Report: Chambers features and Malen scores audacious winner as Arsenal U21s beat Brighton

U21 Premier League

Brighton 1 Arsenal 2 (Sheaf, Malen)

Screen shot 2015-11-30 at 19.29.00

Arsenal U21s came from behind to defeat their Brighton & Hove Albion counterparts at the AMEX Stadium this evening, with 16-year-old Donyell Malen scoring the winner despite the fact that he initially wasn’t even supposed to start the game.

Malen was named amongst the substitutes when the Arsenal side was submitted, but a late change of heart saw the first-year scholar promoted to the starting line-up. It proved to be an inspired decision, with the Dutch striker sending a deft lob over Brighton goalkeeper Niki Maenpaa to win the game.

Arsenal, who handed a start to England international Calum Chambers in midfield, fell behind early on when Connor Goldson opened the scoring, but Ben Sheaf equalised with a free-kick before Malen’s sublime finish settled matters.

The headline team news saw Chambers and Jeff Reine-Adelaide, who were un-used substitutes for the first-team against Norwich City yesterday, both start.

Chambers had a mixed game in midfield as he made some good interventions but was also overrun on occasion.

Kaylen Hinds and Dan Crowley both missed out through injury, whilst Glen Kamara moved to right-back with Sheaf starting on the right wing.


Kamara-Bielik-Pleguezuelo-M. Bola


Sheaf-C. Willock-Reine Adelaide


Subs: Mavididi (for Malen), Bennacer (for C. Willock), Robinson (for Sheaf). Not used: Huddart, Eyoma. 

Brighton went into this game bottom of the division, but they started brightly as they came close to scoring early on, with  Arsenal goalkeeper Matt Macey having to be alert to come off his line and collect the ball.

Arsenal soon started to assert themselves on proceedings, however, with Reine-Adelaide demonstrating his impeccable technique before Malen came close to finding the net when he cut inside and hit the post with a fierce strike.

Jack Harper, the Scottish youngster who previously played for Real Madrid, was starting to cause problems for the Arsenal defence and Krystian Bielik, who was once again deployed at centre-back, had to make a well-timed intervention to prevent the midfielder from advancing closer to goal.

Maenpaa, an experienced Finnish goalkeeper, then did well to deny Sheaf at the other end, but it was Brighton who would take the lead following hesitant defending from Arsenal.

Brighton had only scored one goal this season prior to tonight, but they went ahead on this occasion, with Goldson heading the ball past Macey.

Arsenal attempted to respond immediately, but Reine-Adelaide’s effort was gathered by Maenpaa.

Chambers, who may well be pressed into first-team action in midfield during the absence of Francis Coquelin, then made an intelligent intervention to cut out the danger when James Tilley sought to cause problems for Arsenal with a dangerous cross.

Malen continued to threaten at the other end and the striker saw his deflected effort gathered by Maenpaa.

Julio Pleguezuelo and Alex Iwobi both came close to scoring as the first half wore on, but it was Brighton who went into the break in the ascendancy.

Arsenal started the second period in determined mood and they were presented with an inviting opportunity to equalise when Chris Willock was fouled on the edge of the area.

Sheaf stepped up to take the free-kick and sent the ball beyond the reach of Maenpaa to level proceedings.

Iwobi then came close to scoring on three occasions as Arsenal upped the ante, with Sheaf then attempting to get the better of Maenpaa from another free-kick, only for the goalkeeper to gather the ball on this occasion.

It was Malen, though, who would put Arsenal in front, with the forward racing towards goal and lofting the ball over Maenpaa. To finish with such audacity is commendable, even more so when the player in question is a 16-year-old making his first start at this level.

That moment of genius proved to be Malen’s final act of the evening as he was replaced by Mavididi, with Ismael Bennacer also entering the fray in place of Willock.

Mavididi was presented with a couple of opportunities to extend Arsenal’s advantage, the second of which was teed up by Bennacer, but Brighton’s defence and goalkeeper were resilient on both occasions.

Danny Holla, one of several experienced players in the Brighton side, then came close to scoring from a free-kick as the home team reminded the Gunners that their win wasn’t yet certain.

However, the introduction of Tyrell Robinson in place of Sheaf provided Arsenal with additional attacking momentum, with the winger bursting down the flank before seeing his effort saved.

Bennacer then shot wide, but it was Malen who would prove to be the hero.

Arsenal, whose next game at this level sees them take on West Ham United at Upton Park next month, have now won six of their seven U21 games this season.



  1. Really excited about few of these youngsters prospects for future in first team.

    How old is be. Sheaf? I’ve saw him play last season and had very mixed impression, how likely is he to get a loan move in NY?

    Malen is a certain future star, I mean this guy is what 17, has left great impression so far and he’s only signed in the summer? Mavididi, willock, sheaf and Crowley ( once back from injury) should all be looking for a loan moves to championship or league one in the new year…

    1. Is it bizarre? Worked a treat for Ainsley Maitland-Niles. He even got a CL 45 minutes as a defensive midfielder – not bad for a winger!
      As Atid says below, it is all about developing players skill sets. Playing in a different position helps improve weaknesses and awareness. The famous Ajax academy had players playing in every outfield role during their development, even when the final position of that player was pretty certain.

  2. Were Iwobi and Chambers really playing alongside each other. One is a centre back and the other a striker. Also I really think Bielik is a defensive box to box midfielder, so why was chambers playing ahead of him?

  3. Ffs, when will people understand u21, U18 football is all about development. As a coach I can tell you it is imperative that young players learn the traits of other positions. Not only does it improve their chances from emerging from the youth ranks, reserves.and subs bench it helps to understand what your fellow colleagues need from you. IMO and in his coaches opinion iwobi needs to improve his strength going into tackles and needs more confidence on the ball. He will get that in the cm role. Chambers needs game time full stop and seeing as bielik is unable to play against olympiakos, wenger has rightly decided to give chambers a run out in case flamini gets injured. As for bielik himself he looks more like a ball playing centre back to me, but again, playing at cb and dm will help his development and understanding of both roles and at 17 has years to learn his best position.

    Put it this way you don’t go to school in England and study only English in hope of being an english teacher. You are taught 12-20 different subjects and even then might not use any of your qualifications when you leave school, but the development of you as a student stands you in good stead for the rest of your personal and working life.

    1. It’s interesting how few coaches, Atid, for all their talk, actually do that in practice. It’s more a case of needs must i.e. they will only play a player (usually) in another position if need be to suit the team bearing in mind the choice of players to fill the positions. And of course if a player isn’t looking as if he can’t cut it in one position he’ll be stuck somewhere else like full back.

      1. Cannot say that is the case here. Bielik has played CB all season despite Stefan O’Connor being available up until last week. And he can definitely cut it in midfield.
        Ainsley Maitland-Niles is another good example. We were not short of CMs last season, but they decided it important for Niles to improve defensively and his passing game. Hence he came in at CM.
        Ben Sheaf can play in the CM role Iwobi is filling, or Glen Kamara, and you cannot really put Iwobi in the ‘can’t cut it’ bracket. Even Jeff is seen as potentially a CM in the future. Playing Iwobi in CM is design not a forced move.

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