Report- Gnabry scores as Arsenal U21s beat Bolton

U21 Premier League

Bolton Wanderers 1 Arsenal 3 (Ormonde-Ottewill 10, Iwobi 73, Gnabry 77)

It has been a stop-start season for Serge Gnabry, with the dynamic winger having endured several setbacks in his attempts to make a full recovery from the injury he suffered last season, but today there was a moment for the youngster to savour as he applied the finishing touch against Bolton Wanderers to help Arsenal U21s secure their second victory in succession.

There has been much debate about the future of the Arsenal academy in recent days after the U18s finished bottom of their section, but the U21s, despite not being able to achieve promotion back to the top tier, have at least had some positive results this season and today Gnabry was joined on the scoresheet by two Hale End products in Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill and Alex Iwobi.

The latter has had a surprisingly productive season in front of goal- today’s strike was his ninth of the season at this level and he will be looking to reach double figures when the young Gunners conclude their season at home to Wolverhampton Wanderers next week.

Bolton equalised through Jordan Lussey shortly after Ormonde-Ottewill had given Arsenal the lead, but Steve Gatting’s side managed to battle back to secure their second victory in succession.

There were two changes from the side that beat Brighton & Hove Albion last week. Deyan Iliev returned from suspension to start in goal, whilst, in the absence of George Dobson, Renny Smith was drafted in at right-back, with Julio Pleguezuelo moving across to centre-back. Aaron Eyoma was named amongst the substitutes in preference to Marc Bola.


Smith-O’Connor-Pleguezuelo-Ormonde Ottewill

Bielik-Maitland Niles



Subs: Robinson (for Crowley, 50), Eyoma (for Zelalem, 68), Lipman (for Iwobi, 86). Not used: Kamara, Macey. 

The game got off to a rather slow start, with neither side creating a clear-cut chance in the opening ten minutes. The first opportunity of note fell to Sanmi Odelusi, but the Arsenal defence did well to close him down and force him to rush his shot.

Shortly afterwards Arsenal took the lead, with Ormonde-Ottewill finding the net with well-struck effort.

Bolton were level within two minutes, however, with Odelusi causing problems down the left flank before finding Lussey, whose shot was beyond the reach of Iliev.

Odelusi was certainly Bolton’s most dangerous outlet, with the 21 year old then weaving his way past three players before shooting just wide.

Bolton then had a penalty appeal turned down as they increased the pressure on the Arsenal defence, but Gatting’s team provided a reminder of their own attacking threat when Iwobi played a neat ball through to Ainsley Maitland-Niles, who just lost his footing at the crucial moment when well placed.

Iliev then did well to gather the ball from a corner, with Bolton subsequently enduring a moment of good fortune as Matija Boben’s clearance went over his own goalkeeper, but, thankfully for the youngster, the ball struck the crossbar rather than going in.

Gnabry sent an effort wide as the half drew to a close but Arsenal, having had much defending to do in the opening period, were grateful for the whistle.

Bolton continued to dominate in terms of chances created early in the second-half, with Niall Maher seeing his effort cleared.

Bolton then introduced substitute Jamie Thomas into the fray and the change very nearly proved to be an inspired one as he sent an effort just wide.

Arsenal hadn’t created too many chances during the course of the match, but their intelligence in front of goal paid dividends in the latter stages against a tiring Bolton defence.

They took the lead when Iwobi cut inside from the right flank and nutmegged the bewildered Bolton goalkeeper Harry Campbell before finding the net.

Gnabry inflicted further misery on the Bolton defenders as he confidently got the better of Campbell in a one-on-one situation with 13 minutes remaining.

Iliev was called into action in the dying moments, with the goalkeeper making a good intervention to deny Thomas, but Arsenal’s lead was secure and, given all the talk about the academy of late, this victory is a welcome one.



  1. Jeorge, don’t you think it’d be better for Maitland-Niles and Zelalem to swap positions? You said Zelalem is better in more advanced position, but I just wonder why the coaches are doing this and whether you think it’s beneficial for their development.

    1. To be fair it doesnt really matter what a journalist thinks, I am sure a professional football coach has a far greater knowledge and experience of what’s best for a young players development.

      These coaches work with these lads day in day out.

      1. Well of course they have, but they can be wrong too.

        I just want to know another opinion because it doesn’t makes sense to me, if you swapped them they’d basically be playing their natural positions.

      2. I think Zelalem’s playing out wide to help him develop tactically. I prefer Maitland-Niles out wide but he has had some good games centrally this season.

        On Mon, May 11, 2015 at 10:34 PM, Jeorge Bird's Arsenal Youth wrote:


  2. Zelalem may not be playing out wide just for the “education”.

    Wenger has a long track record of using playmaker types in wide forward role eg Pires, Hleb, Rosicky, Arshavin, Ozil etc.

    May well be they have decided to start grooming him for a permanent role there.

  3. Earlier there was some attempt of playing him in the Pirlo role a deep laying playmaker. That was a disaster. When in possession, he kept being put under pressure and losing the ball in dangerous position. In defensive mode, he was completely unaware of the opposition and quite often left running midfields pass him by.
    That experiment is now over and the coaches are trying to accommodate him by playing wide. As excentered playmaker as mentioned by Ziontrain à la Pires, Hleb. Less risk of him making mistakes that would result in the opposition straight through to the center of the defence.
    However as far as I can see, he still struggle with the physical aspect of the game. That means that despite some brilliant forward passing, he is quite often a liability for the team. As he is one of Wenger’s pet project, he has been given far more chance than his current ability and effort warrant.

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