A depleted Arsenal U23 side fell to a 1-0 defeat away to Manchester United tonight and the young Gunners had goalkeeper Hugo Keto to thank for preventing the hosts from inflicting further damage.
Many of the club’s best starlets trained with the first-team today, with Gedion Zelalem, Krystian Bielik, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Chris Willock, Reiss Nelson, Marc Bola, Ben Sheaf, Matt Macey and Stephy Mavididi all under consideration ahead of tomorrow night’s EFL Cup tie against Reading.
That meant that Steve Gatting had to make several alterations to his side, with Josh DaSilva filling in at left-back, whilst Keto, Savvas Mourgos, Kostas Pileas and Kaylen Hinds all starting, the latter making his first appearance at this level this season.
Meanwhile, Jordi Osei-Tutu was named on the bench for the U23s for the first time.
Johnso, n-Da Graca-Pileas-DaSilva
Subs: Eyoma, Robinson. Not used: Virginia, Osei-Tutu, T. Bola
United were expected to prevail tonight and they did just that, with the Red Devils opening the scoring with just seven minutes gone courtesy of a header from Ro-Shaun Williams.
Arsenal’s marking was disappointing, with Vlad Dragomir failing to pick up the run of Williams, and the young Gunners immediately found themselves at a disadvantage.
To Arsenal’s credit, they kept the ball well thereafter, but they weren’t able to carve out many clear cut chances and striker Edward Nketiah received little service.
In addition there was a lack of width in the Arsenal team, with both Mourgos and Dragomir more suited to playing centrally, while Gatting’s team were always vulnerable at the back.
Nketiah came close on one occasion, but most of the action came down the other end, particularly in the second half, when Keto had to make some impressive stops to keep the score down.
Hinds was working hard for Arsenal and he almost managed to weave his way through on one occasion, but United were able to cope with the pressure.
Arsenal then introduced Aaron Eyoma and Tyrell Robinson, who have been on the fringes of proceedings this season, as they went in search of an equaliser.
Ismael Bennacer sent an effort over but Arsenal were unable to find the net, with this result leaving them in eighth place in the table.
Next up is a home game against Sunderland on Sunday, for which Gatting should be able to call upon a significantly stronger squad.