Gatting seeking to repair the damage after Luton horror show

Every few years the Arsenal second-string tend to suffer a heavy defeat that raises severe questions regarding the club’s youth development programme. There was the 6-0 humbling against Reading Reserves in 2006, the infamous 10-1 mauling by Aston Villa five years later and, on Saturday, the still scarcely believable 7-0 loss to Luton Town of the Skrill Premier.

Firstly it must be said that Luton were excellent value for their victory and took full advantage of the deep flaws in Arsenal’s performance. From an Arsenal perspective, however, there is much to be concerned about.

It was, admittedly, just a pre-season friendly and performances and results in such fixtures can often be misleading, but the ineptitude of the overall display from the young Gunners was such that you cannot help but raise serious questions about how such a debacle was allowed to happen.

A team containing the relative merits of Hector Bellerin, Thomas Eisfeld, Nico Yennaris, Isaac Hayden, Kristoffer Olsson and Wellington, should, in theory, at least be capable of providing a threat to the opposition goal, something which was virtually non-existent throughout, as well as providing a stable defensive shield to prevent frequent attacks.

The lack of cohesion in the side was certainly not helped by some of the decisions made by Steve Gatting, the coach. Several players were deployed in irregular positions, and were subsequently out of their comfort zones, with Tafari Moore, nominally a right-back, operating in the opposite full-back berth, Alex Iwobi, who is far better equipped on either flank or as an attacking midfielder, being named up front, and, most bizarrely of all, Hayden being chosen to operate as a playmaker, at least for the first 45 minutes. All of those decisions, along with the aforementioned cataclysmic decision to deploy two vastly inexperienced and unfamiliar centre-backs in Julio Pleguezuelo and Ramy Bensebaini, contributed greatly to Arsenal’s downfall.

The idea of Hayden operating as an attacking-midfielder is not a new one, but only seems to have come to fruition since Gatting took charge. The 18 year old, who is one of the club’s best prospects as a tough-tackling centre-back or defensive-midfielder, has played as a number ten on a few occasions in the past twelve months, but the role certainly does not allow him to express his best attributes.

The fact that Gatting could instead have called upon the talented Dan Crowley, who only played the last 14 minutes, or Jack Jebb, who wasn’t involved at all, made the situation all the more baffling, and, whilst Arsenal were admittedly without some of their better talents in Damian Martinez, Gedion Zelalem, Chuba Akpom, Ignasi Miquel, Serge Gnabry and Benik Afobe, a 7-0 defeat in any circumstances cannot be deemed acceptable.

This pre-season as a whole has been a rather topsy-turvy ride for Gatting and his side. The 4-3 win over Sutton United emphasised Arsenal’s attacking qualities but also their defensive fallacies, which were ruthlessly pounced upon by Boreham Wood in a 3-0 defeat a week later. Then came the heroic fightback to draw 4-4 against Leyton Orient before Saturday’s inglorious failure, which, added together, culminates in a grand total of 17 goals conceded in four fixtures, which suggests that all is not well in a defensive sense, even if the central-defensive partnerships have been constantly rotated.

It is hoped that when the new U21 Premier League season gets underway against Stoke City in 13 days time Arsenal will feel more comfortable playing against teams composed of players of a similar age, having been taught some important lessons by more experienced professionals during the summer.

The game against Luton cannot be brushed over in a hurry, even if the result attracted considerably less attention than it may of done owing to the Emirates Cup, and much better will be expected in future fixtures.

A long-term decision over Gatting’s future, meanwhile, may have to wait until a permanent successor to Liam Brady as Arsenal’s head of youth development is appointed, which may take some time yet.




  1. Hayden is being played in an advanced midfield role on Wenger’s instructions to help improve his overall midfield game.

    Jeorge have you any info on the mirror story that Yennarris and Miquel are set to join leicster on loan for the season

    also reports that Daniel Boateng has had his contract terminated – did he break some clubs rules etc or has he just come to an agreement with the club to cancel his contract

    1. This thing with boateng where did u read it? Only arsenal show that he played on saturday. Surely we won’t let miquel and yennaris leave there is going to be no one left at this rate. When I said there would be 20-25 departures I thought many would be on loan so far its 26 with loanees. That doesn’t include galindo wellington park bendtner boateng yennaris or miquel. Seems I was being far too conservative it could be nearer to 35 by sept 1st.

      I get the feeling wenger is planning a massive suprise.

  2. what do you guys think of bensebaini and Julio Pleguezuelo? Even though they didnt perform in this match in terms of talent would they still be there this season? especially bensebiani who is on trial?

  3. bensebaini actually comes from the Jean marc juillou academy that produced the ivorian players yaya and kolo touré, eboué and others

  4. Not sure what to make of the Steve Gatting situation?!
    I was under the impression, that he did a solid job with the U16’s…
    Now all of a sudden it’s as if he hasn’t got a clue.
    Or is he, as someone on here has suggested, just been following orders viz a viz team selection???
    Jeorge, what do you think?

  5. As long as they won’t leak this much in the league I am fine. U21 league will be different I think. I don’t like that we focus too much on attacks. No tactical awareness. Its all about making those fancy possessions and when we lose the ball its chaos.

  6. what is the point of the academy 1 in a 1000 comes thru and Wenger is only interested in the imports from France Germany or USA / players hes spent money on Ox, Walnut Jenkinson. If your from Hale End you f….d plus now even some of the imports who arrive at 16 /17 are jumping ship at the lack of opportunity, Angha Monteiro Ozyguak – this academy is a totoal waste of time / money

    1. @ feargal

      The academy is far from a waste of money. It is in fact one of the only self sustaining facets of the club. Let’s not forget that our academy amd training ground were built on the funds secured for just one player – anelka. When a youngster leaves the academy and signs elsewhere a development fee is paid by the new club if the player is under 23. This is whythe club is now releasing so many 20/21 year olds.

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