U21 Premier League Division 2
Aston Villa 1 Arsenal 0
Serge Gnabry delivered an encouraging display on his first appearance for Arsenal for almost a year but was unable to prevent the club’s U21 side from losing 1-0 away to their Aston Villa counterparts this evening.
The winger has endured a miserable campaign after barely featuring during his loan spell at West Bromwich Albion, but he was lively at Villa Park despite the fact that Arsenal’s youngsters were beaten.
Krystian Bielik, Chris Willock, Kaylen Hinds, Ismael Bennacer and Marc Bola were all rested with Friday’s FA Youth Cup tie with Manchester City in mind, and Arsenal were made to pay the price as a strike from Jerell Sellars proved to be the difference between the two sides.
The result brought an end to Arsenal’s seven game unbeaten run, and will cause questions to be asked about their promotion credentials
Subs: Keto, Sheaf (for McGuane, 63), Johnson (for Reine-Adelaide, 63), Mavididi, Dasilva (for Robinson, 81).
Villa were the last side to beat Arsenal at U21 level, and they signalled their intent early on this time around as Sellars sent a shot wide in the early exchanges.
Arsenal slowly started to make an impact on proceedings, with Dan Crowley, back from suspension, seeing his lofted effort go wide.
In a free-flowing game, Arsenal goalkeeper Ryan Huddart made two important saves in quick succession to keep Villa at bay before at the other end Reiss Nelson dragged his effort wide following an impressive move.
Gnabry was gradually starting to assert himself, with the German youth international sending an effort wide before later having an attempt saved.
Huddart still had to be alert, however, to make a fine save to ensure that the game remained goalless going into the interval.
Just as they did in the first half, Villa, who are one of Arsenal’s main rivals for promotion, started the second period brightly, with the dangerous Keinan Davis having an effort ruled out for offside before striking a post shortly afterwards.
Arsenal, despite the attacking talent they had on show, were unable to create any notable chances in the early exchanges of the second period, and again had to be reliant on Huddart, who was alert to rush off his line and gather the ball.
Finally, Arsenal sparked into life, with Reine-Adelaide drifting infield and forcing a corner with a deflected effort.
That move appeared to provide Arsenal with an injection of confidence and not long afterwards Gnabry did well to locate Donyell Malen, who saw his shot saved.
It was Villa, however, who who would take the lead, with Sellars finishing well beyond the reach of Huddart to open the scoring.
Arsenal then made two pre-planned changes, with Chiori Johnson and Ben Sheaf entering the fray in place of Reine-Adelaide and McGuane, with the two withdrawn players being preserved for the game against City.
Arsenal sought to respond, but Malen could only shoot over, with Nelson later shooting wide. The young Gunners couldn’t find the equaliser and dropped what could prove to be three costly points in their quest for promotion.