with our defensive minded midfielders there has been coquelin (who for me isnt the best defensively) and frimpong that i can think of with frimpong at youth level really being someone who was physically dominant rather anything else, it also seems that alot of the youngsters that we’ve had high hopes for at youth/reserve level that have failed to impress have simply been physically more dominant than other players yet technically not good enough to even get a chance for the first team which i just dont understand =/

  6. The result looks de-moralising. Is the u-21 like the 2nd or third tier team of the club? And Borehamwood is a club from the conference, whom we have regularly beaten in the past.

    1. Not demoralizing at all. This in the main is a team of 15-18 year olds with just 3 players over 18. Evwryone needs to get a grip. As for gatting I don’t see the issue sure as a player he wasn’t a legend but then neither was wenger. I achieved my coaching badges alongside david oleary steve gritt and alan curbishley. 3 players of varying success and 3 managers of varying success. Its not about what u once knew its about what u do how much u want it and the sacrifices u are prepared to make. The non-flying dutchman will struggle to be a top manager hell what would he do drive to indonesia??

  7. Gatting is a bob a job from Brady. Hes a poor appointment bailed out by the individual ability of quality players. If you ask any of the players hes coached hes rigid boring and uninspiring. His background as a PE teacher is telling. He probably wakes up and thinks hes won the lottery. His record in team management and player developement is poor. The elite players will prosper whatever he does its the avaerage / above average players Usual arsenal cutting corners and paying peanuts and getting monkeys.

    1. He comes from a background which results are pointless. At U21 the result actually means something for the team. A lost means something have been done wrong, its not only a pointless lost where development means we are doing something right. Someone or a few players have done a mistakes in the team, meaning we lost the game. If the other team actually was better than us then thats also something wrong with our team if we are being outplayed or evenly match by a few teams. We have to be the best.

    2. Absolute crap. Gattings background is not a pe teacher. He was a professional footballer for most of his career then taught kids and has done for many years many of those in youth football. I am afraid u are simply looking for people to blame. Gattings teams have produced many players in the past it is at under 18 & under 21 where the kids have faultered. Sure stepping up to under 21 is different but that was not bradys decision.

    3. “His background as a PE teacher is telling”

      I wish I could frame priceless comments like this. You know Mourinho started off as a PE teacher, right?

  8. Atid – “He spent seven years coaching at Christ’s Hospital school”. (wiki) its free
    This was a private school not noted for producing Premiership players. When he finished football he coached to pay bills. His mate Brady then got him a job at Arsenal a job, he didnt have to apply for or interview for. . Im afraid your a dumb cunt who is backing a school teacher with no apparent skills to coach elite youth players. Average coaches produces average players……….

    1. Are you complete stupid or what? Do you know why he never had to apply? Because he was a professional football player ffs! If our U16 would have done complete shit then you would have a point. At the moment he hasn’t even got 1 full season behind him. Back then he might have been one of the best we could get. At the moment we have to wait and see. Give him at least 2-3 season if the seasons isn’t a disaster. Wenger failed to be a really good professional, Mourinho too but they produce top class teams. There are many examples of coaches like them.

      If they can do that in the highest level why can’t a nobody who has experience of the highest level develop young players? Its not simply about the experience.

  9. Wrenny – its not the job its the character – Gatting has never had to put his team to the test in a professional environment. There are many first class coaches in football Gatting is sadly not one of them. Can you deny how he got the job at Arsenal ? No
    Atid – where are you, you ignorant dickhead

    1. If it’s not the job, then why did you bring it up? You said it was “telling”, now you’re saying it’s not.

      I don’t care about the argument. I’m just enjoying the foamy-mouthed rants on here over our kids losing a pre-season friendly to grown men. It never ceases to surprise me how hard people will try to find something to moan about, but it’s always funny. Nobody’s going to even remember this game in a few weeks’ time, but right now it’s like the end of the world! Amazing lack of perspective, but it keeps me amused.

  10. Squad for Germany?

    Iliev, Vickers, Huddart, Siemann, Jeffrey, Jebb, Lipman, Dallison, Iwobi, Kamara, Uade, Hayden, Fagan, Crowley, Maitland-Niles, Moore, O’Connor, Pleguezuelo, Raage, Smith, Wright

    Maybe Dawkins and Mugabo if they are back from injury? Hinds?

  11. Jeorge, do you think any players from the Reserves will be promoted to the first team squad after pre-season? Maybe Olsson, Miquel, Gnabry, Martinez, Akpom as their shirt numbers have been changed?

  12. When Terry Burton was in charge of the Arsenal U-21 side you could see the Arsenal way of play in most of the teams matches but Gatting,right from when he was U-16 coach his teams always struggle……i do not wanna sound like a broken record but we need a Legend to inspirationally take this kids to the next level.

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