Author: Jeorge Bird

Matt Smith scores penalty and six schoolboys feature as depleted Arsenal U18s beat Southampton

U18 Premier League

Southampton 0 Arsenal 1 (M. Smith 61 (pen))

An Arsenal U18 team deprived of many of their standout players managed to secure an impressive 1-0 victory away to Southampton in a rearranged league fixture today, with Matt Smith scoring a penalty.

None of the players who started the emphatic FA Youth Cup victory over Blackpool on Monday were involved on this occasion, but some of the substitutes from that game, including Smith and Trae Coyle, were called upon.

Schoolboys Matthew Dennis, Miguel Azeez, Ben Cottrell and Armstrong Okoflex all started but second years Josh Benson and Jay Beckford, who are set to be released this summer, weren’t involved.

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M. Smith-Azeez

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Coyle

Subs: Flaherty (for Cottrell, 69), Martin (for Okoflex, 77). Not used: T. Smith, Matthews.

Southampton named a strong side, including Michael Obafemi, who featured in the Premier League earlier in the season.

The hosts had an opportunity to open the scoring from the penalty spot in the first half but Arsenal goalkeeper Daniel Barden reacted well to keep out Jonathan Afolabi’s effort.

Arsenal were impressive in the second period and they eventually went ahead through a penalty of their own, with Smith scoring from the spot.

Schoolboys Stan Flaherty and Josh Martin received run-outs and it turned out to be a good afernoon for Arsenal, who are now five points ahead of Southampton in second.

Chelsea may have been crowned champions but Arsenal have an opportunity for glory against the Blues in the FA Youth Cup, while they are also determined to finish strongly in the league.

Report – Smith Rowe superb as five-star Arsenal U18s thrash Blackpool to reach FA Youth Cup final

FA Youth Cup semi-final, second leg

Arsenal 5 (Balogun 18, Ballard 20, Burton 23, Smith Rowe 34 (pen), M. Smith 90) Blackpool 0 (Arsenal win 7-2 on aggregate)

By Jeorge Bird @ Emirates Stadium

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Arsenal U18s made it through to the FA Youth Cup final for the first time in nine years with a 5-0 demolition of Blackpool at Emirates Stadium tonight as Emile Smith Rowe produced a midfield masterclass.

With the first leg having finished 2-2, Arsenal knew they had much work to do in the second leg in order to get to the final but they managed to do that, with Smith Rowe very influential.

The extremely talented youngster, deployed in the number ten position, found the net himself from the penalty spot following a superb burst forwards, whilst Folarin Balogun, Danny Ballard, Robbie Burton and substitute Matt Smith also managed to get on the scoresheet as the resilience that Blackpool demonstrated in the initial tie evaporated.

Arsenal will now face Chelsea, who have won each of the last four editions of this competition, in a two-legged final, but for now Kwame Ampadu’s side can reflect on a dominant display which, especially in the first half, was a joy to watch.

Reiss Nelson, as expected, wasn’t involved, whilst Trae Coyle was surprisingly omitted from the starting lineup, with James Olayinka deployed in central midfield. Dominic Thompson, meanwhile, started at left-back with Tobi Omole not involved.

Virginia

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Olayinka-Burton

Balogun-Smith Rowe-Amaechi

John Jules

Subs: Saka (for Amaechi), Coyle (for Smith Rowe), M. Smith (for Balogun). Not used: Okonkwo, Olowu.

Blackpool had put up a terrific fight in the first leg but it soon became apparent that Arsenal, with home advantage, were going to be too strong for them on this occasion.

Arsenal were dominant in the early stages, with the lively Burton hitting an effort over the crossbar.

Xavier Amaechi, who enjoyed an excellent game, then started to cause all manner of problems for the Blackpool defence with his searing speed and the winger swung in a cross which picked out Folarin Balogun, who shot wide.

Balogun, who frequently sought to drift inside from the right flank, then rattled the woodwork after he was located by powerful full-back Vontae Daley-Campbell, and it seemed only a matter of time before Arsenal took the lead.

Balogun and Tyreece John-Jules both had shots saved in quick succession but then Arsenal did make it 1-0 as Smith Rowe initiated the move, finding Amaechi, who played in Balogun again.

On this occasion the attacker made no mistake as he headed home in the 18th minute to put Arsenal ahead both on the night and in the tie.

Daley-Campbell shot wide and then it was 2-0, with Amaechi the architect again as his corner was headed home emphatically by captain Ballard.

Blackpool were crumbling and Arsenal took full advantage as Burton made it 3-0 with a neat finish following further good work from the influential Smith Rowe.

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That appeared to be the tie over, but Arsenal were eager to continue to dominate and Balogun almost scored again following an intricate team move but his effort lacked conviction on this occasion.

Arsenal’s quick movement and passing saw them continue to thrive and Dominic Thompson, up from left-back, hit the side-netting after Amaechi played the ball into his path.

Then came the most memorable moment of the match as Smith Rowe embarked on a tremendous run past several Blackpool players.

Had Smith Rowe not been hauled down it could have resulted in a spectacular goal, but as it transpired a penalty was awarded and the starlet stepped up to take it himself, making no mistake as Arsenal went 4-0 ahead.

Blackpool threatened intermittently in the second half, with Joao Virginia having to claim a cross, but Arsenal were still firmly in control of proceedings.

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Smith Rowe, so elegant in possession, played a delightful ball to Amaechi, but the latter’s effort was saved.

Burton then found John-Jules but the striker, who is usually impressive in front of goal, was unable to score.

Arsenal brought on Bukayo Saka and later Trae Coyle in place of Amaechi and Smith Rowe and they continued to threaten even without the services of two of their standout players.

Blackpool’s chances of securing a shock win had long since diminished and their misery was compounded when Jack Newton was given a second yellow card for hauling back Balogun.

Smith came on for Balogun and the midfielder, who has trained with the first-team recently, managed to add further gloss to the scoreline in the closing stages from close range, with fellow substitute Coyle playing a clever no-look pass in the build up.

It is important to take the standard of opposition into account, but this was still an excellent display from Arsenal, with Smith Rowe and Amaechi especially standing out.

The likes of Burton, Balogun and James Olayinka can also be pleased with their displays and the overall team performance deserves much credit.

Defeating a highly regarded Chelsea team will be no easy task, but Arsenal will be in determined mood and if Smith Rowe can replicate this performance then the Youth Cup could be heading back to north London.

Loan report – Lucas Perez assists; Reine-Adelaide goes off injured

Lucas Perez got an assist and played the whole game as Deportivo La Coruna beat Athletic Bilbao 3-2.

Chuba Akpom played the whole game as Sint-Truiden drew 2-2 with Oostende.

Kelechi Nwakali played the whole game and was booked as MVV Maastricht lost 3-1 to AZ II.

Jeff Reine-Adelaide went off injured after 14 minutes as Angers drew 1-1 with Nice.

Stephy Mavididi came on in the 76th minute of Charlton Athletic’s 1-0 defeat to Scunthorpe United.

Joel Campbell was brought on in the 83rd minute as Real Betis beat Girona 1-0.

Emiliano Martinez was an unused substitute as Getafe beat Espanyol 1-0.

Marc Bola was an unused substitute as Bristol Rovers drew 1-1 with Blackburn Rovers.

Ben Sheaf was an unused substitute as Stevenage lost 2-0 to Cambridge United.

Carl Jenkinson and Cohen Bramall weren’t involved as Birmingham City lost 2-0 to Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Tafari Moore missed out through injury as Wycombe Wanderers beat Yeovil Town 1-0.

Krystian Bielik didn’t feature due to injury as Walsall lost 3-2 to AFC Wimbledon.

Takuma Asano wasn’t involved at Stuttgart drew 1-1 with Hannover.

Julio Pleguezuelo wasnt involved as Gimnastic de Tarragona lost 1-0 to Real Oviedo.

Report – Gilmour strike sees off Swansea as Arsenal U23s boost title hopes

Premier League 2

Arsenal 1 (Gilmour) Swansea City 0

By Jeorge Bird @Emirates Stadium

The title dream is still very much alive for Arsenal U23s, with Charlie Gilmour’s strike early in the second half seeing off Swansea City at Emirates Stadium tonight and, temporarily at least, sending the young Gunners top of Premier League 2.

There is still much work to be done if Arsenal are to be crowned champions – they are three points ahead of Leicester City, their closest challengers, but the Foxes have a game in hand as well as a superior goal difference, while Liverpool are also still in the hunt for the title.

Arsenal are doing all they can, however, to finish top and they managed to prevail tonight despite being without some important players.

Reiss Nelson and Eddie Nketiah were again unavailable due to first-team commitments, while Konstantinos Mavropanos missed out through injury and Joe Willock also didn’t feature as he is likely to train with the senior side tomorrow.

Tyreece John-Jules wasn’t involved but there was some positive news as Emile Smith Rowe made an unexpectedly early return from injury to start. Joe Olowu and Folarin Balogun were also brought into the starting lineup.

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Gilmour

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Dragomir

Subs: Keto (for Iliev, 22), Burton (for Smith Rowe, 60), Fortune (for Balogun, 81). Not used: Daley-Campbell, Coyle.

Despite both sides going into the game with a chance of winning the title, there was a lack of intensity in the opening stages.

Arsenal could be forgiven for being rather lethargic, with many of these players having featured in the epic Premier League International Cup semi-final win over Villarreal on Tuesday, which went to penalties.

Vlad Dragomir was deployed up front with Balogun out wide but on one occasion they swapped positions, with the Hale End product locating the Romanian with a precise cross, but the latter’s effort was blocked.

Smith Rowe was eager to impress after his injury layoff and he certainly succeeded in that regard as he posed a significant threat to the Swansea goal, seeing a low free-kick well saved on one occasion by Eriwn Mulder.

Josh Dasilva then had an effort saved as Arsenal upped the intensity but Swansea’s threat couldn’t be discounted, with Aaron Lewis rampaging forwards from right-back and finding the side netting.

The game was temporarily halted when Iliev was kicked in the face and, following lengthy treatment, the Arsenal goalkeeper had to be replaced by Hugo Keto.

Iliev needed several stitches but should be fit for Arsenal’s final league game away to West Ham United next week.

Dasilva had been rather subdued against Villarreal but the midfielder was more influential here and bamboozled the Swansea defence with a clever turn before his subsequent effort was saved by Mulder.

Swansea improved in the closing stages of the first half and Botti Biabi was dangerous, but a rather uneventful half ended goalless.

Arsenal knew that much improvement was needed in the second period if they were to secure what would be a potentially important victory.

There was an additional sense of purpose about Arsenal’s play in the early stages of the second period and in the 47th minute the decisive moment of the match occurred as Xavier Amaechi’s corner fell to Gilmour, who finished emphatically to open the scoring.

Gilmour has spent much of the season on the periphery of proceedings but he is now starting to demonstrate just what he is capable of at a crucial period in the season.

Arsenal could have doubled their advantage very quickly, with Amaechi again the provider, but this time Balogun’s effort was saved.

Amaechi, who was having a real influence on the game in the second half, then shot wide himself after Zech Medley unexpectedly burst into midfield.

Swansea, knowing their own title ambitions were fading, tried their utmost to level, with George Byers and Jack Evans both coming close, but Arsenal stood firm.

Smith Rowe was replaced by Robbie Burton in a pre-planned change, but Arsenal were fortunate not to concede when Jordi Osei-Tutu, who otherwise had an excellent game, gave the ball straight to Adnan Maric, with the Swansea number ten lashing his attempt wide.

Amaechi was full of confidence and forced a save from Mulder following an excellent run.

Swansea, though, still had hope of levelling and on one occasion Keto had to make an impressive reaction stop to preserve Arsenal’s lead.

Gilmour and Amaechi had further chances for Arsenal but the Swansea pressure continued, with Joe Olowu having to hack the ball away before Keto made another good stop.

After four minutes of added time, the whistle finally blew and Arsenal had secured three potentially vital points.

Leicester face Sunderland on Sunday and Arsenal will be intrigued to see what occurs in that game.

Liverpool can also still win the title but Arsenal have at least put themselves in a very good position to secure the second-string title.

Gilmour impressed again tonight, while Osei-Tutu pushed forwards well from right-back and Amaechi caught the eye.

The return of Smith Rowe, who was excellent, is another major boost as Arsenal look to secure three trophies at youth level, with the Premier League International Cup and the FA Youth Cup also up for grabs.

Nelson travels to Moscow as five other youngsters train with Arsenal first-team

Arsenal held their final training session today before tomorrow’s Europa League quarter-final, second leg clash away to CSKA Moscow, with several youngsters in attendance.

Reiss Nelson, who made his first Premier League start last weekend, trained with the squad and travelled to Moscow along with goalkeeper Matt Macey.

Eddie Nketiah, Robbie Burton, Trae Coyle and Matt Smith also trained with the first-team.

As far as senior players are concerned, Granit Xhaka wasn’t involved in the session, while Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, David Ospina and Santi Cazorla remain injured. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang isn’t eligible to feature in the Europa League.

Defender Per Mertesacker, who hasn’t played since January, made the trip to Moscow.

Report – Medley and Iliev redeem themselves in dramatic fashion as Arsenal beat Villarreal on penalties to reach Premier League International Cup final

Premier League International Cup – Semi-final

Arsenal 2 (John-Jules 8, Gilmour (pen) 19) Villarreal 2 (Dalmau 21, Franquesa 40) (a.e.t., Arsenal win 5-4 on penalties)

By Jeorge Bird @Emirates Stadium

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For so long in this titanic tussle, it appeared that Deyan Iliev and Zech Medley were going to be the players to cost Arsenal.

Having established a two-goal lead courtesy of a strike from the prolific Tyreece John-Jules and a penalty from the impressive Charlie Gilmour, Arsenal’s advantage was erased, with goalkeeper Iliev making a major mistake for Villarreal’s first goal before Medley then turned the ball into his own net.

The game went on and on, into extra-time, and then the first ever penalty shoot out at Emirates Stadium. Then villains became heroes, with Iliev saving Ruben Mesa’s spot-kick before Medley confidently slotted home the decisive penalty to send Arsenal through to the final of the Premier League International Cup, where they will face either Newcastle United or Porto.

Arsenal were still without Reiss Nelson, Matt Macey and Eddie Nketiah, who will train with the first-team tomorrow, but they could call upon Konstantinos Mavropanos and Joe Willock, who returned to the side at the expense of Joe Olowu and Vontae Daley-Campbell, with the latter dropping out of the squad entirely. Iliev, meanwhile, replaced Joao Virginia in goal, with the young Gunners reverting to a back four.

Iliev

Osei Tutu-Mavropanos-Medley-T. Bola

Gilmour

Amaechi-Dasilva-Willock-Dragomir

John Jules 

Subs: Olowu (for Mavropanos, 51), Fortune (for Amaechi, 71), Balogun (for Dragomir, 90). Not used: Virginia, Coyle, Burton.

In front of a crowd of 1,561 at Emirates, Arsenal started well and they looked to cause problems for the Villarreal defence early on.

They managed to make the breakthrough in the tenth minute, with Tolaji Bola’s effort being blocked and the ball falling to John-Jules, who found the net with a clinical finish.

Arsenal quickly set about attempting to add to their lead, with Xavier Amaechi’s free-kick stinging the fingertips of Villarreal goalkeeper Jose Antonio Martinez.

Medley had to be alert to make an important intervention at the other end when Mavropanos was caught out, but Arsenal were in control and were presented with an opportunity to add to their lead when Gilmour was brought down in the area.

Gilmour is known for his penalty-taking exploits – he scored three in one game for the U18s last season – and he made no mistake on this occasion as he made it 2-0 to Arsenal.

Game over? Not quite. Villarreal were spirited in their response but the goal that saw them reduce the deficit was a gift as Iliev, in calamitous fashion, failed to control a Medley backpass and Adrian Dalmau took full advantage.

Arsenal were determined to restore their two-goal cushion, but Dragomir’s teasing cross went without a recipient and then John-Jules shot over.

Just before the break Villarreal, somewhat remarkably, were level, with Medley turning the ball into his own net under pressure.

Villarreal were buoyed by their equaliser and started the second half in positive fashion, with Mavropanos making a superb block to prevent a goal.

The Greek defender hurt himself in the process, however, which caused him to be replaced by Olowu in the early stages of the second period.

Arsenal made a tactical switch, with Vlad Dragomir coming across to the right wing and Amaechi switching to the left, but it made little difference, with neither player able to have much of an impact on proceedings.

Joe Willock was constantly seeking to create an opening for Arsenal and on one occasion the midfielder showed good skill before shooting over from long range.

Yassin Fortune was then introduced in place of Amaechi, but the Frenchman, who has fallen well down the pecking order, was completely out of sorts as he appeared to be lacking fitness and was unable to make any kind of impact.

A terrible kick from Iliev almost led to Villarreal taking the lead but, as the game wore on, Arsenal finally began to have more of an impact again.

Dasilva sent an ambitious effort over the crossbar before Dragomir flicked a header just wide.

Then, in stoppage time, Dasilva came close with a curling effort, but it ended level after 90 minutes, with extra-time following.

Arsenal had one remaining substitution and they elected to use it straight away, with Folarin Balogun, who hit a late equaliser in the league against Liverpool last week, entering the fray in place of Dragomir.

Extra-time was rather uneventful for the most part, although Arsenal did controversially have a penalty claim turned down in the latter stages when Willock was seemingly fouled in the area.

It then went to penalties and Arsenal were assured from the spot, with Gilmour, Dasilva and Fortune all scoring before Iliev reacted well to deny Ruben Mesa.

The responsibility, and the opportunity for redemption, then fell to Medley, who stepped up confidently and finished well, sparking jubilant scenes.

This was far from a vintage performance from Arsenal, with only Gilmour, who was hugely impressive, really standing out, but the important aspect is that they are through to the final.

There is still the opportunity for league glory too, although several players were understandably tired at the end, which could lead to several changes for the game against Swansea City on Friday.

For now, though, it is time to reflect on a dramatic night, one which saw two potential villains become heroes.

Arsenal winger Eyoma assists and almost scores own goal against Tottenham U23s during Derby trial

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Arsenal winger Aaron Eyoma has headed out on trial again as he looks to find a new club, with Derby County his destination on this occasion.

Eyoma, who can also play at right-back or up front, previously spent time on trial with Queens Park Rangers, but, after that move failed to work out, he was subsequently approached by Derby, whose U23 side play in the top tier of Premier League 2.

The 20-year-old completed 85 minutes as Derby lost 4-2 away to Tottenham Hotspur at the weekend, with Eyoma facing his brother TJ, who is on the books of Arsenal’s north London rivals.

It was an eventful game for Eyoma as he hit his own post in the first half when Joe Pritchard’s effort deflected off him before the Hale End product proceeded to set up a goal for Cameron Cresswell.

Eyoma continued to impress as he delivered some dangerous crosses, and he will hope that he has done enough to earn a deal at Derby. Coincidentally, Eyoma’s most recent appearance for Arsenal U23s also came against Tottenham, in a defeat last month.

It is anticipated that Eyoma, along with Chiori Johnson, who is on trial at Bolton Wanderers, will be released by Arsenal this summer.

Loan report – Akpom and Perez score; Nwakali and Mavididi feature

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Chuba Akpom scored and played 81 minutes as Sint-Truiden beat Antwerp 4-0.

Lucas Perez scored a penalty and played the full game as Deportivo La Coruna beat Malaga 3-2.

Kelechi Nwakali played the whole game and was booked as MVV Maastricht beat Helmond Sport 3-2.

Ben Sheaf played 82 minutes and was booked as Stevenage beat Newport County 1-0.

Jeff Reine-Adelaide played 68 minutes as Angers drew 1-1 with Strasbourg.

Stephy Mavididi was brought on in the 64th minute as Charlton Athletic drew 1-1 with Bristol Rovers, for whom Marc Bola wasn’t involved.

Emiliano Martinez was an unused substitute as Getafe lost 2-0 to Alaves.

Joel Campbell was an unused substitute as Real Betis beat Eibar 2-0.

Krystian Bielik missed out through injury as Walsall beat Bury 1-0.

Tafari Moore’s Wycombe Wanderers didn’t have a game this weekend.

Carl Jenkinson and Cohen Bramall weren’t involved as Birmingham City drew 1-1 with Burton Albion.

Takuma Asano wasn’t involved as Stuttgart lost 3-0 to Borussia Dortmund.

Julio Pleguezuelo wasn’t involved as Gimnastic Tarragona beat Real Valladolid 1-0.

Arsenal defender Chiori Johnson concedes penalty while on trial at Bolton

Arsenal defender Chiori Johnson featured for Bolton Wanderers’ U23 side while on trial last week.

The right-back was involved as Bolton drew 1-1 at home to Watford in the Professional Development League but he conceded a penalty.

Johnson, a product of Arsenal’s Hale End academy, is set to be released when his contract expires this summer and previously spent time on trial with Blackburn Rovers.

Report – Olayinka scores and five schoolboys feature as Arsenal U18s lose to Leicester

U18 Premier League

Arsenal 1 (Olayinka 60) Leicester 3 (Tee 36, Shade 57, Leshabela (pen) 71)

James Olayinka was on the scoresheet but a depleted Arsenal U18s side were beaten 3-1 at home by Leicester City today.

The young Gunners were without several players who featured for the U23s in their draw against Liverpool yesterday.

Coach Kwame Ampadu gave starts to schoolboys Armstrong Okoflex and Miguel Azeez, while Josh Martin, Matthew Dennis and Alfie Matthews were all on the bench.

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Clarke-Spencer Adams-McGuinness-Thompson

Olayinka-Swanson

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Okoflex

Subs: M. Smith (for Swanson, 40), Martin (for Olayinka, 74), Dennis (for Saka, 83). Not used: Okonkwo, Matthews.

Leicester were the better side in the first half and took the lead in the 36th minute courtesy of Jacob Tee.

Arsenal sought to respond, throwing on Matthew Smith, who trained with the first-team earlier in the day, but Leicester continued to impress and doubled their advantage in the second period, with Tyrese Shade’s effort getting the better of Daniel Barden.

Ampadu’s team eventually mustered a response, with Bukayo Saka finding Olayinka, who finished well, but Leicester went on to make it 3-1 when Thakgalo Leshabela scored a penalty.

Arsenal’s slim title hopes are effectively over, given that they are twelve points behind leaders Chelsea even though they do have a game in hand.