Report- Mavididi hits brace and Coquelin impresses as Arsenal U21s secure promotion by beating Aston Villa

U21 Premier League- Division 2- Play Off Final

Arsenal 3 (Willock, Mavididi (2) Aston Villa 1 (Hepburn-Murphy)

By Jeorge Bird @Emirates Stadium


Arsenal U21s secured their place in the top tier of second-string football with a hard-fought victory over their Aston Villa counterparts at Emirates Stadium tonight.

Steve Gatting’s side contained much first-team experience, with Santi Cazorla, Francis Coquelin, Calum Chambers and Joel Campbell all starting, but it was two of the club’s young starlets, Chris Willock and Stephy Mavididi, who proved to be the difference.

Willock was initially only named on the bench, but he was catapulted into the starting line-up following the late withdrawal of Serge Gnabry, and that proved to be a blessing in disguise as the winger equalised after an error from Matt Macey had allowed Rushian  Hepburn-Murphy to give Villa the lead.

Willock later turned provider for Mavididi, and the latter doubled his tally in the closing stages as Arsenal, at long last, secured their place amongst the elite.




Campbell-Reine Adelaide-C. Willock


Subs: Sheaf (for Cazorla, 82), Hinds (for Campbell, 82). Not used: Keto, Johnson, Nketiah. 


Arsenal started slowly and they very nearly gave away a goal in the early exchanges as Jeff Reine-Adelaide needlessly squandered possession, but Villa were unable to take advantage.

Jerrell Sellars then fired over as Villa cranked up the pressure, and Arsenal eventually crumbled, with Macey losing control of the ball, and Hepburn-Murphy, who featured for Villa’s first-team last weekend, capitalised.

Arsenal sought to respond instantly, with the ever dangerous Willock seeing his effort cleared off the line. Cazorla, Mavididi and Coquelin all had chances to score, but it was Willock who would equalise as he applied the finishing touch to a slick move involving Cazorla and Mavididi.

Villa had opportunities to equalise before the break, but Arsenal stood firm and went into the break level.

Some supporters thought Willock had doubled his tally early in the second half, but the winger’s shot struck the side-netting.

It wasn’t long, though, before Arsenal went ahead, with Willock turning provider on this occasion for Mavididi, who headed in.

Villa’s confidence was waning, as demonstrated by Sellars’ attempt, which went way over the crossbar.

Macey then somewhat redeemed himself with a good save, before Kaylen Hinds and Ben Sheaf entered the fray in place of Campbell and Cazorla.

Hinds had a header saved, and then Mavididi added further gloss to the scoreline with a calm finish.

There was no way back for Villa after that point, and Arsenal lifted the trophy aloft in front of a small crowd.

Their form may have tailed off a little towards the end of the campaign, and they were reliant on the help of some senior stars along the way, but the important thing is that Arsenal U21s are going up.

Playing against the likes of Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool will surely be hugely beneficial for the development of the Arsenal youngsters.

As far as tonight’s game is concerned, Willock and Mavididi were both hugely impressive, whilst Cazorla and Coquelin also caught the eye.

Several of the players on show tonight won’t be regularly involved at this level next season, but those that do feature will be especially grateful for what has been achieved.




  1. Shameful that Willock doesn’t get a mention in the title…
    Only joking – but he was MOTM. Excellent performance – not just Christopher but the team as a whole. Joel and Jeff were a bit disappointing, but we can forgive them for that.

  2. At least having the chance to play against the best u21s will give the lads that don’t go on loan a real boost. I would Love to see the top u21 flight entered into the Johnstone paint trophy or something, just to give them something proper to aim at.

  3. Think we should be allowed to enter the League Cup in the 1st round – rather than enter it later than everyone else. Okay, could be only a couple of games but useful all the same.
    ps – still waiting an apology 🙂

  4. I think its a shame to see 4 first team players on the team to be able to secure a spot for U21 second division. Meanwhile City and chelsea both manage to consistently stay on top with younger players.

      1. You didn’t want to weaken your U-21s by playing first team players!
        Shocking that at least a couple of those who played last night haven’t been given a chance ahead of the dross that have relegated you – can’t imagine Hepburn-Murphy looking out of place – maybe you were just protecting them from the disease of your first team?

  5. It was a good game to watch. I thought Coquelin gave a DM masterclass. He was just so at ease: snapping into tackles and picking up loose balls, constantly stopping the opposition and turning the play around. But well done to everyone involved.

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