Premier League 2
Arsenal 4 (Mavididi (pen), Nelson, Hinds, C. Willock)) Sunderland 0
Arsenal U23s returned to winning ways in emphatic style tonight as they thrashed their Sunderland counterparts 4-0 at home.
The young Gunners, with many of their key players back available, proved too difficult for Sunderland to deal with as Stephy Mavididi opened the scoring from the penalty spot before Reiss Nelson, Kaylen Hinds and Chris Willock also found the net.
This victory capped off a positive week for the academy after several of the club’s best starlets were part of the squad for the EFL Cup victory over Reading.
With the exception of Ainsley Maitland-Niles, who trained with the first-team again today, coach Steve Gatting welcomed back the majority of his star names, with Gedion Zelalem, Willock, Krystian Bielik, Ben Sheaf, Marc Bola, Reiss Nelson and Mavididi all starting.
Subs: Dragomir (for Hinds), Nketiah (for Mavididi). Not used: Keto, McGuane, DaSilva.
Sunderland commenced the game in positive fashion, with Joel Asoro seeking to cause problems for the Arsenal defence, but Bielik and Sheaf were resolute at the back.
Gradually Arsenal started to assert themselves, with Nelson becoming increasingly influential. The winger drove at the Sunderland defence on several occasions and in one such instance his trickery proved too difficult for the Black Cats to deal with and a penalty was awarded for a rash challenge.
Mavididi, back up front after a spell in the number ten position, stepped up to make it 1-0 from the spot.
To Sunderland’s credit they weren’t especially disheartened by conceding and immediately sought to equalise, with George Honeyman shooting over.
Sheaf, who again impressed at centre-back, then had to make an important interception to ensure that Arsenal took their lead into the break.
Arsenal seemed intent on extending their advantage after the interval and they did just that with nine minutes of the second half gone as Nelson finished calmly following a slick move.
Three minutes later Hinds added further gloss to the scoreline with his first goal of the season after his initial effort was parried. The strike will have meant much to the attacker, who has endured a considerable amount of misfortune with injuries in recent seasons.
Sunderland then had the ball in the net, but Asoro’s effort was ruled out for offside and any flickering hope that the visitors had of somehow clawing their way back into the game was rendered obsolete when Willock made it 4-0 in the 65th minute with an astute finish.
Arsenal then rang the changes, with Vlad Dragomir and Edward Nketiah replacing Hinds and Mavididi.
By that point, though, the game was long since over as a contest, with the result suggesting that there is a chance that Arsenal could preserve their place in the top tier of second string football this campaign.