season reviews

Reserves mid-season review

So, we’re halfway through the Reserves season and Neil Banfield’s side are sitting comfortably in 2nd place. But it hasn’t been an easy ride. Here I discuss the key moments and performances from the first-half of 2007/2008. 


In 2006/2007, the Reserves had finished 9th after an interesting campaign. Neil Banfield set about blooding some new youngsters into his side and they looked as if they were raring to go at the start of the new campaign. The Gunners may have been eliminated in the Group Stages of the Champion’s Youth Cup in Malaysia in the summer, but there were high hopes that this exciting crop of youngsters could have a decent season.  Arsenal made several changes in the summer.


A lot of players were released for one reason or another. Some had been at the club for years whilst others were just coming through. But Arsenal decided to get rid of Joe O’Cearuill, Ryan Garry, Giorgios Efrem, Lee Butcher, Marc Elston, Shane Tracy, Carl Parisio and Peggy Lokando before the new season started. They brought in young French striker Gilles Sunu, centre-backs Kyle Bartley and Anton Blackwood on scholarship deals, whilst teenage sensation Havard Nordtveit came in from Haugesund as both Matthew Connolly and Kerrea Gilbert were farmed out on loan.      


The season started on August 30th at Fulham’s Motspur Park ground  and new captain Havard Nordveit made his debut. Nicklas Bendtner started up front with Jay Simpson, whilst the Gunners were without  the creative influence of Merida and Lansbury.  A stunning free-kick from Armand Traore and a Jay Simpson strike was enough to secure  a 2-1 win. The next day Simpson was sent out on loan to Millwall until January and this allowed Nacer Barazite to become star striker.


In the next game at Underhill, Arsenal entertained Portsmouth. An impressive performance from Jay Emmanuel-Thomas was capped off when he set up Sanchez Watt for his first Reserve goal to add to an earlier Nacer Barazite strike as Banfield’s boys won comfortably.      


The young Gunners suffered their first defeat of the season in a topsy-turvy clash with Birmingham. Despite strikes from Havard Nordtveit and Armand Traore, who had been arrested the previous weekend for carrying a knuckleduster, Banfield’s side succumbed to a 3-2 loss. 


 That defeat was followed with a 0-0 draw against London rivals Spurs in which Vincent van den Berg missed a host of chances. Next time out though, Banfield had more to smile about as his side showed great resilience to see off Chelsea away thanks to a Kieran Gibbs strike.


A 1-0 home loss to a strong Reading side followed, where the Gunners were outmuscled on the ball. But despite a poor performance Arsenal drew 2-2 with West Ham at Upton Park, with the returning Mark Randall on the scoresheet. 


That was  followed with a 1-o win over Aston Villa, where despite a poor refereeing performance which saw James Dunne sent off, the Gunners prevailed thanks to Nacer Barazite’s effort.


Then, on Monday, they saw off Derby 2-1 with Barazite again on the scoresheet and Fonte finally finding the net at long, long last.


The signs are promising, but how will things turn out for Banfield’s boys in 2008?