U21 Premier League- Game 15
Tottenham Hotspur 2 (Coulibaly 28 (pen), Winks (84) Arsenal 0
By Jeorge Bird @ White Hart Lane
After the euphoria of Monday’s impressive win over West Ham United, Arsenal U21s were sent crashing back down to earth tonight as they were beaten 2-0 by a Tottenham Hotspur side who were utterly dominant following the first-half sending off of Isaac Hayden.
Hayden was dismissed after allegedly bringing down the dangerous Ruben Lameiras in the penalty area, and, after Souleymane Coulibaly dispatched the spot-kick, there was no way back for the young Gunners, with Tottenham, after a succession of chances, eventually adding a second late on through the effective Harry Winks.
This result all but ends any distant hopes Arsenal possessed of winning the U21 Premier League title this season. They did start relatively well, with Gedion Zelalem seeing much of the ball and Thomas Eisfeld looking dangerous early on, but the red card sapped them of both their momentum and creativity.
This was still a memorable experience for the youngsters, however, as they played at another Premier League stadium and were cheered on by a sizeable contingent of Arsenal fans.
Coach Steve Gatting was forced to make several changes from the West Ham game, with Chuba Akpom and Kristoffer Olsson missing through injury and illness respectively. Austin Lipman and Glen Kamara came into the side, whilst Matt Macey replaced Deyan Iliev in goal.
subs: Ansah (for Lipman, 62), Jebb (for Iwobi, 80). Not used: Huddart, Mugabo, Smith.
Arsenal started well, with Eisfeld, who has been in impressive form of late, seeing a shot saved, before Lipman put the ball in the back of the net but only after the flag had been correctly raised for offside.
Tottenham gradually began to assert themselves, with Macey having to collect a dangerous cross, but Arsenal continued to threaten, particularly through Eisfeld, whose weak effort was deflected into the grasp of Jordan Archer.
From that point onwards Tottenham upped the ante considerably, with Arsenal’s defence struggling to cope. Macey did well to save a header from point blank range, before centre-backs Semi Ajayi and Hayden made impressive clearances in quick succession.
Hayden’s next act, however, would see him sent from the field and, ultimately, decide the course of the game. Having struggled to keep up with Lameiras, Hayden was deemed to have brought down the Tottenham player in the area, and, despite his lengthy protestations, he was sent off.
Coulibaly, evidently full of confidence, never looked as if he was going to miss the resultant spot-kick, and he dispatched the ball past Macey emphatically.
Arsenal were all at sea defensively for the remainder of the first-half, with Hayden’s dismissal prompting a tactical re-shuffle that saw Kamara move to right-back, with Leander Siemann slotting in alongside Ajayi at centre-back.
Tottenham struck a post, with left-back Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill then doing well to clear the danger after yet another chance was created by the home side. Arsenal, in contrast, lacked any attacking momentum whatsoever, with their primary tactic seemingly being to send long balls in the general direction of Lipman, who was without any sort of support up front.
Marshalled by the £8.5 million summer signing Vlad Chiriches, who was making his return to action, Tottenham’s defence proved too difficult for Arsenal to breach, with Eisfeld, Alex Iwobi and Jon Toral, so impressive against West Ham, all struggling to make much of an impact.
After the interval Tottenham continued from where they had left off, carving out chances with considerable ease. A shot struck the side-netting, then, after Zelalem carelessly gave the ball away, Macey had to push Coulibaly’s shot away at short notice.
Arsenal brought on Zak Ansah for Lipman and the striker had something of an impact, forcing Archer into a good save, but that was a rare attack in a half that was almost entirely dominated by Tottenham.
Macey was then nearly caught out by a shot from Winks, who was fast becoming the game’s most influential figure. The 18 year old shot over and then, with six minutes remaining, he eventually received his reward when he beat Macey with a well-executed effort.
Tottenham rattled the woodwork late on for good measure, but they had already inflicted enough damage upon Arsenal’s wounded youngsters.
Similarly to the defeat to the same opponents at Underhill last year, there were very few positives to take from this encounter from an Arsenal perspective, although the absences of Olsson and Akpom were perhaps contributing factors to the serious dearth of attacking ingenuity.
Macey, despite conceding twice, made some good interventions, whilst Kamara, although he was forced to play out of position for much of the game, was persistent in his attempts to shackle the Tottenham attack. This will ultimately go down as a disappointment for Arsenal, but there is an instant chance to respond when they travel to face Bolton Wanderers on Monday.
On a side note, the Arsenal fans who attended provided fantastic support, whilst it was also good to see the likes of Serge Gnabry, Hector Bellerin and Akpom sitting amongst the crowd. The latter should only be out for around a week through injury, and he will be hopeful of being ready for Arsenal’s FA Youth Cup double-header against Chelsea.