Author: Jeorge Bird

Bellerin rewarded with Spain U21 call-up

Hector Bellerin has been rewarded for his tremendous development this season by receiving his first call-up to the Spanish U21 squad.

The right-back, who turned 20 yesterday, has featured regularly for the Arsenal first-team in recent months in the absence of Mathieu Debuchy and has impressed with his forays down the flank, as well as showing some signs of improvement defensively.

Signed from Barcelona’s famed academy in 2011, Bellerin caught the eye with his displays for Arsenal’s youth sides before spending part of last season on loan at Watford.

This campaign has been his most successful to date, however, with Bellerin featuring 11 times in the Premier League and scoring his first senior goal against Aston Villa, in addition to playing four Champions League games.

The youngster, who has previously been capped by his country at U16, U17 and U19 levels, is set to feature for Spain’s U21s in their friendly fixtures against Norway and Belarus. He will join up with the squad on Monday.

Football Manager 2015 review

The latest iteration of the esteemed and long-running series, Football Manager 2015 is perhaps the most accessible version of the game to date.

Possessing a slick interface and helpful hints which enable users to make sense of the wealth of information available, it doesn’t take long to get underway and commence your journey into football management.

Immediately you are provided with an indication of just how many tasks a manager has to face on a daily basis. In addition to matches, you must ensure that your club’s finances are in line with Financial Fair Play, whilst also taking control over individual player training and keeping an eye on players who are progressing well in the youth team.

Transfers, of course, are another integral part of being a manager. Unlike in other games where a transfer for a relatively high profile player can be completed quite quickly, the system in Football Manager is much more realistic, with agents seeking to get the best possible deal for their player, often leading to several rounds of negotiations.

Perhaps the most appealing aspect of Football Manager is the lack of restrictions it impinges upon you. Your managerial style is entirely of your own making, from tactics to the coaching staff you employ.

Team-talks are also important and can play a significant part in affecting the morale and motivation of particular players. You have the ability to alter tactics and instructions during the course of a game, with the new engine demonstrating just how far this game has come in terms of graphics.

A new in-game editor provides further opportunities for customisation, whilst the online mode is also hugely compelling.

The sheer amount of, largely accurate, information available about each player is staggering, and only adds to the game’s realism. This is a game that requires you to pay full attention and adapt very quickly to what occurs on the pitch.

Football Manager isn’t for the faint-hearted or uncommitted, however. The addictive nature of the game is such that it is almost impossible to play it on a casual basis. With so many options available to you, especially when the transfer window is open, you are constantly left thinking about which decisions to make and how they will affect the overall make-up of your team.

Football Manager is a hugely compelling game and is a series that will surely continue to grow in stature. The loading times can be a little tiresome and the lack of a licence for the Premier League is something that could perhaps be addressed, but overall this is certainly a game that lives up to its reputation.

This was supplied by Cash Generator, who deal in Xbox 360 consoles.

Report- Jebb and Iwobi impress but Arsenal U21s are held by Blackburn

U21 Premier League

Blackburn Rovers 0 Arsenal 0

A much-changed Arsenal U21 team were held to a goalless draw by their Blackburn Rovers counterparts this evening, with both sides coming close to scoring in a competitive encounter.

Perhaps with Friday’s game against Aston Villa in mind, coach Steve Gatting made six changes to the team that started the defeat to Derby County last time out, with Matt Macey, Renny Smith, Semi Ajayi, Marc Bola, Jack Jebb and Stephy Mavididi all coming into the side, the latter making his first start at this level.

Earlier in the campaign Theo Walcott made his Arsenal return in the corresponding fixture, but this was a rather more low-key affair, with Arsenal’s inconsistent form at this level continuing.


Smith-Ajayi-O’Connor-M. Bola

Kamara-Maitland Niles



Subs: Lipman (for Jebb, 72), Robinson (for Zelalem, 89). Not used: Iliev, Dobson, Sheaf.

Dan Crowley and Krystian Bielik were amongst the players who didn’t feature, but the young Gunners still managed to create plenty of chances in their absence.

Arsenal started brightly and very nearly opened the scoring with less than ten minutes on the clock when Ainsley Maitland-Niles saw his effort repelled by goalkeeper David Raya before Gedion Zelalem struck a post with a fierce effort.

Jebb, meanwhile, was relishing his return to the side. The midfielder spent several weeks on the sidelines after suffering an injury whilst on loan at Stevenage, but he was back to something approaching his best here as he created some inviting chances for his team-mates.

Firstly Jebb’s corner was met by Maitland-Niles, who skewed his effort over the crossbar. Jebb then played an intelligent pass into the path of Glen Kamara, but the Finnish youngster, restored to his favoured position at the base of midfield, could only shoot over.

Jebb was involved again shortly afterwards when his deflected effort fell into the path of Maitland-Niles, who shot wide. Arsenal continued to pressurise the Blackburn defence with the half-time whistle approaching, but the game remained goalless at the break after Mavididi was denied by Raya.

Blackburn saw slightly more of the ball in the second period and the hosts came close to breaking the deadlock through an ambitious strike from Dean Rittenberg.

Arsenal still managed to pose a threat at the other end, though, with Iwobi becoming increasingly involved in proceedings. The winger, who has trained frequently with the first team of late, cut inside and found Zelalem, whose shot struck the side-netting.

Iwobi then found Zelalem again but the midfielder’s luck was still out as Raya comfortably gathered his header.

Blackburn’s capabilities couldn’t be discounted, however, and the young Gunners were served a warning when Devarn Green’s effort cannoned off Macey’s far post.

The game lost much of its rhythm in the closing stages and Arsenal were unable to seize all three points despite the introduction of Austin Lipman as a substitute. The result means that Gatting’s side have won just one of their last five fixtures, something that they will seek to address when they face Villa on Friday.

Donovan trains with first-team but Arsenal U18s lose again to Norwich

U18 Premier League- Play offs

Arsenal 1 (Eyoma (78)) Norwich City 2 (Couzens (26), Middleton (79))

Eyoma scored his fourth goal of the season

Eyoma scored his fourth goal of the season

The commencement of the end of season play-offs was supposed to provide Arsenal U18s with an opportunity to forget their dismal league form this campaign, but Saturday’s 2-1 defeat at home to Norwich City was familiar for all the wrong reasons.


Wright-Da Graca-T. Bola-Chatzitheodoridis


Robinson-Mourgos-C. Willock


subs: Da Silva (for Robinson, 66), Tabi (for Sheaf, 84). Not used: Huddart, Nketiah.

It was actually one of the better performances that Frans De Kat’s side have produced this season, with wingers Tyrell Robinson and Chris Willock posing a regular threat and Aaron Eyoma, deployed as a central striker this season, also heavily involved.

However, those positives were marred by yet more individual errors, most of which occurred in Arsenal’s own half, which ultimately prevented De Kat’s team from being able to take anything from the game.

The tone was set in the opening stages when a slack pass from goalkeeper Hugo Keto presented Norwich with a goalscoring opportunity that they failed to take.

Arsenal responded, with Willock seeing a shot saved following good work from Harry Donovan.

However, Norwich’s considerable threat soon became apparent, with Louis McIntosh shooting over after the visitors carved Arsenal’s defence apart with an intricate attacking move.

The opening goal came courtesy of schoolboy defending from schoolboy defender Tolaji Bola, who missed the ball, allowing George Couzens to race through and score.

Norwich have had an even worse campaign than Arsenal in terms of results but they returned to London Colney full of confidence having won here just a couple of weeks previously.

Arsenal, to their credit, did at least mount a meaningful response to falling behind. A neat pass from Elliot Wright found Eyoma, with the latter controlling brilliantly before shooting over.

Robinson also sent an effort off target after he was located by Willock, but Arsenal were hugely fortunate not to fall behind shortly afterwards following another lapse in concentration.

Kristopher Da Graca was the guilty party on this occasion, with the centre-back losing control, enabling former Arsenal youngster Benny Ashley-Seal an opportunity to run through on goal. However, Ashley-Seal lost his footing at the crucial moment and was unable to regain his composure, providing Arsenal with a lifeline in terms of their hopes of salvaging something from this game.

They drew level shortly after that incident, with the alert Eyoma applying the finishing touch to a neat move that involved good combination play from Ben Sheaf and substitute Josh Da Silva.

It wasn’t long, though, until Norwich regained control of proceedings and, unsurprisingly, it was another error that cost Arsenal, with Donovan this time losing the ball in a dangerous area, enabling Glenn Middleton to inflict Arsenal’s eleventh league defeat of the season.

*Arsenal U18s remaining Play-Off fixtures: Stoke City (A), Blackburn Rovers (H), Bolton Wanderers (A), Newcastle United (A), Southampton (H), Fulham (A).

* With several players on U21 duty (Steve Gatting’s side face Blackburn Rovers away tonight), Donovan was selected to train with the first-team squad at London Colney this morning prior to tomorrow’s Champions League tie against Monaco.

Gabriel and Tomas Rosicky returned to training and could make the squad for the trip to France, whilst Mikel Arteta, Mathieu Debuchy and Serge Gnabry also trained as they continued to build up their fitness.

Jack Wilshere, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Isaac Hayden and Abou Diaby are all still out.

Loan report- Wellington faces Campbell; Podolski hits post; Sanogo returns

Wellington and Joel Campbell, two players who could soon be in direct competition for a place in the Arsenal squad, faced each other today as Almeria took on Villarreal in La Liga.

The game ended goalless, but both of Arsenal’s representatives were heavily involved in proceedings. Campbell, who started on the right wing in a 4-4-2 formation before being withdrawn in the 66th minute, had a shot saved by goalkeeper Julian.

Later, a rapid run from Wellington later led to Villarreal’s Juame Costa being dismissed for a second bookable offence. Wellington, who has shown some encouraging signs of consistency this campaign, was heavily involved in the majority of Almeria’s attacking moves, including one occasion when he created a chance for Tomer Hemed.

Lukas Podolski was introduced as a substitute at the start of the second half and rattled the post with a fierce effort as Inter Milan drew 1-1 with Cesena.

Yaya Sanogo returned from injury to play the final ten minutes as Crystal Palace beat Queens Park Rangers 3-1. The striker was unable to find the net after he was found by Dwight Gayle.

Jon Toral was introduced in the 80th minute as Brentford lost 2-1 to Cardiff City. The Spanish midfielder sent a header over the crossbar before setting up a goalscoring opportunity for James Tarkowski.

Josh Vickers played the entirety of Concord Rangers’ 1-1 draw with Bath City. Other than the goal the youngster was barely called into action.

Carl Jenkinson was absent from West Ham United’s defeat to Arsenal under Premier League rules.

Ryo was again left out of FC Twente’s squad as his temporary side beat Zwolle 2-0. The winger has featured mainly for Twente’s reserve team in recent weeks and played the whole game at that level in the goalless draw with Den Bosch on Friday.

U21 analysis- Arsenal youngsters struggle for fluency against Derby

U21 matches these days are so infrequent that it can be difficult to provide a coherent analysis of events at that level.

The overriding emotion for Arsenal’s youngsters on Tuesday night, however, as they boarded the coach back to London following a 1-0 defeat to Derby County, would have been one of immense disappointment, not just at the result, which was inflicted upon them by a strike from Ivan Calero, but primarily because of a hugely frustrating performance, during which they struggled to create many clear-cut chances.

Coach Steve Gatting tweaked his starting line-up slightly, moving Gedion Zelalem out to the right flank and switching Alex Iwobi out to the left, enabling Dan Crowley, who has often been used out wide this season, to operate in his preferred attacking midfield position.

The changes didn’t have anything like the desired effect, though, with Zelalem and Iwobi hardly involved in proceedings and Arsenal struggling to provide sufficient service to striker Chuba Akpom. Crowley did have a couple of attempts on goal, but they were both weak efforts, with the midfielder, who has developed apace this season, not enjoying one of his better evenings.

In fact, when Arsenal did finally cause Derby some concern, it was as a consequence of efforts from their two deep-lying midfielders, Krystian Bielik and Ainsley Maitland-Niles. Bielik had a header cleared off the line in the dying moments before Maitland-Niles’ powerful attempt was repelled.

Arsenal’s plan for Bielik’s progression seems clear enough, with the tall midfielder being allowed to develop in the youth teams for the remainder of the season before being slowly introduced into the first-team squad next campaign.

Gatting acknowledged after the game that Bielik, who only arrived at the club in January, is still adapting to English football, but the 17-year-old’s passing ability is the aspect of his game that has stood out most in his first three appearances for Arsenal. Bielik is also efficient at breaking up play, although he has been guilty of losing concentration on a couple of occasions, allowing the opposition to regain possession.

He is, though, a very promising prospect for the future. The problem for Arsenal at U21 level is that the same can’t be said of many of their young defenders.

Arsenal have sorely missed Tafari Moore and Julio Pleguezuelo, both of whom have spent the majority of the season on the sidelines. Against Derby Glen Kamara was deployed as a makeshift right-back, a position he is far from comfortable in, whilst the central-defensive partnership of Stefan O’Connor and George Dobson evidently requires some fine-tuning.

There was a welcome sight, however, as left-back Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill returned from a long-term injury of his own to play the majority of the game.

Ormonde-Ottewill made a vital clearance to prevent Arsenal from falling behind and looked comfortable on the ball. A player who has trained with the first-team squad on several occasions in the past, he is likely to go out on loan next season.

Deyan Iliev started in goal, with the Macedonian youth international having seemingly been installed as the club’s first-choice shot-stopper at this level having signed a new three year deal last week.

Iliev’s promotion can be seen as being a little harsh on Matt Macey, who recently returned from a disappointing loan spell at Accrington Stanley. Macey hardly covered himself in glory during his short stint with the League Two side, but he had shown some encouraging form for the U21s prior to that.

Iliev, meanwhile, isn’t exactly a goalkeeper who inspires much confidence. He has excellent reflexes, but, much like Wojciech Szczesny in the first-team, he struggles with regards to distribution and very nearly gave away a goal against Derby because of a mis-placed pass.

This is the stage of the season when first-years tend to become more regularly involved in the U21 set-up, and that was certainly the case on Tuesday, with Dobson starting, Marc Bola and Stephy Mavididi being introduced from the bench and Chris Willock also making the matchday squad.

Others, including Tyrell Robinson, Aaron Eyoma and Ben Sheaf, have also earned call-ups at this level this season but will have to be patient for further opportunities.

Meanwhile, Semi Ajayi, Austin Lipman, Renny Smith and Elliot Wright were left out of the squad against Derby, with the quartet all out of contract at the end of the season and unlikely to be offered new deals.


Report- Bielik has effort cleared off line as Arsenal U21s lose to Derby

U21 Premier League

Derby County 1 (Calero 71) Arsenal 0

( Chuba Akpom was a surprise starter for Arsenal, but the young Gunners suffered a disappointing defeat.

Chuba Akpom was a surprise starter for Arsenal, but the young Gunners suffered a disappointing defeat.

Arsenal U21s suffered their third defeat of the campaign as they were beaten 1-0 away to Derby County this evening. Derby were impressive throughout and scored the game’s only goal through Ivan Calero in the closing stages of the second-half.

Arsenal struggled to create many clear cut chances but they did come perilously close to equalising when Krystian Bielik’s towering header was cleared off the line by Rhys Sharpe.

Arsenal named a strong side, with January acquisition Bielik making his first appearance at this level after two outings for the U18s. Chuba Akpom, who was an un-used substitute at Old Trafford last night, was also called upon along with Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill, who hadn’t featured since October because of injury.

Deyan Iliev, meanwhile, started in goal, suggesting that the Macedonian, who signed a new contract with the club last week, may have overtaken Matt Macey as the club’s first-choice custodian at U21 level.

There was no place, however, for Serge Gnabry, whose arduous quest for full fitness continues.


Kamara-O’Connor-Dobson-Ormonde Ottewill

Bielik-Maitland Niles



subs: M. Bola (for Ormonde-Ottewill, 75), Mavididi (for Zelalem, 78). Not used: Macey, C. Willock, Jebb.

These sides drew 1-1 when they met at Meadow Park back in August and from the offset Derby seemed intent on making life difficult for Arsenal again.

First Shaq McDonald sent a shot wide of the far post, with Dan Crowley doing likewise at the other end as Arsenal mustered something of a response.

There was a considerable scare for the young Gunners shortly afterwards when Ormonde-Ottewill had to clear the ball off the line after Jamie Hanson chested Calero’s corner beyond the reach of the stranded Iliev.

It soon became apparent that Calero, a product of Atletico Madrid’s academy who also spent time with Real Madrid’s esteemed youth set-up, was a danger to the Arsenal defence, with the 19-year-old playing an astute pass into the path of Callum Guy, who shot just over.

Derby were certainly on top in the opening period, but Arsenal still had their moments, such as when Alex Iwobi, who has been in good form of late, saw an effort deflected wide following impressive build-up play from Crowley and Gedion Zelalem.

McDonald and Kwame Thomas both came close to scoring as the hosts ended the half well, but Crowley did manage to bring a good save out of goalkeeper Kelle Roos with a low strike.

Derby’s dominance continued after the break, with Hanson emerging from the middle of nowhere to almost find the net with a free-kick, before the same player later struck the crossbar from a similar situation.

Derby had come close to scoring on several occasions and they were eventually rewarded for their persistence when they found the net in the 71st minute. The goal stemmed from a neat passage of play from former Arsenal youngster Alban Bunjaku, who received possession before forcing a corner with a deflected shot.

Derby took the lead from that set-piece, with Calero directing a powerful effort beyond the reach of Iliev.

Calero tried to double his tally almost immediately, but this time the cultured midfielder’s effort went just wide of the far post.

Arsenal introduced Stephy Mavididi, a striker born in Derby who has been playing well recently, but despite some concerted late pressure from Steve Gatting’s side, which included Bielik having a header cleared off the line in the dying moments, the hosts held on to claim all three points.

Arsenal’s next assignment at this level is away to Blackburn Rovers next week.