U21 Premier League- Game 5
Arsenal 2 (Ryo 19, Lipman 73) Wolverhampton Wanderers 1 (Jakobsson 45)
By Jeorge Bird @ Emirates Stadium
It must have been rather difficult for Ryo Miyaichi in recent weeks, watching on from the sidelines as, particularly against Swansea City, Serge Gnabry grabbed the headlines. The Japanese youngster has not had the easiest of rides in his career so far, but tonight, operating as an auxiliary striker for the most part, he finally seemed to have rediscovered some of the confidence to make driving runs that made him such an exciting prospect in the first place.
A goal and an assist for Austin Lipman, who is certainly not short of confidence himself at this moment in time, was the result of Ryo’s performance, and the 20 year old did plenty else besides, embarking on some good runs down the left flank following Lipman’s introduction and also tracking back defensively when required.
On a more general note, Arsenal U21’s rich vein of pre-season form shows little sign of abating. This was Steve Gatting’s side’s fifth game of the campaign and they are yet to lose, having won three of those fixtures. They did not have it all their way at Emirates Stadium this evening, however, with Wolves threatening Damian Martinez’s goal on several occasions, even after they equalised on the stroke of half-time through Tim Jakobbson.
As against Marseille in the UEFA Youth League, however, Lipman was hugely influential following his introduction as a substitute, and, given the rich vein of form in which he finds himself at the moment, it was rather surprising that the former England U17 international didn’t start, especially with Chuba Akpom absent.
Arsenal’s victory was rendered all the more impressive given that, in addition to Akpom, Gatting was without a whole host of players due to injury, international call-ups and suspensions. Isaac Hayden, Kristoffer Olsson and Jack Jebb were amongst the most notable absentees, leaving Arsenal’s starting line-up shorn of much creativity in midfield.
subs: Lipman (for Jeffrey, 66), Iwobi (for Yennaris, 66). Not used: Iliev, Boateng, Smith.
Nico Yennaris, however, made a welcome return, whilst Hector Bellerin and Thomas Eisfeld were also restored to the starting line-up. It was Wolves, however, who would start the brightest, with Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill forced into making a good intervention early on, before the visitors succeeded in putting the ball in the back of the Arsenal net, only for it to be ruled out for offside.
Arsenal, meanwhile, were seeing much of the ball, but, for the opening quarter of an hour, struggled to carve out a goalscoring opportunity of note. They eventually did so when Ainsley Maitland-Niles found fellow winger Anthony Jeffrey, but the latter couldn’t direct his effort on target.
A mis-kick from Wolves goalkeeper Jon Flatt then resulted in a corner, and Arsenal took full advantage, with the set-piece eventually being worked into the path of Ryo, who demonstrated all the knowledge of an experienced striker by finishing adroitly under pressure.
Jeffrey was a regular threat to the Wolves goal with his searing pace, but Wolves could never be discounted, with the visitors coming close via a header from Michael Ihiekwe. Arsenal continued to dominate possession, however, and seemed certain to head into the break with their lead intact, but then disaster struck, with Jakobbson reacting quickest to head home a dangerous cross beyond the reach of Martinez.
Arsenal were evidently frustrated at their concession on the brink of half-time, but it could be argued that Wolves deserved their equaliser, and the Gunners had the unfamiliar central-defensive pairing of Semi Ajayi and Stefan O’Connor to thank for restricting the opposition early in the second-half.
David Edwards, who, at 27, was the most experienced player on the field, fired over, before Ryo did well to work space for himself to shoot, only for his effort to miss the target. Bellerin, meanwhile, was a constant threat with his crosses, but, in truth, until the introduction of Lipman as part of a double substitution with Alex Iwobi, Arsenal lacked fluency in their play.
Lipman’s arrival changed that, but not before Jakobsson tried his luck again with a free-kick that Martinez did well to hold. Arsene Wenger was amongst over 2000 spectators inside the stadium tonight, and the Frenchman will have been mightily pleased with the goal that restored Arsenal’s lead on 73 minutes.
Ryo did superbly to find Lipman in space and the in-form forward dispatched an emphatic effort into the back of the Wolves net to make it 2-1.
From then on, Arsenal sensed they had won the game and pushed forward in search of further goals, with Glen Kamara finding Ryo, whose shot was wayward, before Eisfeld also miscued horribly when well placed.
Lipman then saw a shot saved after another run from Bellerin, before Eisfeld, with a much more accurate effort, shot just over the crossbar.
For all Arsenal’s dominance, however, Wolves would not give up without a fight and threatened to score a late leveller, with Martinez almost being caught out by a dangerous in-swinging free-kick.
Arsenal held on, though, and with their next league fixture not scheduled for another three weeks, they will have plenty of time to reflect on their impressive start to the campaign.