Report – Hutchinson scores and Ibrahim makes debut as Arsenal U23s draw with Leicester

Premier League 2

Leicester City 1 (Maswanhise 16 (pen.) Arsenal 1 (Hutchinson 45)

Omari Hutchinson found the net just before half time to continue his impressive recent form as Arsenal U23s came from behind to draw 1-1 away to Leicester City tonight.

The young Gunners were missing a host of players and lacked cohesion at times, but there were still some encouraging moments, with Salah-Eddine making a significant contribution.

Arsenal were again without Charlie Patino and Mika Biereth, while defenders Alex Kirk, Omar Rekik, Zach Awe and Mazeed Ogungbo were also missing.

First-team squad goalkeeper Arthur Okonkwo started and captained the side, with the armband having been given to various players recently.

First-year scholar Bradley Ibrahim made his Premier League 2 debut at right-back despite usually being a midfielder or centre-back. Zak Swanson and Reuell Walters had to fill in at centre-back. Khayon Edwards started up front.

Another first-year, Elian Quesada-Thorn, was named on the bench, with the winger receiving his first call-up at this level.

A. Okonkwo

Ibrahim-Swanson-Walters-Lopez

Henry Francis

Azeez-Salah Eddine

Hutchinson-Edwards-Flores

Subs: Ideho (for Edwards, 70), Foran (for Flores, 86). Not used: Hillson, Cozier-Duberry, Quesada-Thorn.

Arsenal staged a thrilling comeback to draw 3-3 when these sides met earlier in the campaign, and it was clear early on that this would be another closely-fought encounter.

Leicester provided an indication of their threat with Wanya Marcal curling an effort over before Tawanda Maswanhise had a shot saved.

Arsenal responded with Miguel Azeez missing a couple of chances. 

Leicester were then awarded a penalty, with Okonkwo, who seemed somewhat rusty, penalised for bringing down Will Alves in the area.

Maswanhise stepped up to take the spot-kick and succeeded in finding the net.

Arsenal found themselves under further pressure thereafter, with Okonkwo having to make a save from Marcal.

It had been a rather lacklustre opening 30 minutes from Arsenal, but they suddenly started to play with greater fluency.

In one passage of play Jack Henry-Francis exchanged passes with Azeez but ended up dragging his effort wide.

Hutchinson was starting to become increasingly influential and the winger found Azeez with a cross, with the latter’s header being tipped away.

Salah-Eddine then headed over following a corner before Marcelo Flores ended up hitting Edwards with a shot following a Rekik-esque burst forward from Swanson.

Eventually Arsenal’s pressure paid off, with Salah-Eddine playing in Hutchinson, who finished with excellent composure to score his sixth league goal at this level.

Arsenal looked to go in front before the break as Joel Lopez raced forward, but Edwards was thwarted.

The second half got underway, with Arsenal continuing to pose a threat to the Leicester defence.

Flores had a shot saved after being found by Hutchinson, and the Mexico international then had an effort blocked.

At the other end Swanson, who produced a typically committed display, made a precisely-timed block after good play from Sammy Braybrooke.

The game was now much more open and Maswanhise shot wide for Leicester before Okonkwo made a good save after Walters had squandered possession.

Salah-Eddine shot wide, with Walters then clearing the danger following a Leicester attack.

Joel Ideho replaced Edwards, with the striker having not been heavily involved in the game.

Okonkwo made a brilliant stop to tip Ben Nelson’s header over the crossbar and Salah-Eddine then made a crucial interception with Marcal bearing down on goal.

Defender Taylor Foran replaced Flores as Arsenal switched to a back five and looked to see out the game.

Arsenal had an opportunity to take all three points, but Ideho’s effort lacked conviction.

Substitute Ethan Fitzhugh shot wide for Leicester late on, with the game finishing level.

Given the amount of players they had unavailable and the fact that six of the individuals who started tonight are still eligible for the U18s, Arsenal won’t be too disappointed with a point.

Hutchinson was excellent in the first half, although his influence faded a little after the break as the Leicester defenders paid closer attention to him.

There were some encouraging signs from Salah-Eddine and Flores, although Azeez’s performance was a little underwhelming considering his relative experience.

Henry-Francis acquitted himself well in midfield with an industrious performance and Swanson marshalled a rather inexperienced defence.

Ibrahim had some difficult moments at right-back but it surely won’t be too long before he is playing in midfield at this level.

It was a little frustrating that Amario Cozier-Duberry didn’t get on, while another cause for concern is that Arsenal took too long to play out from the back at times, which slowed down their overall game.

However, it was still a useful workout for Arsenal, who remain third going into Friday’s game at home to Liverpool.

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7 comments

  1. 5 successive games without a win at U23 and U18 level and a couple of heavy defeats to boot, not sure what our lads are learning from these games, certainly not a winning mentality or how to defend properly.

    1. Both U23 and U18 are lately lineup’ed in far from strongest (on paper) XI, so either a lot of players are not available or interest of winning is simply not a priority. But I also wonder why not to develop the eldest players on list and try to win?

  2. Jeorge, I don’t understand something and maybe you can help me out with an explanation.

    Assuming TransferMarkt data is reliable, Bradley Ibrahim has played 244 minutes as CB and 829 minutes as DM at the U18 level. Understanding and accepting that he is supposed to have a debut game at U23 level why on Earth was he moved to RB and Zack Swanson moved to the center? Was that because a rookie CB would have been too much of a risk? Or was it because Swanswon (who only played RB in the last 2 seasons) needed to develop his defensive skills, so he was to play at CB anyway, therefore only the RB position was available to Bradley? Is there any other explanation?

    Similar question applies to Flores. He is one of the finest AM in his age group. He played solely in attacking midfield at U18 level this season as well as for Mexico U20. Why did he play LW yesterday? Was that because no LW was available? (Obviously not, as Lewis, Ideho and KTH are all best suited on the left wing.) Or because Flores was in so good form that he had to play, and only the LW position was vacant? Is there a personal development plan that is achieved if he gets experience on the left wing (balancing maybe his right foot)? Or could there be that since Marcelo’s only game in Mexico’s adult team was 8 minutes as a left winger, we are doing a favor to Mexico – and in some extent to Flores to keep his national chances alive – by playing him at LW on the expense of the team efficiency and the U23 competition performance?

    1. Yes I think Ibrahim played at right back as Swanson has experience of playing at centre back for the U23s and has more experience at that level in general.

      With Flores I think it was just a case of fitting him into the team.

      On Tue, 22 Feb 2022 at 10:02, Jeorge Bird's Arsenal Youth wrote:

      >

  3. I wonder why Dinzeyi, Olayinka, Cottrell, Rekik, Kido, Kirk, Butler-Oyedeji, Biereth, Monlouis was not playing ahead of others in the lineup?

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