Author: Jeorge Bird

Report – Osman Kamara amongst four U18s to make debuts as Arsenal U21s lose to Sparta Prague

U21 Premier League International Cup

Arsenal 0 Sparta Prague 1 (Schanelec 55)

By Jeorge Bird @ LV Bet Stadium Meadow Park

The most intriguing aspect of youth football is that the production line is never ending and that was very much in evidence tonight as Arsenal took on Sparta Prague in the Premier League International Cup.

Arsenal suffered a 1-0 defeat and produced a rather disjointed display, but in the second half coach Mehmet Ali gave debuts at this level to four players from the U18 squad, with Mathaeus Roberts, Osman Kamara, Seb Ferdinand and Ismail Oulad M’Hand all coming on.

It was a much-changed team overall as a host of players were missing. James Hillson, Reuell Walters, Taylor Foran, Lino Sousa, Charles Charles Sagoe Jr, Catalin Cirjan, Nathan Butler-Oyedeji, Myles Lewis-Skelly, Matt Smith, Amario Cozier-Duberry and Ethan Nwaneri were all absent and it is anticipated that at least some of them will be with the first-team this week.

Jack Henry-Francis captained the team and there were starts for Josh Robinson, Elian Quesada-Thorn, Kido Taylor-Hart and Billy Vigar.

Graczyk

Robinson-Awe-Monlouis-Quesada Thorn

Henry Francis-Ibrahim

Taylor Hart-Bandeira-Ideho

Vigar

Subs: Roberts (for Monlouis, 63), Lewis (for Vigar, 77), Ferdinand (for Robinson, 77), Kamara (for Taylor-Hart, 89). Not used: Rojas, Brown.

Former Arsenal midfielder and current Sparta Prague sporting director Tomas Rosicky was in attendance at the game.

Arsenal found themselves under a little bit of pressure early on, with Robinson having to cut out the danger.

It was a rather uneventful start to proceedings, with the first chance not coming until the 18th minute, when Graczyk made a save.

Robinson then did well to find Taylor-Hart, who saw his effort deflected for a corner.

Graczyk had to make another stop and then a Sparta Prague free-kick went over.

Arsenal struggled to muster much rhythm in the opening period but the same could also be said of their opponents.

European youth fixtures tend to be a clash of styles and as a consequence games aren’t quite as open as league fixtures.

Ten minutes into the second half Sparta Prague managed to break the deadlock as Tomas Schanelec sent the ball beyond the reach of Graczyk after the goalkeeper had made an initial save.

Arsenal looked to equalise immediately and Ideho had a shot saved before Robinson’s claim for a penalty was turned down.

Mauro Bandeira sent a free-kick narrowly wide and then came the first of the four debuts as Roberts came on for Zane Monlouis and Bradley Ibrahim moved into defence.

An effort from Sparta Prague went wide and then the visiting goalkeeper Jakub Tuma escaped punishment despite rushing out of his goal and making a challenge.

A double change followed, with George Lewis coming on for Vigar and debutant Ferdinand replacing Robinson. Ferdinand is mainly a winger but does have experience of playing at right-back and filled in in the latter position on this occasion.

Ideho, who was becoming increasingly influential, embarked on a good run and then shot wide.

Quesada-Thorn then sent in a dangerous cross from the left but, agonisingly, there wasn’t anyone there to meet it.

A free-kick from Bandeira then just eluded Awe at the far post.

Further changes were made as Kamara and Ismail Oulad M’Hand came on for Taylor-Hart and Henry-Francis.

Kamara, deployed on the left wing, looked lively and Lewis shot wide late on.

However, despite their best efforts, Arsenal were unable to get an equaliser and now face a battle to progress in this competition.

As expected given the significant amount of changes, there was a lack of cohesion in the team, although there were still some standout performers, with Robinson and Taylor-Hart acquitting themselves well, while Ideho stepped up in the second half.

Taylor-Hart showed some glimpses of us ability and the debutants certainly didn’t look out of place at this level.

This may not go down as a memorable performance but it was certainly a memorable occasion for the players who came on.

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Seb Ferdinand receives first U21 callup as Arsenal face Sparta Prague

Seb Ferdinand has been named in the Arsenal U21 squad for tonight’s Premier League International Cup game at home to Sparta Prague.

It represents a first call up at U21 level for the winger, who has been one of the standout performers for the U18s this season.

The 16-year-old, who is on the bench at Meadow Park, will hope to come on for his debut.

Ferdinand has scored three goals and provided one assist for the U18s in the league this season.

Myles Lewis-Skelly, Matt Smith, Hubert Graczyk and James Hillson involved as Arsenal first-team return to training

The majority of the Arsenal first-team players who aren’t at the World Cup returned to training at London Colney today and they were joined by four youngsters.

Midfielders Myles Lewis-Skelly and Matt Smith were both called upon for the session. Goalkeepers Hubert Graczyk and James Hillson were also involved.

It was already revealed that highly rated schoolboy Lewis-Skelly will travel with the squad for their upcoming trip to Dubai and it is anticipated that Smith will also be involved.

With regards to first-team players, Rob Holding, Oleksandr Zinchenko, Albert Lokonga, Eddie Nketiah, Cedric, Reiss Nelson, Gabriel and Marquinhos were amongst those involved in the session.

Arsenal are set to play Watford in a behind closed doors friendly this week before heading to Dubai, where they will take on Lyon and AC Milan. Following that, they will play Juventus in a friendly at Emirates Stadium.

Nathan Butler-Oyedeji continuing to make progress for Arsenal U21s

One of the most pleasing aspects of watching youth football is seeing youngsters make significant progress in terms of their all-round game, and Nathan Butler-Oyedeji has done just that in the first half of this season.

Butler-Oyedeji’s first campaign with the second-string was rather frustrating for him at times, with the attacker not guaranteed regular playing time, while there were occasions when he was left out of the matchday squad entirely.

Now, however, Butler-Oyedeji has established himself as one of the standout performers for Arsenal U21s.

The 19-year-old cannot exactly be described as a late developer, but he was in the same scholarship intake in 2019 as Miguel Azeez, who has made his competitive senior debut for Arsenal and is now in his second loan spell away from the club.

It was previously thought that Butler-Oyedeji was better suited to playing as a winger, where he could use his speed and trickery to excellent effect.

This season, though, the prospect has been more effective in front of goal when deployed as a striker and he is also coming to terms with the other demands required of playing in that position, such as using his strength and linking up play.

Butler-Oyedeji was particularly impressive in the Papa Johns Trophy this season and is currently the top scorer overall in that competition with four goals, while he was voted the player of the group stages.

The Hale End product’s progress hasn’t gone unnoticed by the first-team coaching staff either. He was involved in a friendly against Brentford B last season and this campaign travelled with the squad as the extra man for the game away to PSV in the Europa League.

Butler-Oyedeji will hope to be involved in the first-team’s training camp in Dubai and the upcoming friendly against Juventus.

Next season he could head out on loan at some stage, but the progress that Butler-Oyedeji has made so far this season has been very encouraging.

Arsenal U18s looking to respond after recent struggles

Arsenal U18s suffered their third league defeat in succession on Saturday as they were beaten 4-1 by West Ham United.

Results are not always the most important aspect of youth football, with development taking precedence, but there have been some concerning signs so far this campaign, especially defensively.

Firstly, it is worth looking at the positives. There is a lot of creativity in this side, especially when schoolboys Myles Lewis-Skelly and Ethan Nwaneri are involved. The likes of Seb Ferdinand and Osman Kamara provide a threat out wide and when he has been available Omari Benjamin has acquitted himself well up front.

In midfield there are a host of options for Jack Wilshere to call upon, and that was summed up on Saturday, with substitutes Jimi Gower and Harrison Dudziak combining before Mathaeus Roberts found the net. Ismail Oulad M’Hand, meanwhile, has made significant strides forward in his development this season.

The U18s have looked vulnerable defensively, as evidenced by the fact that they have yet to keep a clean sheet this season. They have been without full-backs Reuell Walters and Lino Sousa, who have impressed for the U21s, while Maldini Kacurri and Elian Quesada-Thorn have also been involved with the older age group at times.

The absence of right-back Josh Nichols was also key against West Ham, with the visitors causing Arsenal numerous problems. Coby Small and Josh Robinson were deployed at right-back and centre-back respectively when it perhaps should have been the other way around.

In goal Alex Kovacevic kept his place but was at fault for several goals. Although he is capable of making impressive stops, Kovacevic often palms the ball out directly into the path of opposition players. Alexei Rojas will hope that he is soon recalled to the side.

Arsenal have three games remaining at U18 level before the Winter break – league fixtures against Leicester City and Crystal Palace and a home game against Millwall in the FA Youth Cup, which should be especially interesting.

There have been some encouraging signs from the U18s this season, especially in a creative sense, and at times they have caused problems for opponents with their dynamism and flair. It is clear though that there is still a lot of developing to do defensively.

Loan report – Marcelo Flores in action; Tim Akinola features in FA Cup win

Marcelo Flores started on the right wing and played 58 minutes as Real Oviedo won 1-0 against Mirandes.

Ovie Ejeheri was in action as Chelmsford City beat Worthing 3-1.

Miguel Azeez‘s Ibiza face FC Andorra on Monday night.

Charlie Patino started as Blackpool drew 1-1 with Watford in a friendly in Spain.

FA CUP SECOND ROUND

Arthur Okonkwo was in goal as Crewe Alexandra lost 3-0 to Barnsley.

Tim Akinola came on in the 78th minute as Chesterfield beat AFC Wimbledon 2-0.

Tyreece John-Jules is set to miss out through injury as Ipswich Town face Buxton on Monday. The forward is expected to be out for three to four months with a hamstring injury and has returned to Arsenal for treatment.

Report – Catalin Cirjan scores brace as Arsenal U21s beat Swansea City in Premier League Cup

U21 Premier League Cup

Swansea City 1 (Hurford 88) Arsenal 4 (Cirjan 8, 45, Butler-Oyedeji 40, Sagoe Jr 42)

Arsenal U21s bounced back from their Papa Johns Trophy exit with an emphatic 4-1 victory over Swansea City in the Premier League Cup today.

All four of Arsenal’s goals came during an inspired first half display, with Catalin Cirjan scoring a brace while Nathan Butler-Oyedeji and Charles Sagoe Jr were on target.

Coach Mehmet Ali named a considerably stronger team than he usually does in this competition, but there was still some rotation, with Matt Smith and Amario Cozier-Duberry not involved.

Bradley Ibrahim was called upon in midfield and Zane Monlouis made his first start since returning from injury. Joel Ideho, who has made a significant impact in this tournament, also started.

Graczyk

Walters-Foran-Monlouis-Sousa

Henry Francis-Ibrahim

Sagoe Jr-Cirjan-Ideho

Butler Oyedeji

Subs: Awe (for Monlouis, 60), Taylor-Hart (for Sagoe Jr, 71), Vigar (for Butler-Oyedeji, 71). Not used: Hillson, Bandeira.

Arsenal won 2-1 in the reverse fixture in August but they found themselves under pressure early on in the rain in Wales, with Hubert Graczyk having to make a save before captain Lino Sousa made a block.

Soon, though, Arsenal’s superiority started to shine through and they opened the scoring through Cirjan, who finished well after Charles Sagoe Jr won the ball in the area.

Swansea missed an opportunity but Arsenal were determined to seize control of the game and they proceeded to do exactly that.

Sousa pushed forwards from left-back and his effort was tipped over the crossbar but the flag was raised for offside in any case.

Ideho then managed to create space for himself but subsequently shot over.

Arsenal looked to close Swansea down at every possible opportunity and on one occasion Butler-Oyedeji, who is enjoying a terrific season, was rewarded for his persistence as he won possession and then scored to make it 2-0.

Sagoe Jr had an effort tipped over the crossbar and then Ideho’s shot was saved as Arsenal continued to push forwards. Swansea responded with an attempt from former Gunner Harry Jones which was off target.

In first half stoppage time Arsenal continued to add to their lead. It was 3-0 after Sagoe Jr capitalised on hesitancy in the Swansea defence prior to finding the net.

Geoff Bony, the son of former Swansea striker Wilfried, missed an inviting opportunity for the hosts.

Just before half time Arsenal got a fourth goal as Cirjan slotted home after being found by Butler-Oyedeji.

It is often difficult for teams to continue playing at such a high intensity when they have a significant lead at half time and that was the case for Arsenal on this occasion.

Early in the second half Graczyk had to be alert to rush off his line and deny Bony.

Cirjan then had an opportunity to complete his hat-trick but ended up shooting over.

Walters had an effort deflected wide and then Arsenal called upon Zach Awe to replace Monlouis, who wasn’t tested much as he continues his return to full sharpness.

Ideho shot wide and Arsenal gave runouts to Billy Vigar and Kido Taylor-Hart.

Awe headed over following a corner from Cirjan before Graczyk made a good stop at the other end.

It looked as if Arsenal were going to see the game out with a clean sheet but Swansea managed to get a consolation in the closing stages as Corey Hurford scored after Graczyk failed to hold a shot. There was an element of controversy to the goal with Sousa having been down hurt as it went in.

The late goal will have been a source of frustration for Arsenal but it won’t take the shine off what was an impressive performance, especially in the first half.

There is a lot of flair in this team and the goalscorers Cirjan, Sagoe Jr and Butler-Oyedeji all combined very well.

Behind them Ibrahim and Henry-Francis provided the platform for victory, with the latter in particular performing to a high standard.

Arsenal have taken ten points from their first four games in the Premier League Cup and will now have designs on enjoying a lengthy run in this competition.

Report – Mathaeus Roberts scores but Arsenal U18s lose to West Ham United

U18 Premier League

Arsenal 1 (Roberts 77) West Ham United 4 (Mubama 24, 38, Earthy 29, Fawunmi 90)

Substitute Mathaeus Roberts was on the scoresheet but Arsenal U18s suffered another defeat as they were beaten 4-1 at home by league leaders West Ham United today.

Alex Kovacevic surprisingly retained his place in goal at the expense of Alexei Rojas, while Josh Robinson came into the side with Coby Small moving across to right-back.

Ethan Nwaneri and Myles Lewis-Skelly, who have both been involved with the U21s recently, were called upon, while Kaleel Green started up front in the absence of Omari Benjamin.

Kovacevic

Small-Robinson-Brown-Quesada Thorn

Lewis Skelly-Ismail Oulad M’Hand

Ferdinand-Nwaneri-Kamara

Green

Subs: Gower (for Small, 46), Roberts (for Green, 64), Dudziak (for Oulad M’Hand, 75), Ryan (for Kamara, 85). Not used: Rojas.

Arsenal knew that they faced a difficult task going into this game, with West Ham having won all of their league matches so far this season.

Lewis-Skelly found Osman Kamara but the letter’s effort went wide.

In the 24th minute West Ham took the lead as Divin Mubama found the net.

George Earthy proceeded to make it 2-0 shortly afterwards, with Mubama then scoring again to inflict further damage on Arsenal.

Arsenal made a change at the start of the second half as Small was replaced by Jimi Gower.

Roberts later came on for Green and the midfielder proceeded to score his first goal of the season as Arsenal reduced the deficit.

Arsenal then turned to Harrison Dudziak and Kamarni Ryan, but West Ham got another goal late on as substitute Favour Fawunmi made it 4-1.

Arsenal are currently ninth in the table having won just two of their nine league games so far this season. They have yet to keep a clean sheet in the league this season.

Arsenal loanee Tyreece John-Jules ruled out for three to four months with hamstring injury

Arsenal loanee Tyreece John-Jules is set to be out for three to four months after undergoing surgery on a hamstring injury.

John-Jules suffered the injury during Ipswich Town’s 4-4 draw against Charlton Athletic at the end of last month.

Ipswich manager Kieran McKenna confirmed that John-Jules will return to Arsenal for treatment.

As reported by TWTD, McKenna said: ‘Tyreece has had surgery to repair his hamstring. He is going to spend a period of time back at Arsenal for the initial stages of his rehab, which makes sense on a few different levels.

‘He will probably join us a few weeks down the line when our medical team and their medical team agree and there is a handover. It is months, rather than weeks, for the injury.

‘The injury is approximately a three-to-four-month injury. Of course, you have to see how the recovery period goes.’

John-Jules has had much misfortune with injuries throughout his career so far. He has previously had loan spells at Lincoln City, Doncaster Rovers, Blackpool and Sheffield Wednesday.

So far he has made 21 appearances for Ipswich and has scored three times.

At the age of 21 he is approaching the time where a decision will be need to be made regarding his longterm future at Arsenal.

Report – Amario Cozier-Duberry impresses but Arsenal U21s are knocked out of Papa Johns trophy by Stevenage

Papa Johns Trophy – Last 32

Stevenage 3 (Amoo 51, Sweeney 69, Read 75) Arsenal U21s 2 (Butler-Oyedeji 6, Cozier-Duberry 74)

By Jeorge Bird @ The Lamex Stadium

Arsenal U21s’ dreams of playing at Wembley in the Papa Johns Trophy are over for another year at least following a tumultuous encounter away to Stevenage tonight.

The young Gunners were impressive in the first half and took an early lead through Nathan Butler-Oyedeji but Stevenage rallied after the break and scored twice before the effervescent Amario Cozier-Duberry equalised for Arsenal.

Arsenal were level for a matter of moments, however, as a superb strike from Arthur Read restored Stevenage’s lead and proved to be decisive in settling the game.

There weren’t too many surprises in the Arsenal team apart from the fact that Catalin Cirjan was named on the bench, with Jack Henry-Francis and Mauro Bandeira both starting in midfield.

Graczyk

Walters-Foran-Awe-Sousa

M. Smith

Henry Francis-Bandeira

Cozier Duberry-Butler Oyedeji-Sagoe Jr

Subs: Ideho (for Sagoe Jr, 66), Cirjan (for Henry-Francis, 78), Lewis-Skelly (for Walters, 79), Nwaneri (for Bandeira, 80). Not used: Hillson, Monlouis, Taylor-Hart.

Matt Smith made an important challenge to cut out the danger in the early stages but Arsenal quickly managed to assert themselves on proceedings, with Charles Sagoe Jr and Cozier-Duberry looking lively.

Cozier-Duberry laid the ball off to Butler-Oyedeji, who continued his fantastic form in this competition this season as he opened the scoring.

Despite taking an early lead Arsenal didn’t have matters all their own way and Taylor Foran made a good clearance before a header from Jordan Roberts hit the side-netting as Stevenage increased the intensity.

Stevenage had further chances but Arsenal then created an opening of their own with Cozier-Duberry cutting inside prior to shooting wide.

Graczyk made a fine stop with his feet and Alex Gilbey squandered an inviting opportunity for Stevenage from close range.

Stevenage emerged with greater determination in the second half and they managed to equalise when David Amoo steered the ball into the net following a corner. Amoo was part of the Liverpool side that knocked Arsenal out of the FA Youth Cup in 2008.

Butler-Oyedeji had a penalty claim turned down, with Joel Ideho then entering the fray in place of Sagoe Jr.

Stevenage continued to dominate proceedings and they then took the lead courtesy of a header from Dan Sweeney, with Arsenal caught out defensively.

At this point you wondered whether Arsenal would be able to respond but they managed to do just that through a wonderful effort from Cozier-Duberry, who twisted and turned prior to scoring.

The Arsenal supporters behind the goal were jubilant but their joy was shortlived as within the next minute Stevenage restored their lead as Read scored with a fine finish.

Arsenal made a triple substitution that saw Cirjan enter the fray along with talented schoolboys Ethan Nwaneri and Myles Lewis-Skelly, with Reuell Walters, Henry-Francis and Bandeira going off.

It was Stevenage who continued to threaten, however, with Graczyk pressed into action again to tip the ball over the crossbar.

Cozier-Duberry had a cross cut out and then Ideho, much to the bewilderment of the Arsenal fans, saw a penalty claim turned down.

Then the final whistle blew, with Arsenal’s elimination from this competition confirmed.

Although they only played one knockout fixture it has been quite a journey for Arsenal in this competition this season, taking in trips to Cambridge, Ipswich, Northampton and Stevenage.

The first half performance tonight offered encouragement but it wasn’t carried over into the second period, where defensive vulnerabilities came to the forefront.

Matt Smith and Henry-Francis impressed in the first half but their influence waned a little in the second period and there was a feeling that at least one of the midfield subs could have been made earlier.

Cozier-Duberry continues to stand out and it may not be too long until he is playing against senior opponents on a regular basis.

This turned into a disappointing night for Arsenal U21s but all is not lost, especially with Mehmet Ali’s side still top of Premier League 2 as well as having started well in the Premier League Cup and the Premier League International Cup.