Author: Jeorge Bird

Wilshere and Crowley star as Arsenal XI thrash Brentford

Jack Wilshere, Mikel Arteta, Mathieu Debuchy and Abou Diaby all continued their respective rehabilitations from injury as an Arsenal XI beat Brentford 4-0 at London Colney today.

Wilshere hasn’t featured competitively since November because of an ankle problem but the England international could return to the matchday squad against Liverpool this weekend. He opened the scoring against Brentford, with Dan Crowley, a player who has been likened to Wilshere in playing style, then making it 2-0.

Alex Iwobi, who has enjoyed an impressive season, hit a brace as Arsenal made it 4-0 before the break and, despite a swathe of substitutions, the Gunners held on for the victory.

The Arsenal side was a mixture of first-team players and U21 regulars. Mathieu Flamini and Krystian Bielik started, the latter being deployed at centre-back, whilst Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill returned from injury to start at left-back.

First-years Chris Willock, Marc Bola, Stephy Mavididi, George Dobson, Ben Sheaf and Aaron Eyoma were all involved as substitutes, as was Austin Lipman.

Macey

Debuchy-O’Connor-Bielik-Ormonde Ottewill

Flamini-Arteta

Diaby-Wilshere-Crowley

Iwobi

subs: M. Bola (for Ormonde-Ottewill, 46), C. Willock (for Diaby, 46), Zelalem (for Arteta, 46), Mavididi (for Wilshere, 46), Dobson (for Crowley, 46), Maitland-Niles (for Debuchy, 60), Sheaf (for Bielik, 66), Eyoma (for Flamini, 66), Lipman (for Iwobi, 68).

Arsenal, as was to be expected given the strength of their side, were dominant from the offset. Flamini saw a shot deflected, with the re-bound falling into the path of Wilshere, who finished well.

In a move that will have many dreaming about a future first-team partnership, Wilshere and Crowley interchanged passes quickly in the build-up to Arsenal’s second goal, with Crowley finishing adroitly to make it 2-0.

Iwobi, who has trained regularly with the first-team squad this season, made it 3-0 with a precise strike and the winger rounded off the scoring when he found the net again, this time from Diaby’s neat pass.

With Diaby, Arteta and Wilshere all withdrawn at half-time, the Arsenal side for the second-half had a less experienced look to it, but Arsenal still managed to create several attacking opportunities.

Willock missed a penalty after he was brought down in the area, with Lipman, another substitute, later striking a post.

Matt Macey made a good save late on to preserve his clean sheet and, overall, this was a very positive outing for Arsenal, with several first-team players gaining valuable match fitness, whilst some promising youngsters had the experience of playing with more senior individuals.

Arsenal’s Glen Kamara targets foreign loan

Glen Kamara’s development has certainly gone to plan this season.

The stylish yet tenacious defensive-midfielder has established himself as a key component of Arsenal’s U21 side, has trained frequently with the first-team squad and has represented Finland at U21 level.

Now, the youngster, who is still only 19, is already looking ahead to the next stage of his development after he admitted that he is likely to go out on loan at some point next season. That in itself isn’t much of a surprise, with many players often being sent out on temporary transfer at this juncture of their progression. However, Kamara’s potential destination is intriguing, with the former Southend United player admitting that he would prefer to go to a French or Dutch side.

Kamara’s preference is an interesting one and may be due to the fact that many Arsenal youngsters have been sent on loan to lower league English sides in recent seasons only to find themselves deprived of valuable game time.

If Kamara, as expected, does go out on loan next season, then he is likely to be joined in that regard by several other players, including Alex Iwobi and Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill.

U18s analysis- Tabi proves his worth against Blackburn

Most people, when asked to name Arsenal’s most promising schoolboy, would probably choose Josh Da Silva or Joe Willock, but Marcus Tabi has developed well this season and, playing for the U18s against Blackburn Rovers on Saturday, he underlined his credentials in no uncertain terms.

Tabi, a product of the club’s Hale End academy who tends to operate out wide, played a prominent part in both of Arsenal’s goals in the 2-2 draw at London Colney.

The first goal came after just seven minutes, with Tabi heading home from a corner having done well to help the young Gunners earn the set-piece in the first place.

Blackburn soon drew level, with Sam Joel finding the net from the spot after Kristopher Da Graca conceded a penalty with a clumsy challenge.

However, Tabi wouldn’t be thwarted, with the winger’s dangerous cross being turned into his own net by Scott Wharton as Arsenal went 2-1 ahead.

Arsenal could have gone into the break with an even greater lead intact, but Savvas Mourgos, who has impressed of late, sent his shot just over the crossbar.

Frans De Kat’s side continued to carve out chances after the interval, with a precise pass from Harry Donovan finding Tyrell Robinson, who shot over.

Arsenal were made to pay for their profligacy, though, with Blackburn being awarded another penalty, this time because of an alleged foul by Huddart.

The goalkeeper couldn’t keep out the spot kick, with Arsenal left to condemn the referee’s decision. Their anger was exacerbated shortly afterwards when a melee broke out between both sets of players following a challenge by Tre Pemberton on Donovan.

Modon Luam head-butted Robinson in the contre-temps that ensued, but the Blackburn player only received a yellow card for his actions, causing De Kat to condemn the referee in his post-match interview.

Overall, it wasn’t a particularly fluent Arsenal performance, but there were some encouraging signs, with midfielder Ben Sheaf using possession to good effect and Da Silva demonstrating his impressive hold-up play.

The U18s travel to face Bolton Wanderers on April 11th in their next play-off fixture.

Benson debuts as Arsenal U18s are held by Blackburn

After a win and a defeat in their first two play-off fixtures, Arsenal U18s were held to a 2-2 draw by their Blackburn Rovers counterparts at London Colney today.

The young Gunners took the lead through schoolboy Marcus Tabi, who returned to the side in place of Elliot Wright in the only change from last week’s victory over Stoke City.

Blackburn then levelled from the penalty spot, but Arsenal went into the break in the ascendancy when the visitors scored an own goal.

Arsenal were denied victory when Blackburn were awarded another penalty in the second-half, with Ryan Huddart unable to keep out the spot-kick.

U15 player Josh Benson made his debut at this level as a second-half substitute, with fellow U15 players Jordan Perrin, Robbie Burton and Tobi Omole also making the bench for the first time.

Huddart

Eyoma-Da Graca-Dobson-Chatzitheodoridis

Sheaf-Donovan

Tabi-Mourgos-Robinson

Da Silva

subs: Perrin, Benson, Burton, Omole.

*via AFCFixtureNews

Akpom delighted with Nottingham Forest loan move

Nottingham Forest have announced that they have won the fiercely-contested race to sign Arsenal striker Chuba Akpom on loan.

Several Championship clubs, including Norwich City, were also interested in signing the 19-year-old before this evening’s loan transfer deadline, but Akpom has elected to join Forest, who are currently in ninth place in England’s second tier. Dougie Freedman’s side also have Arsenal academy products Henri Lansbury and Josh Rees on their books.

Akpom, who had spells in League One last season with Brentford and Coventry City, will be looking to score his first senior goal during his time at the City Ground, and is likely to make his debut for his new side against Wolverhampton Wanderers after the international break, when he could face fellow Hale End graduate Benik Afobe.

Before then Akpom is set to represent England U20s against the United States on Sunday. Last night the striker won and scored a penalty at that level in the 1-1 draw with Mexico at The Hive.

Akpom took to Twitter to express his delight at the move, with the youngster set to add to his experience of professional football before returning to North London in the summer.

Forest have been seeking additional firepower up front since losing Britt Assombalonga to a serious injury. They  tend to deploy a 4-3-3 system with one central striker, but Akpom is capable of operating out wide if required.

Dexter Blackstock is currently Forest’s first-choice centre-forward, whilst Matty Fryatt is another player who Akpom will have to compete with.

Meanwhile, midfielder Jack Jebb has re-joined Stevenage on loan until the end of the season. Jebb featured five times for Graham Westley’s team during his initial spell at the club earlier this campaign before returning to Arsenal after sustaining a serious injury.

The 19-year-old has impressed since recovering from his spell on the sidelines, however, with the youngster catching the eye in the recent U21 game against Blackburn Rovers, and he will be available to feature in the League Two play-offs should Stevenage finish in the top seven.

Ajayi joins Cardiff on loan, with other deals likely

The loan transfer window closes tomorrow afternoon and today another Arsenal youngster has headed out on temporary transfer, with Semi Ajayi set to spend the remainder of the season with Championship side Cardiff City.

The centre-back, who has been capped by Nigeria at youth level, is scheduled to leave Arsenal on a permanent basis in the summer, with his contract unlikely to be renewed. If he impresses during this loan spell then Ajayi could seal a permanent move to Cardiff City, with whom he has already had a successful trial period.

Ajayi was a mainstay of Arsenal U21 team last season after joining from Charlton Athletic, but, despite being named on the bench for the first-team in the Premier League and the Capital One Cup this season, he hasn’t done enough to be granted an extended stay in North London and also spent time on trial with Sunderland and Ipswich Town.

Ajayi’s move takes the current number of Arsenal loanees to ten (Emiliano Martinez, Joel Campbell, Carl Jenkinson, Lukas Podolski, Ryo, Yaya Sanogo, Wellington, Josh Vickers and Jon Toral are the others) and further youngsters could yet go on loan before tomorrow’s deadline.

Chuba Akpom, who is set to represent England U20s against Mexico tonight, had previously been linked with a temporary switch to either Norwich City or Nottingham Forest, whilst several other Championship clubs are also chasing the striker’s signature.

A deal could still materialise before tomorrow night. Midfielder Jack Jebb could also go on loan again.

Serge Gnabry, however, is likely to remain with Arsenal for the time being, with the winger currently attempting to get over his fitness problems by representing Germany’s U21 side this week.

Robinson and Eyoma impress as Arsenal U18s beat Stoke in seven-goal thriller

U18 Premier League

Stoke City 3 (Da Graca o.g. (25), Shepherd (27), N’Goy (68) Arsenal 4 (Robinson (5), (23), Dryden o.g. (11), Eyoma (63)

Arsenal U18s have struggled for both victories and goals this season, so it came as something of a surprise that they managed to combine both feats away to Stoke City on Saturday afternoon.

The young Gunners raced into a three-goal lead, with Tyrell Robinson’s goals coming either side of an own goal by Stoke’s Edward Dryden.

Stoke were provided with something of a lifeline when Arsenal scored an own goal themselves through Kristopher Da Graca, with the hosts then reducing the deficit further courtesy of a strike from Tom Shepherd.

Arsenal found the net again through  the in-form Aaron Eyoma in the second-half, but there was more drama to come with Stoke making it 4-3 when Julian N’Goy scored before coming perilously close to claiming a point.

Arsenal held on, however, and their confidence will be boosted by some of the attacking moves they created.

Arsenal were without one of their brightest talents, with Chris Willock away on international duty with England U17s. In his absence schoolboy striker Josh Da Silva came into the starting line-up, with Eyoma moving out to the right flank and Robinson being deployed on the left.

The other changes saw Ryan Huddart replace Hugo Keto in goal and George Dobson come in for Tolaji Bola at centre-back.

Huddart

Wright-Da Graca-Dobson-Chatzitheodoridis

Sheaf-Donovan

Eyoma-Mourgos-Robinson

Da Silva

 subs: Keto, Tabi, T. Bola, Nketiah.

Arsenal lost their opening play-off fixture to Norwich City last week, but they started brightly on this occasion and took the lead after just five minutes. Savvas Mourgos was the orchestrator, with the midfielder playing an excellent pass into the path of Robinson, who confidently lobbed the ball over goalkeeper Dominic Kurasic.

The young Gunners were subjected to some sharp pressing by Stoke, but they continued to launch regular attacks and one such move paid dividends with the second goal. Da Graca did well to seize possession, with the centre-back finding Eyoma, whose teasing cross was inadvertently turned into his own net by Dryden.

It was 3-0 shortly afterwards when Harry Donovan’s effort was blocked and the re-bound fell kindly for Robinson, who finished from close range for his sixth goal at this level this season.

Arsenal were cruising, but Stoke were provided with a way back into the game when Da Graca’s overhit pass bobbled past Huddart and into the back of the net.

Matters then went from bad to worse for Arsenal as Donovan conceded a free-kick and Shepherd finished confidently after Stoke had rattled the crossbar from the set-piece.

Arsenal regained momentum in the second period and their fourth goal owed much to a superb run from Dobson. The youngster ran downfield and found Robinson, whose cross eluded Da Silva, but was eventually met by Eyoma, who finished adroitly.

There was still much more drama to come, however, with Stoke then making it 4-3 when N’Goy finished well following some disappointing defending from Arsenal.

In an end-to-end game there were further opportunities for Arsenal, with Robinson denied a hat-trick by a good save before substitute Edward Nketiah’s effort was cleared off the line.

Stoke protested for a penalty in the dying moments after they felt that Huddart had committed a foul in the area, but the referee waved play on and Arsenal just about managed to hold on for the victory.

Afterwards coach Frans De Kat admitted that his side had played more longer passes than usual, but, despite the concerns that persist about the youngsters’ defensive capabilities, this game also emphasised Arsenal’s qualities in an attacking sense, particularly those of wingers Robinson and Eyoma.