U21 Elite Group
U21 Premier League- Elite Group
West Brom 2 Arsenal 2 (Neita, Akpom)
Arsenal U21s showed terrific resilience as they came from behind to draw 2-2 with their West Bromwich Albion counterparts at the Hawthorns this afternoon.
Arsenal found themselves two goals down early in the second half, but pulled a goal back through Nigel Neita before Lukasz Fabianski made an impressive penalty save from Romayne Sawyers to keep Arsenal in with a chance. They levelled when the recently prolific Chuba Akpom headed home and could have snatched a late winner had it not been for impressive West Brom defending.
Coach Steve Gatting made several changes from the side that lost to Tottenham Hotspur last weekend, with Daniel Boateng, Elton Monteiro, Nico Yennaris, Jordan Wynter and Neita all coming in. Serge Gnabry, Kristoffer Olsson, Sead Hajrovic and Hector Bellerin were left on the bench with Wednesday’s NextGen Series tie with Inter Milan in mind. West Brom, meanwhile, named an experienced goalkeeper in Boaz Myhill, whilst also calling upon England youth international Isiah Brown, who was on the bench for their first-team against Chelsea in the Premier League yesterday.
subs: Shea, Bellerin (for Yennaris), Hajrovic, Olsson (for Akpom), Gnabry (for Ansah).
Arsenal, seeking their first victory against West Brom at this level this season on their fourth attempt, sought an early goal, with Zak Ansah shooting wide. Adil Nabi then looked to respond for the hosts, but Fabianski, making his third consecutive appearance following his return from injury, did well to race off his line and eradicate the danger.
Fabianski then gathered a tame free-kick from the same opponent, before Arsenal created the first clear-cut opening when Yennaris found Ansah, who tested Myhill with a fierce shot which the Welsh goalkeeper did well to hold.
Akpom, in a rich vein of goalscoring form at present, then demonstrated his endeavour by chasing down the ball, winning it and shooting just over, then Nigel Neita found Conor Henderson, who confirmed this week that this will be his final season at the club. The Irish midfielder shot wide, before there was a rather worrying moment at the other end when Ignasi Miquel and Wynter clashed into eachother, but Fabianski was alert to the danger, before Ansah shot wide following a counter-attack instigated by Henderson.
West Brom would take the lead before the interval, however, with Kemar Roofe taking a touch to steady himself before firing past the stranded Fabianski. Neita and Akpom sought to fashion an immediate response but couldn’t get a clean shot away between them, before Yennaris won a corner with a deflected effort, but the dangerous Nabi shot wide from a free-kick in the final act of the half as West Brom went into the break in front.
The hosts started the brightest after the restart, with James Hurst forcing Fabianski to palm away his well-struck effort, before Nabi finally got his reward for an impressive performance by eluding Monteiro and beating Fabianski calmly. Arsenal responded thereafter, with Henderson sending a free-kick wide and Nigel Neita reducing the deficit with a good finish following impressive link-up play from Wynter and Akpom.
A dramatic few minutes then ensued, with Monteiro clumsily bringing down Roofe in the area. Sawyers took the penalty, but Fabianski gussed the right way and made an impressive save. Having gained a lifeline, Arsenal immediately made the most of it, with Martin Angha powering down the left flank and crossing for Akpom to head home to equalise.
Arsenal, now well in the ascendancy in terms of possession and chances created, introduced Gnabry and Olsson for Ansah and Akpom. Meanwhile, Angha was proving a real threat down the left flank, with his low centre just eluding Neita, with Henderson shooting straight at Myhill shortly afterwards.
Bellerin was thrown on in place of Yennaris and very nearly made the most impressive of introductions, rattling a post from outside the box, but West Brom held on to secure a point. For Arsenal, it could have been more.
U21 Premier League Elite Round
Manchester United 2 Arsenal 2
Chuba Akpom scored twice for Arsenal U21s away to Manchester United this evening, but it wasn’t enough to prevent the hosts from sharing the spoils, with Nick Powell and Jesse Lingard finding the net for the Red Devils as Steve Gatting took charge of the U21 side for the first time following Terry Burton’s appointment as Arsenal’s new head of youth development.
Lukasz Fabianski started his first game of the season at any level in goal, whilst there were also starts for Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill and Isaac Hayden.
subs not used: Shea, Wynter, Bihmoutine, Rees, Neita.
Following a quiet opening five minutes in which neither side carved out a clear-cut opportunity, Akpom seized the initiative to put Arsenal ahead by performing a wonderful piece of skill to work space for himself in the area before firing confidently past Ben Amos to open the scoring.
The lead didn’t last long, however, with Nick Powell, who was operating as a makeshift centre-forward, taking advantage of slack marking to send a powerful header beyond the reach of Fabianski. It could have been 2-1 almost instantly but Isaac Hayden was alert to clear Tom Thorpe’s header off the line, then United did take the lead when Powell shoved off Ignasi Miquel and the ball eventually found its way out to Jesse Lingard, who finished emphatically.
Thorpe was denied by Fabianski and an effort from Ryan Tunnicliffe clipped the crossbar following a good cross from Marnick Vermijl as United took the ascendancy, but Arsenal soon restored parity in what was developing into an enthralling encounter.
Serge Gnabry cut inside to find Conor Henderson, who launched a typically ferocious effort from distance which swerved and was unable to be held by Amos, who parried it straight into the path of Akpom. The striker, who has been accused of lacking calmness in front of goal, made no such mistake on this occasion as he swiftly levelled proceedings with a firm effort.
Thorpe had another header stopped by Fabianski, and Gnabry and Henderson both came close to putting Arsenal back in front prior to the interval.
The second half, by contrast, was a much more scrappier affair, with neither side succeeding in gaining a stranglehold on proceedings. Henderson, who impressed with his diligent passing, saw a free-kick deflected just wide, before Amos received a yellow card after rushing out of his goal and catching Akpom with his stray elbow.
Eisfeld wasted the resultant free-kick, with Tunnicliffe responding with a scuffed shot wide at the other end. Akpom could have made it 3-2 but directed his header just wide following good work from Ormonde-Ottewill down the left flank, but Adnan Januzaj continued to pose a threat for United, seeing a deflected effort go wide.
Fabianski was then almost caught out by a cross-cum-shot from substitute Sean McGinty, but thankfully the defender’s effort landed on the roof of the Arsenal net, before the Polish stopper had to be alert to smother an effort from Jesse Lingard soon afterwards. Gnabry and Isaac Hayden both came close in the dying embers in front of a watching Alex Ferguson, but in the end a draw was perhaps the right outcome of a game in which both sides had provided maximum effort.
U21 Premier League- Elite Group
Arsenal 0 West Ham 2 (Paulista, Fanimo)
Arsenal U21s are still without a win in the Premier League Elite Group after first-half goals from Wellington Paulista and Matthias Fanimo condemned them to a 2-0 defeat at home to their West Ham United counterparts at London Colney this afternoon.
West Ham had already beaten Arsenal twice at this level this season, but the result will still come as a disappointment to coach Terry Burton, who rested the entire FA Youth Cup squad ahead of tomorrow’s tie with Fulham at Underhill.
Burton was still able to call upon a strong side, however, with Chuks Aneke, Daniel Boateng and Conor Henderson making their first starts since returning from loan spells of varying degrees of success, whilst Ignasi Miquel and Nico Yennaris made welcome returns from injuries, with midfielder Jordan Wynter recovering from a problem of his own to earn his first call-up of the season on the bench.
West Ham’s star turn was Paulista, who was recruited on loan from Cruzeiro this month, whilst fringe squad members such as goalkeeper Raphael Spiegel and defender Jordan Spence also featured for the Hammers.
Arsenal, desperate for a victory after drawing with West Bromwich Albion in their opening fixture, started on the front foot, with Nigel Neita marking a rare start by shooting just wide, but West Ham responded when George Moncur did likewise at the other end shortly afterwards.
From there on in, both sides sought to impose themselves on proceedings, with Amos Nasha bringing a good save out of Damian Martinez from close range, and it was the visitors that succeeded in doing so when Paulista opened the scoring with a firm header from a corner with 20 minutes gone.
Miquel and Nigel Neita then both squandered opportunities, before Fanimo doubled West Ham’s advantage when his cross-cum-shot somehow managed to beat Martinez in the Arsenal goal. Boateng tried his luck from distance in an attempt at making it 2-1, and came perilously close to doing so, before the Gunners had two further chances to reduce the deficit before the interval, but on both occasions Spiegel was alert to deny Thomas Eisfeld.
The German youngster, who has been linked with a loan move to Ipswich Town before Thursday’s transfer deadline, continued his lone crusade on the West Ham goal after the break with another fiercely-struck shot, but this time Spiegel and his defenders combined to keep out the midfielder.
Neita, who was enduring a rather wasteful spell in front of goal, shot wide, whilst Spiegel also denied Martin Angha, before Arsenal’s attacking threat was stymied somewhat when Zak Ansah had to be replaced by Samir Bihmoutine due to injury. Substitute Wynter, who was introduced in place of Boateng at the break, had a shot blocked late on, but his side struggled to make a breakthrough in the driving rain.
Arsenal continued to push forward but just couldn’t find a clear-cut opening, and they had Martinez to thank for the scoreline not being even greater in West Ham’s favour when the Argentinian goalkeeper denied Sebastian Lletget at the death.
Things do not get any easier for Arsenal from here on in, with their next two fixtures being against Liverpool and Manchester United, whilst a visit to face Tottenham Hotspur is also scheduled before the end of the month.
Arsenal: 4-2-3-1- Martinez; Angha, Hajrovic, Boateng (Wynter, 46), Miquel; Yennaris, Aneke; Eisfeld, Henderson, Neita (Rees,58); Ansah (Bihmoutine,75). Subs not used: Charles-Cook.
Barclays U21 Premier League- Elite Group
Arsenal 1 (Diaby) West Brom 1
Arsenal U21s began their Elite Group campaign with a hard-fought draw against West Bromwich Albion at London Colney this afternoon. West Brom took the lead early on, but Andre Santos levelled for a largely experienced Arsenal outfit, for whom Emmanuel Frimpong was sent off late on.
Coach Terry Burton called upon an extremely strong side, with seven members of the first-team squad making the starting line-up. Abou Diaby and Santos made their first appearances following spells on the sidelines, whilst Frimpong, Vito Mannone, Carl Jenkinson, Francis Coquelin and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were also called upon. Conor Henderson, meanwhile, marked his return from a frustrating loan spell at Coventry City by making the bench.
subs: C-Cook, Monteiro, Bihmoutine, Henderson (for Diaby, 67), Ansah (for Chamerlain, 70).
West Brom, in contrast, named a rather inexperienced side, with midfielder Scott Allan their most prominent player, and it was no surprise that Arsenal started the brightest of the two sides, with Jenkinson seeing a shot pushed away by Luke Daniels.
Coquelin then tried his luck from distance, before Chuba Akpom, one of the few players in the side without first-team experience, was flagged for offside having been played through by Jenkinson.
Despite the Arsenal pressure, however, it was the visitors who struck the first notable blow, with Mannone left stranded when the alert Adil Nabi headed home a well-delivered free-kick.
Frimpong hit a deflected effort on goal as some means of retaliation, but Mannone had to react quickly at the other end to prevent Romaine Sawyers from doubling West Brom’s advantage, with the Italian making an impressive stop at the feet of the striker.
Oxlade-Chamberlain, who was a lively presence throughout the first-half, then stung the palms of Daniels with a typically ferocious shot from the edge of the area, before Akpom and Frimpong both came close to restoring parity.
The equaliser finally came on the stroke of half-time as Diaby, impressive on his return, threaded the ball through to Santos, after it was allowed to run by Frimpong, and the Brazilian slotted past Daniels to make it 1-1.
Arsenal, buoyed by their goal, began the second period in the ascendancy, with Akpom seeing a header saved following a precise delivery from Oxlade-Chamberlain. Shortly afterwards, Martin Angha saw a shot cleared off the line by the alert Sawyers.
Santos then struck a free-kick wide from distance, before Henderson entered the fray in place of Diaby. Henderson nearly made an instant impact, but Daniels just about managed to hold his swerving effort.
Just when it looked as if an Arsenal winner was somewhat inevitable, Nabi tested Mannone twice in quick succession, before Frimpong reduced Arsenal’s chances of a late winner by being sent off for a rash challenge having already picked up a yellow card.
That proved to be the last meaningful action of an entertaining game, and one which Arsene Wenger will no doubt be pleased with having seen several members of his squad, Diaby especially, come through unscathed.
Arsenal’s next game is away to Southampton later this month.