Report- Akpom scores twice and Diaby plays 90 minutes as Arsenal U21s beat Villa

U21 Premier League- Game 4

Aston Villa 0 Arsenal 2 (Akpom 28, 85)

Chuba Akpom continued his mightily impressive start to the season by scoring both goals as Arsenal U21s beat Aston Villa 2-0 at Villa Park this evening.

In a game televised on Sky Sports, Arsenal caught the eye with some slick passing moves and merited their victory, even though Villa threatened with increasing regularity in the second-half.

There were numerous positives to take from an Arsenal perspective, with Akpom and captain Isaac Hayden delivering stellar showings, whilst Abou Diaby and Francis Coquelin both completed 90 minutes. Goalkeeper Damian Martinez, meanwhile, was assured on his first start at any level this season.


Bellerin-O’Connor-Hayden-Ormonde Ottewill


Maitland Niles-Zelalem-Crowley


subs not used: Macey, Moore, Ajayi, Jebb, Iwobi.

Villa, in front of a small crowd, had the first sight of goal, with Jerell Sellers shooting straight at Martinez, but it wasn’t long until Steve Gatting’s side, who remain unbeaten this season, took control of proceedings.

Akpom, along with Hayden and Hector Bellerin, took part in the first-team photocall at London Colney before making the trip to Birmingham. The striker is yet to be officially promoted to the senior squad but he could hardly have championed his cause any more tonight.

Akpom demonstrated that there is far more to his game than just goals when he played a neat pass through to Ainsley Maitland-Niles, whose dipping effort struck the crossbar.

That served as a warning sign for Villa, with both of Arsenal’s full-backs, Bellerin and the reinvigorated Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill, attacking with increasing regularity.

Martinez had to make a couple of interventions early on, with the Argentinian demonstrating the calm demeanour that has seen him promoted to the first-team set-up.

Arsenal, though, were coming ever closer to scoring. Coquelin did well to win the ball back and find Maitland-Niles, who in turn threaded the ball through to Akpom. The England U20 international was denied by a sliding defensive challenge, but he managed to find the net shortly afterwards.

It was a goal much of his own making. Akpom hassled Villa captain Lewis Kinsella out of possession, won the ball and then rounded the Villa goalkeeper before scoring.

It was a hard-earned strike and Akpom could have doubled his tally before the interval when Diaby found him with a long-range pass, but he failed to unleash a shot on this occasion.

With Coquelin and Diaby providing an effective shield in midfield and the authoritative Hayden marshalling the defence, Villa found it difficult to muster any attacking momentum, despite the best efforts of the sprightly Callum Robinson.

Hayden, this time popping up on the right flank, crossed for Maitland-Niles, who sent a header over.

Gedion Zelalem, who didn’t see much of the ball in the first-half, became increasingly influential in the second period.

The German youth international did well to find Crowley, who shot straight at the goalkeeper. Diaby then played a trademark raking pass into the path of Bellerin, with the ball eventually falling to Akpom, but the threat was cleared before he could get a shot away.

Villa gained considerable momentum as the game wore on, with Courtney Wildin almost capitalising after Bellerin was caught upfield, but the win was secured with five minutes remaining when Zelalem unlocked the defence and found Akpom, who finished well with the assistance of the post.

Akpom already has six goals in four U21 games this season and, as has been mentioned previously, appears a suitable alternative to Yaya Sanogo at present. The acquisition of Danny Welbeck may mean he’ll have to wait a little longer for his chance, but the 18 year old will certainly receive his opportunity eventually.

Arsenal, as a whole, remain unbeaten so far in Divison 2 of the U21 Premier League, having taken a commendable 10 points out of a possible 12. Newcastle United are next up at Borehamwood, with Theo Walcott a candidate to feature as he steps up his return from injury.



  1. Really encouraging stuff. Will be a crying shame- and will pose serious questions about youth progression- if bellerin, Hayden and akpom aren’t given real chances with first team. There’s plenty of talent elsewhere too but in Hayden and akpom’s case they represent the dream of many fans to see a player emerge from youths with qualities we’ve seemed to lack in the first team at times : a strong, fast goal scorer and a tackling dm with good mobility. Was a treat to watch tonight’s game and can’t wait for carling cup now. I’ll be disappointed if at least 5 of tonight’s lot don’t start

  2. Hayden should go out on loan either to Spain or Germany were he can improve his technical & tactical side of his game not to a Championship side. Kondogbia was about his age when he moved to spain. Bould should work on Bellerin defensive side of his game. Ajayi did not start for the U21, first time since he joined Arsenal. JB you describe O’ Connor as physically imposing. how tall is he? 6’5 like Mert? It appears Ajayi & O’ Connor has similar weakness – ball distribution.

    1. He is about the same height as Diaby. Which is tall for a 17 year old but he is pretty weak. But he got vision, technique, intelligence and maturity in his play to back that up. He will be a great great defender in the coming years. Much better prospect than Miquel was and you will see him in the championship or PL one day. Great ball playing CB.

  3. I was impressed with the whole team play. The standout players were ; Akpom, Crowley, Bellerin, Ottewill, Hayden and of course, Diaby. On Akpom, he is 18 and ever improving his goal scoring techniques. There are a number of similarities between his playing style and Thierry Henry’s. What I most admire about him are his attitude and hard work; one can easily feel his desire to get better in a hurry. He deserves his chance as a first team player.

  4. How is it a 17 year old defender makes a misplaced pass and has poor distribution. Yet other player’s do the same thing and we get told that they are quality. Need to analyse your games better so we the readers get a true reflection of the whole game.

    1. i wasn’t just basing it on this game. i was basing it on his performances over the past year. He is very promising, but needs to improve that aspect of his game.

      On Fri, Sep 12, 2014 at 9:43 AM, Jeorge Bird's Arsenal Youth wrote:


  5. Further reflection on last night has led to some fresh incredulity over Wenger’s attitude to the dm spot/s. One more little bit of evidence to add to my pile of ‘how can he see it as he does?’

    Basically, all his big successes came with physical combative players in the middle, adept at providing good cover to the defence- Viera, Petit, Parlour, Edu Gilberto Silva- and in all the trophyless years afterwards that cover was lacking, though in the better spells in that period we had players- a fit Diaby, Flamini at his best in his last year before leaving- who were capably performing a similar role.

    It even extends to youth football : in the superb year we won everything, the sublime talent of Wilshere was backed up by Frimpong and Coquelin winning all midfield battles behind him; in last year’s semi with Chelsea our game was overpowered and killed stone dead by their midfield, particularly Loftus Cheek operating like a goliath.

    Everything, in short, points to needing at least one and probably 2 with excellent physicality and who excel defensively in the 2 (with ideally one of the two also being extremely talented on the ball, a la Diaby) of 4-2-3-1. Most telling of all is what it means for the smaller skillful guys at the front of the team. Neither Crowley nor Zelalem started well yesterday, but the great platform behind them meant that there was no acute danger should they lose the ball and led to them getting better and better as the game progressed. It doesn’t take much of a leap to call up first team games where, without that platform, and after conceding an early goal, it’s a very different story for the first team equivalents.

    Yep, I can and do defend Wenger over everything else, but- and even after taking into account that for most of the period I’m talking about it was not possible to sign complete top class players (think the cost of a fit 25-year-old Diaby) and so all signings had to be effectively missing at least one quality, with skill being the one he was least willing to compromise on- I really don’t get how he can’t see and act on it.

    My suspicion was always that he refused to shell out a large portion of the budget on a player who could hardly be better than a fit Diaby. But if anything that would make it worse as it would mean he does know what’s needed there, and wasn’t rating Diaby’s chances correctly to boot.

    (I may as well mention his name one more time) Bloody hell Diaby was good yesterday. I won’t be able to watch him without thinking ‘any minute now’ for a very long time, though; and no way should the manager be planning on him as being anything but a completely unexpected bonus player.

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