Willock debuts whilst Olsson and Akpom impress as Arsenal beat Boreham Wood


Boreham Wood 0 Arsenal 2 (Olsson 68, Afobe 86 (pen)

By Jeorge Bird @ Meadow Park

Second-half goals from Kristoffer Olsson and Benik Afobe ensured that the Arsenal first-team started their pre-season preparations with a victory away to Boreham Wood on a sweltering afternoon in Hertfordshire.

There were a smattering of first-team players on show, but, with an entirely different line-up named in each half, there were also plenty of opportunities for youngsters to impress. Semi Ajayi, Jon Toral and Julio Pleguezuelo all made their senior debuts during the course of the afternoon, but the most notable inclusion was that of 16 year old Chris Willock, the hugely-promising attacking midfielder who recently committed his future to the club amidst interest from Manchester United.

Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images Europe

Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images Europe

Wojciech Szczesny, Carl Jenkinson, Aaron Ramsey, Nacho Monreal and Yaya Sanogo were amongst those who started the game.

Szczesny

Jenkinson-Ajayi-Hayden-Monreal

Coquelin

Toral-Zelalem-Ramsey-Willock

Sanogo

Arsenal began brightly, but struggled to make the most of the few opportunities they created in the first-half. Sanogo squandered a presentable chance, with Ramsey and Toral also coming close to scoring as the half progressed.

Szczesny was a mere spectator in the Arsenal goal, barely being called upon for much of the 45 minutes, but Arsenal’s defence still had to be alert at times, with Isaac Hayden making some impressive interceptions. Monreal was also impressive at left-back, and the experienced Spaniard helped to guide Willock through the game by constantly providing him with instructions.

Willock did not see too much of the ball during his time on the field, but he used possession wisely when called upon and didn’t look out of place in a first-team environment. Francis Coquelin, back from a fitful loan spell at Freiburg, looked as if he had never been away, with the Frenchman snapping into crunching challenges with regularity.

Toral was heavily involved in most of Arsenal’s passing moves, but does perhaps need to pass the ball quicker at times, whilst Ramsey was far from full sharpness but still provided occasional glimpses of his quality.

As expected, Wenger changed his whole team at the break, with Kieran Gibbs, Mathieu Flamini, Abou Diaby and Tomas Rosicky all receiving their first run-outs of pre-season.

Martinez

Bellerin-Pleguezuelo-Miquel-Gibbs

Flamini

Olsson-Rosicky-Diaby-Akpom

Afobe

With Boreham Wood refraining from making wholesale changes, Arsenal seemed the fresher side in the early stages of the second period. Olsson and Rosicky, two players who are very similar in playing style, saw a lot of the ball, whilst the ex-Barcelona trio of Hector Bellerin, Pleguezuelo and Ignasi Miquel were all impressive at the back.

Diaby also seemed composed and, for once, free of injury troubles, with the Frenchman coming close to breaking the deadlock before Arsenal finally found the net in the 68th minute.

Olsson had been impressive all half, playing plenty of intelligent passes, but it was Rosicky who was the provider on this occasion, with the Czech Republic midfielder spotting Olsson in space. The 19 year old, who made his competitive debut for the first-team last season, finished adroitly, but Arsenal were still searching for more goals.

Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images Europe

Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images Europe

Along with Olsson, Chuba Akpom caught the eye with some superb runs down the left flank. The England U19 international almost scored himself before another effort caused confusion in the penalty area which led to a spot-kick being awarded. Afobe stepped up to take it and converted to seal the victory.

Boreham Wood should be commended for making the game much more difficult for Arsenal than many would have anticipated, but the Gunners’ vibrancy shone through in the end. There will be more exacting workouts to come in the next few weeks, against New York Red Bulls, Benfica and Monaco, but this was still a useful challenge, and for Willock in particular, a very memorable one.

12 comments

  1. Have to say from the first half I was really impressed by coquelin. In the 2nd half bellerin olsson akpom and afobe impressed the most.

    To be fair it was hard for the defenders to impress at all, which is why bellerin was the best defender as his attacking play will surely mean that manquillo is not required or jenkinson will go on loan?

  2. I honestly dont understand the Manquillo links since we have Bellerin and even Moore coming through, and he doesnt even seem that exceptional a player!

  3. Chuba is that special player for sure..I don’t know how he does it but you can see he gets better with every game…it’s insane😀

    Manquillo is maybe better, but surely not more prepared for the Premier League than Bellerin, so I think the latter should be promoted. I have lost hope in Jenkinson and feel he should be going on loan to a PL side if possible. Olsson was very positive and you simply must notice his “Ljungberg-esque” commitment.

    1. Thing is with Jenks, I am not sure he is as good as bellerin or coquelin or even Moore. I love him for being a gooner, but is that enough.

      The fact he now takes a place in the 25 puts him on a level with wilshire, which he is surely not at. It also puts him with campbell, martinez, miquel and ryo. If u had to choose 1 of those it has to be campbell, then you have to look at can any of the u21s in the same position offer more, well bellerin certainly can. Sorry Jenks, luv ya but u need to grab a loan or reinvent yourself as a centre back.

    2. I’m pretty sure Manquillo plays at left back. Regardless of his position I don’t think Arsenal would be looking to add any more RBs to the team following the acquisition of Debuchy and as we already have two young and fairly settled full backs in Jenkinson and Bellerin.

  4. First FRIENDLY of the season and people are already on Jenkinson’s case. They shouldn’t be on ANYONE’S case, really besides maybe Wilshere’s haha. Do any of you not remember the form Jenkinson displayed when he played regularly in 2013??? Shame on you!!!

    1. Completely agree. The last time Jenkinson got a regular run of games, when Bac was injured at the start of the 12/13 season, he got a call up to the England team. Since then he hasn’t got the same regular run of games. The quality is there he just needs his chance.

    2. I agree too. While Bellerin only has played U21 games the whole season and some friendlies against really poor teams, Jenkinson has played against some top level teams and players. Remember how good Zelalem looked in preseason and then in U21? This was like beach football for most players. They also played in a good team vs a poorer team. Once players like Zelalem play with worse players than top level like in last preseason people start saying Zelalem needs good players around him to look good himself…. that just stupid.

      Bellerin isn’t even in the spain U21 yet. People expect him to be the backup for Arsenal? Just insane.

      1. How is that stupid? you know a lot of talented youngsters have found it easier for the first team than in dross youth football. Its just harder for the ones that cant hack the pace

      2. @Gooner yeah but you are suppose to shine more than just 5-6 games if you are that good. i said even in the preseason when many people said Zelalem was world class that he actually struggle despite doing 2-3 good passes in a game. Then came the U21 and he struggled a whole lot and looked nothing more special than toral or olsson. I think especially Toral showed he is even more special. I hope he play more this season. Olsson has also looked like one of the best in many U21 games. Just because Zelalem did 2-3 good final passes people think he is the next Fabregas.

  5. Not on his case and never will be on any players case. Just offering my opinion as a professional football coach.

    I earned my badges through hardwork and determination, that gives me a right to an opinion about players levels and capabilities. I wouldn’t mind betting with anyone that bellerin and Moore go further in their careers than Jenkinson. But listen I love Jenks and really hope he can lift his game and be our right back for a while when debuchy calls it a day. All I am saying is I still think he could reinvent himself as a centre back, saving arsenal quite a few quid in the process and let bellerin into the squad eventually.
    Sagna done it so too can Jenks.

    1. Would think Jenkinson is going to be best at full back, as his speed and crossing show up more usefully there.

      He could become a Kos type of marking centre back……but if he had even half of that level of positioning, then that would put him at elite full back level in the premiership, as it would already be as much as Glen Johnson has! So I think full back is the easiest route for him to become a starter in the premiership.

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