Premier League 2
Arsenal 4 (Holding, Malen, Nelson, Welbeck (pen)) Chelsea 1
Rob Holding and Danny Welbeck were amongst the scorers as a very strong Arsenal U23 side prevailed past Chelsea with a 4-1 victory at London Colney today.
With the first-team not in action this weekend, manager Arsene Wenger allowed several members of his squad to feature for the second string, with Emiliano Martinez, Carl Jenkinson and Jeff Reine-Adelaide also involved.
Some of the U23 regulars made a significant contribution, too, with Donyell Malen and the hugely talented Reiss Nelson amongst the scorers in a comprehensive win.
Maitland Niles-Reine Adelaide
Subs not used: Huddart, Johnson, Dasilva, Dragomir, Nketiah.
Given the quality of the side they fielded, it was of little surprise that Arsenal fared well early on and they came close to scoring through Ainsley Maitland-Niles, who shot just wide following impressive link-up play from Nelson and Malen.
Nelson is often at the hub of much of Arsenal’s best work at this level and it was from his corner that Holding headed home to open the scoring in the 23rd minute.
Arsenal proceeded to double their tally before the break, with Malen continuing his encouraging start to the calendar year by finishing well after Holding had embarked upon a run deep into the Chelsea half.
Malen then forced a save from Jared Thompson after he was located by marauding left-back Cohen Bramall as Arsenal finished the opening period strongly.
Chelsea had threatened intermittently in the first half but they were significantly more dangerous just after the interval, with Martinez pressed into action to keep out Mason Mount’s effort.
Arsenal’s victory seemed secure when Nelson finished cleverly but Chelsea were eager to at least remain in contention, with Ike Ugbo reducing the deficit to 3-1.
There was still time, however, for Arsenal to restore their three-goal advantage, with Welbeck doing just that by converting from the penalty spot after the sprightly Malen had been brought down in the area.
Overall, this was a hugely encouraging workout for Arsenal, with the first-team players involved receiving some valuable game time, while some of the youngsters on show, especially Maitland-Niles, Nelson, Malen and Chris Willock, enhanced their respective claims for first-team involvement in front of the watching Arsene Wenger.
Maitland-Niles, who has been on the cusp of the senior squad all season, was particularly impressive as he played some excellent passes, provided an attacking threat and also protected the defence well.