Leyton Orient v Arsenal XI
Tuesday July 30th- Kick off: 7.30pm
The new U21 League campaign gets underway, against Manchester United no less, in just over two week’s time, so Arsenal U21s will be seeking to demonstrate that they are approaching full fitness when they face League One side Leyton Orient in their penultimate pre-season friendly tomorrow night.
Steve Gatting’s side will travel to the Matchroom Stadium off the back of a mixed pre-season thus far in terms of results. Poor defending was masked by some ruthless finishing in a 4-3 victory over Sutton United, before the young Gunners slipped to a deeply disappointing 3-0 defeat to Boreham Wood a week later. Since then, the vast majority of this squad have travelled to Germany and back, where again they found positive results difficult to come by during the RUHR Cup.
It is usually at around this point during the summer that the second-string squad begins to disintegrate, with players heading out on loan and others, hopefully, being promoted to the senior set-up. At present, however, the make-up of the current U21 side is very young, containing mostly first and second year scholars along with a handful of more experienced players such as Nico Yennaris, Wellington, Daniel Boateng and Isaac Hayden. None of the players who travelled to Asia with the first-team are expected to be involved against Orient, with the squad likely to be rather similar to the one that faced Sutton and Boreham Wood earlier this month.
Orient will certainly provide Arsenal’s biggest test yet of pre-season, given that they finished seventh in England’s third tier last season, and can call upon former Charlton Athletic striker Kevin Lisbie, who, at the age of 34, is finally beginning to find the net with some regularity.
As far as Arsenal are concerned, Yennaris should be fit enough to make his first start of pre-season, which could see Isaac Hayden drop back into defence, whilst Wellington will again future with his immediate future no closer to being resolved. The Brazilian winger has demonstrated glimpses of his potential during the two friendlies so far, but the fact that he was not taken on the Asia Tour provides an indication of just how far away he is from the first-team squad at present.
As ever, there are a plethora of absentees, with Hector Bellerin still at the U19 European Championships, whilst Benik Afobe, Zak Ansah, Jon Toral, Alfred Mugabo, Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill and Tarum Dawkins are all injured.
Following this fixture, Arsenal will travel to Kenilworth Road to take on Luton Town on Saturday in their final friendly before the new campaign gets underway. The clock is certainly ticking in that regard, and Gatting will be hoping to witness a considerable improvement from his players in the interim.