Substitute Iwobi impresses as Arsenal U21s draw with Boreham Wood

Pre-season friendly 

Boreham Wood 2 (Angol (6), Garrard (45) Arsenal 2 (Crowley (12), Toral (74)

By Jeorge Bird @ Meadow Park


Moore-Ajayi-O’Connor-Ormonde Ottewill


Maitland Niles-Crowley-Willock


subs: Iwobi (for Lipman, 55), Iliev (for Vickers, 61), Wright (for O’Connor, 74), Jebb (for Willock, 78). Not used: Kamara, Smith.

Arsenal U21s showed great determination to twice come from behind and secure a 2-2 draw against Boreham Wood this evening as their preparations for the new campaign stepped up a gear.

Under the watchful eye of new Academy Manager Andries Jonker, this was the young Gunners’ toughest test of pre-season to date and they fell behind early on following an expertly-struck free-kick from Lee Angol. Dan Crowley, once again, was Arsenal’s creator-in-chief, and the youngster demonstrated that he can finish as well as pass when he equalised shortly afterwards.

Boreham Wood restored their lead from the penalty spot on the stroke of half-time, with Arsenal, who also hit the crossbar through lively substitute Alex Iwobi, eventually restoring parity through Jon Toral.

Benik Afobe, despite being named in the initial squad for this fixture, was left out, indicating that he is either injured or on the verge of leaving the club. Josh Vickers started in goal ahead of Deyan Iliev, whilst Stefan O’Connor replaced the injured Julio Pleguezuelo.

Boreham Wood, who made life difficult for the Arsenal first-team squad that visited this ground just under two weeks ago, started in the ascendancy here. Left-winger Graeme Montgomery almost got on the end of a teasing cross. Moments later Toral was outmuscled in midfield and Kristoffer Olsson then conceded a free-kick that was sent beyond the reach of Vickers by Angol.

The damage was nearly two-fold for Arsenal, with Montgomery seizing upon a weak header by Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill and Angol subsequently lashing a shot wide.

Arsenal quickly set about putting things right and they did so very quickly indeed. Olsson, who suggested in a recent interview that he is desperate to play first-team football this season, demonstrated a glimpse of his quality as he accelerated forwards before finding Crowley, who comfortably dispatched his fourth goal of pre-season.

Crowley almost doubled his tally for the evening very soon afterwards, but on this occasion the England U17 international’s effort was repelled by Boreham Wood goalkeeper James Russell.

At the other end Vickers then had to be alert to keep out an attempt from Charlie Walker, with Montgomery then sending an ambitious effort over as the hosts piled on the pressure.

Crowley was Arsenal’s main source of inspiration in these difficult times and the midfielder was evidently looking to shoot at every possible opportunity, sending an effort wide following a neat passing move.

Toral and Maitland-Niles then squandered opportunities before Boreham Wood restored their lead on the stroke of half-time after a penalty was awarded for handball on the line. Luke Garrard confidently dispatched the spot-kick past Vickers to send Arsenal into the break disappointed.

If Crowley was Arsenal’s main threat, then Angol fulfilled that role for Boreham Wood, with the 19 year old sending an angled shot just wide of the far post.

Chris Willock, making another start at this level, then exchanged passes with Crowley before shooting over. With Iwobi replacing the hard-working Austin Lipman, Ainsley Maitland-Niles was deployed up front for the last 35 minutes.

Iwobi made quite an impact following his introduction, with the winger working space for himself before rattling the crossbar with a fierce strike having been found by Crowley.

Iwobi then won a corner following yet more impressive work from Crowley, with Arsenal creating numerous chances as they seized the initiative in the second period. Crowley came close to scoring with a header after good work from Willock, then, with 16 minutes remaining, Arsenal finally received their reward, with Toral finishing from close range following a neat cross from Ormonde-Ottewill.

Iwobi and Moore had chances to win it for Arsenal, with the Gunners’ substitute goalkeeper Deyan Iliev then having to make an intervention to prevent a goal at the other end.

This was a challenging workout for Arsenal, and, in the end, one with they came through very well. There were some commendable performances, notably from Olsson, Crowley, Willock and Ormonde-Ottewill, whilst Iwobi’s cameo demonstrated the strength in depth that the youth set-up possesses.

Not all of these players will be regulars at this level this season, with Olsson and Toral likely to go on loan at some point, whilst others may find themselves out of the team when some of the more experienced youngsters return from first-team duty.

For now, though, it has been a very good pre-season for Gatting’s side, and, although he will acknowledge that there are some things to work on, Jonker must be pleased with what he has seen so far.



  1. Hi Jeorge, great work as usual. Question: so far as you can tell what changes or effect has Jonker had in terms of playing style, tactical or technical approach. I understand it may be a little for all the changes to take effect I was just wondering. Also, it seems none of the several new recruits are featuring in the u21s so are they all in the lower age groups. I also have been wondering what makes the difference between our academy and southampton’s for instance, I know the catchment area for london is oversaturated with so many teams but how much comes down to talent and coaching. It seems southampton may also be ahead of most teams on the coaching front as well but I am just guessing.

    1. I don’t know if it’s down to Jonker, but the players seem to be passing the ball a lot quicker than before, rather than holding onto it for a long time. Previously a lot of first years would play for the U21s in pre-season, but this year Willock is the only one to have done so, which is quite a dramatic change.

      On Fri, Aug 1, 2014 at 10:58 PM, Jeorge Bird's Arsenal Youth wrote:


  2. Jeorge, do you think that it’s fairly certain that Olsson will go out on loan this season?
    Any clue as to where he might go if he is loaned out?

  3. Thanks for the reply jeorge, just noticed that we missed out on that german greek prospect from Barca to Schalke. Its a shame as he is supposed to be a pretty big tablent but then again you win some and lose some. I cant blame him for going back home to Germany though.

  4. Jeorge, What is wrong with Kamara. I am concerned with the number of minutes he gets in this pre-season especialy knowing he is the only DM we have in our under-21 side

    1. I might be wrong but hasn’t kamara been playing through the summer for Finland u19s or another level?

      As for afobe, is there a chance he got a late call up to the first team squad for the weekend?

  5. I was at the match last night , we kept the ball well against a well organised experienced side Iwobi ,Crowley Ormonde-Ottewill , Willock & Olsson all caught the eye. I hope the 21’s are competitive this season. Jeorge, Is Jonker in overall charge up to the 18s or the 21s ?

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