Report – Superb Hutchinson scores brace as Arsenal U23s beat Crystal Palace 4-2

Premier League 2

Arsenal 4 (Hutchinson 7, 15, Biereth 39, Swanson 90) Crystal Palace 2 (Roles 18, Kirby 83)

By Jeorge Bird @ Meadow Park, Borehamwood

After a nightmare start against West Ham United, the Kevin Betsy era really got going tonight, with Omari Hutchinson inspiring Arsenal U23s to a 4-2 victory over Crystal Palace in a rather chaotic encounter.

Hutchinson has only played three games at U23 level and featured for just 45 minutes tonight, but his performance indicated that he could soon be playing on a bigger stage.

The 17-year-old’s first goal was of a particularly high standard as he burst forward before scoring impressively and he added another having been teed up by Mika Biereth.

Biereth, who recently joined from Fulham, later opened his Arsenal account and Zak Swanson was also on the scoresheet late on with his first goal at this level. Miguel Azeez also missed a penalty.

Palace were heavily involved, too, with Jack Roles scoring in the first half and Nya Kirby hitting a stunning goal late on to give Arsenal a scare. They also played the second half with ten men following the dismissal of Scott Banks. The visitors put in a spirited performance, with forward Robert Street making matters difficult for Arsenal.

Betsy persisted with playing five at the back despite the 6-1 loss to West Ham, although he did make several alterations to his team, with Hubert Graczyk replacing Ovie Ejeheri in goal, while Alex Kirk came in for Zane Monlouis in defence and Kido Taylor-Hart started ahead of Ben Cottrell. Whereas the creative players didn’t appear to have defined positions against West Ham, on this occasion Hutchinson and Taylor-Hart were deployed as natural wingers, which benefitted the team.

Azeez was named as captain again, which suggests he will wear the armband regularly this season, while Swanson continued at left wing-back and Joel Lopez wasn’t in the squad, with Joel Ideho making the bench instead.


Norton Cuffy-Kirk-Rekik-Ogungbo-Swanson


Hutchinson-Biereth-Taylor Hart

Subs: Ideho (for Hutchinson, 46), Monlouis (for Norton-Cuffy, 46), Butler-Oyedeji (for Taylor-Hart, 84). Not used: Ejeheri, Cottrell.

Both sides were beaten in their opening fixture and were determined to take all three points. Graczyk had some work to do early on as he made a couple of saves, but it was Arsenal who took the lead in the seventh minute, with Hutchinson taking centre stage.

The winger drifted into a central position and burst forwards before finishing adroitly. It was Hutchinson’s first goal at this level and seemed like a coming of age moment for him as an U23 player as he built upon the encouraging performance that he produced in difficult circumstances against West Ham.

Palace refused to be disheartened after the goal and caused further danger for Arsenal, with Brooke Norton-Cuffy having to react quickly to close down a cross.

Soon, though, it was 2-0 to Arsenal and the goal stemmed from the positional rotation that Betsy is looking to implement into the team’s play. Taylor-Hart had temporarily moved centrally to create space for his team-mates, while Biereth drifted to the right flank, from where he found Hutchinson, who moved in from the left wing and scored his second goal of the game.

However, Palace responded quickly, with former Tottenham youngster Roles scrambling the ball beyond the reach of Graczyk as Arsenal were caught out defensively.

There was further pressure for Arsenal to endure and Graczyk made another save, but then matters turned in Arsenal’s favour again.

Charlie Patino, who was starting to have more of an impact on the game, played in Hutchinson, with the winger coming close to getting a hat-trick but instead shooting just wide.

Eventually Arsenal got a third goal as Taylor-Hart did well down the left before crossing for Biereth who finished well before wheeling away in celebration.

Palace were reduced to ten men before half time, with Scott Banks being penalised for a foul.

Betsy made two changes ahead of the second half. Hutchinson was one of the players withdrawn as he was on a yellow card, with Joel Ideho replacing him. In addition, Zane Monlouis came on for Norton-Cuffy at right-back.

The second half didn’t have quite the same intensity as the opening period but Palace still made matters difficult for Arsenal at times, with Graczyk having to tip the ball over his crossbar on one occasion.

Taylor-Hart struck the woodwork when he perhaps should have played in Biereth and then Mazeed Ogungbo made a superb challenge to cut out the danger at the other end.

By this point Patino was starting to have even more of an influence as he showcased his range of impressive passes and the midfielder also went for goal himself on a couple of occasions but was unable to find the net.

Palace, despite their numerical disadvantage, simply wouldn’t give up and, after having one effort cleared off the line, the visitors eventually reduced Arsenal’s lead to one goal with Kirby scoring a thunderbolt.

Arsenal brought on Nathan Butler-Oyedeji in place of Taylor-Hart, and there was concern that Palace would get an equaliser, with Graczyk making yet another stop.

The Palace players and their small contingent of supporters were livid at some of the refereeing decisions and they had further cause for complaint when a penalty was awarded after Ideho was brought down in the area. Azeez scored from the spot against West Ham and stepped up to take this penalty as well but saw his attempt saved this time.

In the eighth minute of stoppage time Arsenal finally put the game beyond doubt as Swanson scored following a counter-attack. It was his first goal at this level in his 20th appearance, although Palace were aggrieved that the defender carried on playing after one of their players suffered a hamstring injury.

Overall, Betsy will certainly be much happier with his side’s performance tonight than the one against West Ham and it seems clear that the player are starting to adapt to his rather complex methods. The defence still requires some work but the front three of Hutchinson, Biereth and Taylor-Hart should caused problems for most teams in the division.

Hutchinson, though, seems set for senior football of some description soon, such is the quality that he possesses.

Biereth demonstrated exactly why Arsenal signed him as he impressed with both his link-up play and his finishing, while Patino showed some tantalising glimpses of his ability in the second half as him and Azeez started to take control of the game. Ideho also caught the eye with some impressive movement.

Defensively, Rekik still had a couple of difficult moments but overall performed better than he did on Monday, while Kirk also acquitted himself well.

Graczyk, who made a catalogue of important stops, seems a slightly better option than Ejeheri in goal right now, although the pair could rotate frequently this season and it is also possible that Arthur Okonkwo and Karl Hein could feature at this level.

Some of Arsenal’s play on the counter-attack was of a high standard, even though it has to be taken into consideration that they were up against ten men for half of the game.

Palace were one of the promoted teams, so Arsenal are likely to face even tougher challenges as the season progresses, but for now Betsy will simply be pleased to have secured victory and seen some encouraging signs from his team.


One comment

  1. Those players that were named as going on loan, like mcenuff, dinzeyi, Lewis etc, really seem to be out of the picture.

    What are they doing now?

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