Author: Jeorge Bird

Report – Willock hits brace and Mavropanos features as Arsenal U23s thrash Tottenham

Premier League 2

Tottenham Hotspur 0 Arsenal 4 (Willock 4, 32, Gilmour (pen) 25, Nketiah 47)


Joe Willock hit a brace as Arsenal U23s continued their recent resurgence with a hugely impressive 4-0 victory away to rivals Tottenham Hotspur at the Lamex Stadium tonight.

Arsenal’s previous game, against West Ham United last week, had been abandoned at half time due to adverse weather conditions, but the young Gunners had been hugely impressive in that 45 minutes.

They were excellent again on this occasion, with Willock taking centre stage, while Charlie Gilmour scored from the penalty spot and Eddie Nketiah, who was an unused substitute for the first-team last night, also managed to get on the scoresheet.

Coach Freddie Ljungberg made one alteration to the team that started against West Ham, with Daniel Ballard coming in for Henrikh Mkhitaryan.

Konstantinos Mavropanos was again involved, with Ljungberg switching system to play three centre-backs, while Tyreece John-Jules was on the bench, where he was joined by goalkeeper Tom Smith, who received his first call-up at this level.


Osei Tutu-Ballard-Mavropanos-Pleguezuelo-Thompson



Subs: John-Jules (for Pleguezuelo, 68), T. Smith (for Iliev, 77), Zelalem (for Amaechi, 86). Not used: Medley, Coyle. 

Arsenal seemed especially eager to make an instant impact and they did just that as they opened the scoring with just four minutes gone.

It was Willock, who has enjoyed an excellent season, who got the goal, with the midfielder finding the net after good work from Bukayo Saka and Xavier Amaechi.

At the other end Deyan Iliev had to react well to keep out Jack Roles’ effort, but Arsenal remained very much in the ascendancy and it wasn’t long until Ljungberg’s team doubled their advantage.

Gilmour was typically composed as he scored a penalty, with the spot-kick having been awarded after Tottenham’s George Marsh was adjudged to have handled the ball in the area.

Arsenal added a third in the 31st minute, with Willock scoring his eleventh goal of the season with a fine strike.

There could have been another goal before the break, but the usually prolific Nketiah shot wide.

Nketiah made amends shortly after the re-start, with the striker capitalising upon a weak backpass to slot the ball home.

Iliev reacted well to keep out a rare Tottenham effort, and then Arsenal bolstered their attacking firepower even further as John-Jules entered the fray in place of Julio Pleguezuelo.

Arsenal were forced into another alteration in the 77th minute with Iliev suffering an injury, meaning Tom Smith had to come on in goal. Bizarrely, the first-year scholar made his debut for the U23s before featuring for the U18s.

Ljungberg’s side continued to go in search of more goals and Amaechi rattled the crossbar with a ferocious free-kick.

Gedion Zelalem replaced Amaechi for the closing stages and eventually the final whistle blew, with Tottenham being put out of their misery.

This was an excellent all-round display from Arsenal, and a reminder of the quality that the club possess in their academy at a time when the situation surrounding the first-team is far from ideal.



Nketiah included in travelling squad as Arsenal face BATE Borisov in Europa League


Eddie Nketiah has been included in the travelling squad for Arsenal’s Europa League round of 32, first leg game away to BATE Borisov.

Nketiah, who has been on the periphery of the first-team squad all season, trained with the team today along with goalkeeper Deyan Iliev.

Regarding first-team players, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Granit Xhaka are back available and both travelled, while Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Mesut Ozil have returned to training.

Aaron Ramsey’s injury is still being assessed. Hector Bellerin, Rob Holding and Danny Welbeck remain sidelined and Konstantinos Mavropanos isn’t eligible to feature in the Europa League having been left out of the squad for this competition.

Confirmed players that travelled: Cech, Leno, Suarez, Mustafi, Guendouzi, Torreira, Xhaka, Maitland-Niles, Iwobi, Mkhitaryan, Aubameyang, Koscielny, Kolasinac, Lichtsteiner, Lacazette, Monreal, Elneny, Nketiah

Others who trained: Ozil, Sokratis, Jenkinson, Mavropanos (ineligible), Iliev

Injured: Ramsey, Bellerin, Welbeck, Holding

Highly-rated striker Folarin Balogun signs professional contract with Arsenal


Arsenal striker Folarin Balogun has signed his first professional contract with the club.

The Hale End product has been in excellent form at U18 level, scoring 13 goals in 12 games this season.

In addition, Balogun, 17, has featured for the U23s and in the Checkatrade Trophy as he has continued to gain valuable experience.

A fast and skilful player, Balogun is also effective at linking up play and can drift out wide to excellent effect.

Born in New York, he has represented the United States at U18 level and has also featured for England at the same age group.

It is understood that centre-back Mark McGuinness has also signed his first professional contract with the club, although this has yet to be officially confirmed.

In addition to McGuinness, there are four remaining second-year scholars at the club – Matt Smith, Bayli Spencer-Adams, Vontae Daley-Campbell and Zak Swanson.

Smith seems likely to be offered an extended stay, although Daley-Campbell’s future is in some doubt, with the right-back having been heavily linked with a move away from the club while he was left out of the starting lineup for the FA Youth Cup defeat to West Bromwich Albion.

Medley signs new contract with further first-team chances on the horizon

Arsenal defender Zech Medley has signed his second professional contract with the club, indicating that he is very much in Unai Emery’s plans for the future.

The tall centre-back has been on the fringes of the first-team squad this season, featuring twice in the Europa League and once in the FA Cup in addition to making the bench in the Premier League.

Medley has also been a regular for Arsenal at U23 level and was part of the team that won the Premier League 2 title last season.

Previously on Chelsea’s books, Medley joined Arsenal in late 2016 following a successful trial.

Although he still has some improvements to make, the 18-year-old has progressed very well in recent seasons and now frequently trains with the first-team squad.

Further opportunities in the senior side now seem likely for Medley, and there is a possibility that he could be sent on loan at some point next season to further his development.

It will be interesting to see whether the club’s decision to give Medley a new deal has ramifications for Julio Pleguezuelo, who is out of contract this summer.

Loan report – Martinez keeps another clean sheet; Nelson features in thriller; Bielik at centre-back


Emiliano Martinez played the whole game and kept a clean sheet as Reading drew 0-0 against his former loan club Sheffield Wednesday.

Calum Chambers played the whole game and was booked as Fulham lost 3-0 to Manchester United.

Krystian Bielik played the full game at centre-back and was booked in Charlton Athletic’s 1-1 draw with Southend United.

Reiss Nelson came on in the 70th minute as Hoffenheim drew 3-3 with Borussia Dortmund.

Kelechi Nwakali was brought on in the 73rd minute as Porto B drew 3-3 with Academico Viseu.

David Ospina was an unused substitute as Napoli drew 0-0 with Fiorentina.

Matt Macey was an unused substitute as Plymouth Argyle drew 1-1 with Portsmouth.

Takuma Asano missed out through injury as Hannover beat Nuremberg 2-0.

Emile Smith Rowe didn’t feature in RB Leipzig’s goalless draw with Eintracht Frankfurt due to injury.



Report – Arsenal knocked out of FA Youth Cup by West Brom despite Saka strike

FA Youth Cup fifth round

Arsenal 1 (Saka 31) West Bromwich Albion 2 (Soule 7, Azaz 68)

Arsenal were knocked out of the FA Youth Cup on Saturday as they were defeated by a spirited West Bromwich Albion side despite Bukayo Saka’s strike.

Coach Ken Gillard made two changes from the team that overcame Tottenham Hotspur in the previous round, with Joel Lopez surprisingly replacing Vontae Daley-Campbell and James Olayinka coming in for the injured Jordan McEneff.

Striker Tyreece John-Jules recovered from injury to make the bench.

Arsenal: Okonkwo; Swanson, McGuinness, Ogungbo, Lopez (Greenwood, 86); M. Smith, Olayinka (John-Jules, 76); Amaechi, Cottrell, Saka; Balogun. Subs not used: T. Smith, Daley-Campbell, Coyle.

Arsenal sought to start brightly but it was actually the visitors who commenced the game stronger, with Jamie Soule pushing forwards and finding Rayhaan Tulloch, who shot wide.

Just two minutes later West Brom were in front and it was Soule who scored it as he slotted the ball beyond the reach of Arthur Okonkwo.

The young Gunners tried their utmost to respond, with Folarin Balogun having an effort blocked before Xavier Amaechi came close to scoring.

Bukayo Saka then struck the crossbar and then Balogun shot wide as Arsenal carved out further opportunities.

Eventually they did manage to equalise, and it was Saka who scored it as he scored from close range.

It was 1-1 at half-time and in the early stages of the second half Saka continued to grow in influence as he had further opportunities to score.

West Brom were undettered, however, and regained the lead in the 68th minute courtesy of Finn Azaz.

Arsenal turned to their bench in search of inspiration, with Tyreece John-Jules making his return from injury as he replaced James Olayinka.

Saka continued to see much of the ball but the winger perhaps should have scored when well placed.

Arsenal threw on another attacker, with Sam Greenwood, just back from international duty, coming on for Joel Lopez.

Balogun was presented with a chance to force extra-time but he headed wide in the closing stages and, after four minutes of stoppage time, Arsenal were knocked out.

Despite reaching the final of this prestigious competition last season, Arsenal have failed to progress beyond the fifth round on this occasion and lots of these players, including Amaechi and John-Jules, won’t get to play in the Youth Cup again.

Intriguingly, though, Saka will still be eligible next campaign as Arsenal look to make up for this disappointment.

Report – Arsenal sign Reading goalkeeper James Hillson on youth loan to cover for injured Karl Hein

Arsenal have reportedly brought in young Reading goalkeeper James Hillson on a youth loan.

According to journalist Jonathan Low, Hillson, 18, has linked up with the Gunners.

The news comes at a time when Arsenal U18s goalkeeper Karl Hein is out injured, with Hillson arriving to provide competition for Arthur Okonkwo.

Daniel Barden left the club to join Norwich City earlier in the season, while Tom Smith is still on Arsenal’s books but has yet to play this campaign.

In addition, U23s shot-stopper Deyan Iliev often has to train with the first-team, which leaves the academy short of goalkeepers for their training sessions.

Schoolboy Hubert Graczyk was on the bench for the FA Youth Cup fourth round win against Tottenham Hotspur, but Hillson represents a more experienced option.

Hillson has featured for Reading at U18 level this season and has also made the bench for the U23s. He has also played for Salisbury City on loan this season.

The new arrival could be in the squad for Arsenal’s Youth Cup clash against West Bromwich Albion this weekend.