Boreham Wood 0 Arsenal XI 4 (Akpom, Toral, Mavididi (2))
By Jeorge Bird @ Meadow Park, Borehamwood
A very strong Arsenal XI thrashed Boreham Wood 4-0 tonight in a pre-season friendly, with Stephy Mavididi hitting a brace on his return from injury.
Chuba Akpom, who could leave the club permanently before the end of the transfer window, was also on target, along with Jon Toral as an Arsenal side containing a mixture of players set to depart and starlets hoping to break through gelled impressively.
Mathieu Debuchy and Carl Jenkinson both started but Kieran Gibbs wasn’t involved despite being named in the original squad.
Mavididi, back from the injury he suffered on loan at Charlton Athletic last season, started, as did Julio Pleguezuelo, who made his first appearance since returning from his temporary spell at Mallorca.
Jeff Reine-Adelaide received a run-out, while Krystian Bielik, Eddie Nketiah and Donyell Malen, who were involved with the first-team earlier in pre-season, were all on show here.
This game was notable as it marked the first occasion that Arsenal have deployed a 3-4-2-1 system below first-team level since Arsene Wenger implemented the change in tactics for the senior squad.
Subs: Malen, McGuane, Johnson, Mourgos, Bennacer. Not used: Keto
Arsenal adjusted quickly to the formation change and started brightly as they pushed forwards with regularity.
There were plenty of slick passing moves from the Gunners and one such exchange culminated in Nketiah playing in Mavididi, with the sprightly attacker seeing his effort saved.
It was soon 1-0, with Nketiah being fouled in the area and Akpom, as he did in this fixture five years ago, scoring from the penalty spot.
Arsenal continued to cause all manner of problems for Boreham Wood, with Nketiah and Mavididi both coming close to scoring and it was soon 2-0.
Akpom was the provider on this occasion as he dropped deep and played a precise pass into the path of Mavididi, who finished expertly.
Arsenal effectively secured their victory before the break as they made it 3-0 when Toral, who played some excellent passes tonight, reacted quickly to tuck home the rebound after Nketiah’s initial effort was saved.
The same pattern continued immediately after the interval, with Arsenal remaining in the ascendancy.
It was 4-0 when Mavididi, who produced an excellent display, got his second goal of the game after being set up by Toral.
Nketiah had an opportunity saved shortly afterwards, with Boreham Wood then having a rare effort of their own.
Arsenal began to ring the changes thereafter, with Malen and Ismael Bennacer entering the fray, while Jenkinson lashed an effort wide after Bielik had embarked upon one of his trademark bursts forward from the back.
Jenkinson was getting forwards regularly himself and found Mavididi, who just took the ball a little too far wide of the goalkeeper, which made it difficult for him to find the net.
The intensity in Arsenal’s play understandably dipped a little thereafter but there were still some notable moments, including when Akpom rattled the crossbar with a fierce strike.
There was one negative on a night brimming with positives for Arsenal, with Bielik having to be substituted after suffering an injury that stemmed from a rash challenge.
Malen had chances to increase Arsenal’s advantage further still but 4-0 was sufficient and, overall, it was an encouraging display.
It seems unlikely that many of the players who started today’s game will be regulars at U23 level this season with permanent and loan departures on the horizon, but this game may well have enhanced the chances of some individuals securing moves elsewhere.
Akpom, for instance, will surely have impressed potential suitors with his all-action display, while the experienced Debuchy was resolute at the heart of a three-man defence.
Perhaps the most intriguing case is that of Toral, who was impressive here but has never really been provided with an opportunity to break into the first-team squad.
Decisions will have to be made on the futures of several players but this was certainly a worthwhile workout.