Report – Marcelo Flores strikes as Arsenal U23s end season with draw against Leeds United

Premier League 2

Arsenal 1 (Flores 33) Leeds United 1 (McGurk 70)

By Jeorge Bird @ Emirates Stadium

Marcelo Flores was featuring for Mexico’s senior team in America in the early hours of yesterday morning and tonight the prospect made a swift return to England as he scored for Arsenal U23s in a 1-1 draw against Leeds United at Emirates Stadium.

This was the final game of the season for Arsenal U23s, who now have to wait to discover whether they have done enough to finish in third place.

There was no suggestion of this game being a dead rubber, with Leeds very much involved in the battle to avoid relegation.

It says something about Arsenal’s progress under the tutelage of Kevin Betsy that this time last year they found themselves in a similar situation when Steve Bould was still in charge.

Arsenal’s season has petered out somewhat with five draws in succession, although the situation hasn’t been helped by numerous players being called up to the first-team.

Zak Swanson, Omari Hutchinson and Salah-Eddine weren’t involved here, which suggests that they will be in contention to be on the bench for the first-team away to West Ham United on Sunday.

Miguel Azeez, who has been involved with the first-team in recent weeks, started the game.

Hubert Graczyk started in goal with Reuell Walters back in the side after illness. James Olayinka and Alex Kirk weren’t involved.

Graczyk

Walters-Rekik-Dinzeyi-Lopez

Azeez

Henry Francis-Patino

Taylor Hart-Biereth-Flores

Subs: Sousa (for Lopez, 46), Butler-Oyedeji (for Flores, 72), Ideho (for Taylor-Hart, 85). Not used: Ejeheri, Ibrahim.

Despite being in danger of being relegated Leeds have some talented youngsters at their disposal, and they caused problems for Arsenal immediately, with Jonathan Dinzeyi having to make a goalline clearance in the first minute.

Sean McGurk then shot over for Leeds, who certainly looked like the more dangerous team in the early stages.

Stuart McKinstry was the next Leeds player to try his luck as his effort went over and then Hubert Graczyk made a save to deny Mateo Fernandez.

Eventually Arsenal started to grow into the game and Flores was at the hub of much of what was good about their play.

The 18-year-old had the Gunners’ first chance as he cut inside from the left flank prior to shooting over.

Shortly afterwards Flores went for goal again and saw his effort saved before the ball deflected off a Leeds player and onto the crossbar. Kido Taylor-Hart subsequently shot over.

Omar Rekik had a header saved and then, with 33 minutes gone, Arsenal eventually broke the deadlock.

Joel Lopez made an enterprising run forward and saw his shot saved with the ball then falling to Flores, who slotted home.

Arsenal looked to double their lead before the break as Flores played in Mika Biereth, but the striker’s effort took a deflection and was then saved by Dani van den Heuvel.

At half time Arsenal were 1-0 up and they made a change ahead of the second half with Lino Sousa entering the fray in place of Lopez.

Biereth found Taylor-Hart, who had a shot blocked. Then at the other end Graczyk kept out a curling effort from McGurk.

Sousa then made a fine run which culminated in him finding Biereth, whose shot was deflected for a corner.

Flores also had a shot deflected over and Arsenal seemed in control of the game as they looked to double their lead.

However, in an unexpected turn of events, it was Leeds who got the next goal, with McGurk steering the ball beyond the reach of Graczyk following a break downfield.

Shortly afterwards Graczyk had to make a superb save to prevent Leeds from taking the lead.

There was another concerning moment for Arsenal shortly afterwards as Leeds put the ball in the net, but the offside flag was subsequently raised.

Nathan Butler-Oyedeji then came on for Flores, who understandably couldn’t play the full game following his international exertions.

Rekik made an important interception to take the ball away from Leeds schoolboy Archie Gray.

Arsenal brought on Joel Ideho in place of Taylor-Hart but Graczyk still had work to do as he made some excellent saves.

Charlie Patino has a couple of opportunities late on but couldn’t quite find the net and Biereth shot over.

In the end Arsenal were unable to get the winner but it was still an enjoyable game with which to end the season.

Leeds remain in the battle to stay up but Arsenal can take plenty of heart from this season.

The likes of Omari Hutchinson, Marcelo Flores and Reuell Walters in particular have pushed on very well, while Patino has made his first-team debut and Azeez gained experience on loan at Portsmouth.

There will inevitably be some departures this summer. One of them could be Dinzeyi, who was excellent tonight but needs to be playing senior football at this stage of his development.

Jack Henry-Francis was tigerish in midfield but perhaps doesn’t provide the required protection to the defence.

Flores, meanwhile, is continuing to develop nicely. There is still a long way to go for him but this game capped off a whirlwind couple of days in what has been a memorable season.

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2 comments

  1. I think the lads played really well last night. There were some slick passes in the build-up as well, but my only critique is that they kept making the wrong decisions among dribbling, passing, and shooting, especially in the final third.
    I don’t follow other academy teams, so I don’t know if it is an Arsenal thing or an overall youth phenomenon, but a lot more goals could come if situational awareness and decision making would improve, as the boys seem really good both technically and physically.

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