Chuba Akpom scored a brace and Chris Willock was also on target as Arsenal U23s registered their first victory of the season with a 3-1 win over their Derby County counterparts at St George’s Park.
The young Gunners started the season woefully as they suffered three successive defeats, but their display tonight provided an indication of the array of attacking talent that coach Steve Gatting has at his disposal.
Akpom is vastly experienced at this level and he put that knowledge to good use with a couple of neat finishes, while Stephy Mavididi impressed in a slightly deeper position to where he is usually deployed.
Arsenal, at long last, were able to call upon a defence containing four defenders, with Marc Bola making his first appearance of the season at left-back. Hugo Keto came in for Matt Macey in goal, whilst Gedion Zelalem and Chiori Johnson also featured.
Johnson-Bielik-Da Graca-M. Bola
Subs: DaSilva (for M. Bola, 70). Not used: Dragomir, Bennacer, Mourgos, DaSilva.
Arsenal appeared eager to make an early impact and they did just then when Akpom played a neat ball into the path of Willock, who finished adroitly to open the scoring with just six minutes gone.
The winger could well make his competitive debut for the first-team against Nottingham Forest in the EFL Cup later this month, and is starting to add goalscoring to his array of attributes.
Arsenal were dominant in the early stages, with Akpom and Mavididi both seeing efforts saved before the former eventually found the net with a precise finish.
Gatting’s side strung together some intricate moves but Derby were determined to avoid suffering further damage. Gedion Zelalem’s ambitious effort was cleared away, with Ben Sheaf, who was deployed on the right wing on this occasion, then failing to find the net.
Derby posed slightly more of a threat in the second half, with Keto having to make some interventions on his first competitive appearance at this level.
It was Arsenal, though, who remained on top, with Akpom scoring the goal of the game as he showed his strength and speed to latch on to a pass before finding the net once more.
Bola then came very close to making it 4-0 but his powerful effort rattled the crossbar.
Derby managed to get a consolation goal when Charles Vernam scored a penalty, but that did nothing to diminish a superb night’s work from Arsenal, and Akpom in particular.