U21 Premier League- Division 2
Swansea City 3 (King, Gorre, Bray) Arsenal 1 (Gnabry)
Arsenal U21s saw their hopes of automatic promotion dented today as they were beaten 3-1 by Swansea City, although there were some positives to take from proceedings as first-team midfielders Jack Wilshere and Tomas Rosicky stepped up their respective returns to full fitness, while Serge Gnabry provided a reminder of his quality with a stunning goal.
Swansea had former Arsenal goalkeeper Josh Vickers to thank for making some excellent saves to keep the young Gunners at bay.
Wilshere played the full game and Rosicky was on the field for 71 minutes, but neither was able to inspire the young Gunners to victory and attention will now turn to the final league game of the season at home to West Bromwich Albion on Monday.
A win in that fixture would see Arsenal top the table but even if they don’t succeed there is still a chance for them to be promoted via the play-offs.
Coach Steve Gatting fielded a very strong side, with first-team players Wilshere, Rosicky and Gnabry all returning to the fray. Kaylen Hinds, meanwhile, was given a starting berth after making a stellar impact as a substitute against Derby County on Monday. Stefan O’Connor made a welcome return from injury and was named on the bench.
Subs: Nelson (for C. Willock, 61), Sheaf (for Rosicky, 71), Crowley (for Reine-Adelaide, 82)
Not used: Keto, O’Connor.
Arsenal started well, with Gnabry forcing a save from former Gunner Josh Vickers. The goalkeeper, who was released by Arsenal last year, then made an impressive stop to thwart the lively Hinds.
Swansea then carved out their first opportunity of the game and they very nearly scored, with Joe Rodon’s header rattling the crossbar.
The Welsh side’s next attack would result in the game’s opening goal. Arsenal have improved defensively of late, but they were unable to prevent Adam King heading home from Nikola Maric’s cross as Swansea took the lead.
Arsenal attempted to respond, but they were finding it difficult to get the better of Vickers, with the goalkeeper doing well to keep out Gnabry’s free-kick.
Tafari Moore, who was making his return to action, then shot wide when well placed as Arsenal finally started to see more of the ball, and the Gunners then had a penalty claim waved away when Rosicky felt he had been fouled in the area.
Arsenal still had to be alert at the other end, however, with Matt Macey having to come to the rescue when a Swansea attempt deflected off Krystian Bielik.
Arsenal were struggling to break Swansea down and the hosts always seemed more dangerous in an attacking sense. That point was borne out when Kenji Gorre doubled Swansea’s advantage with a sweet finish beyond the reach of Macey.
To their credit Arsenal continued to stride forwards thereafter, but Hinds was unable to find the net and then Vickers was called upon again to make a good stop from Jeff Reine-Adelaide.
Wilshere then had his first attempt of the game, with the England international shooting over the crossbar, but Swansea held on to go into the break in the ascendancy.
Once the second half got underway Arsenal immediately sought to reduce the deficit, with Hinds coming close to scoring.
Swansea continued to threaten, however, with Macey, who made some excellent saves against Derby, doing well to make two impressive stops on this occasion.
Rosicky then had a chance at the other end, but his effort was easily gathered by Vickers, who also had no problems in keeping out a further attempt from Gnabry.
Arsenal then made their first alteration, with schoolboy Reiss Nelson entering the fray in place of Chris Willock.
The Gunners continued to charge forwards, with full-back Marc Bola shooting wide and Swansea responded with a chance of their own as Maric came close to scoring.
In an eventful game Gnabry’s free-kick went just over the crossbar and Macey still had to be alert to make a good save. Arsenal were then handed a lifeline when Gnabry found the net with a powerful effort as the Gunners finally managed to get the better of Vickers.
That flicker of hope didn’t last for very long at all, however, as Swansea soon made it 3-1 through Alex Bray.
Swansea had another chance late on through Gorre, but the damage had already been done and thoughts will now start to turn to Monday night’s game.