Report- Welbeck returns but Nelson steals the show as Arsenal U21s thrash Brighton

U21 Premier League- Division 2

Arsenal 4 (Nelson, Bielik, Mavididi, Bennacer) Brighton 1 

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This game received much media attention this week on account of the fact that Danny Welbeck was pencilled in to make his first appearance in an Arsenal shirt since April 2015.

The England international did indeed feature as he lead the line for 60 minutes before being substituted in a pre-planned change, but the main talking point instead focused on the performance of Reiss Nelson, who, at the age of just 16, scored one goal and set up two more in a comprehensive victory.

Nelson is still a schoolboy, yet, while many players of his age group are fretting about whether they will be kept on by their respective clubs, he is continuing to compile a body of evidence to suggest that he is capable of, at the very least, making a first-team appearance in the not too distant future.

Perhaps some perspective is needed; this game was, after all, against a Brighton & Hove Albion side that are bottom of the second tier of the U21 Premier League, whilst Arsenal, in contrast, are now at the summit of the division.

However, Nelson’s display, on just his second start at this level, was scintillating, and offers much hope for the future. The England youth international opened the scoring before laying on goals for Krystian Bielik and Stephy Mavididi, with the former finding the net for the first time since joining the club.

Ismael Bennacer inflicted further damage upon Brighton by scoring a superb free-kick, and, although the hosts scored a late consolation with a penalty, Arsenal were deserved winners.

Coach Steve Gatting made two alterations to the side that overcame Stoke City last weekend, with Welbeck and Nelson replacing Jeff Reine-Adelaide and Dan Crowley.


Da Graca-Bielik-Pleguezuelo-M. Bola


Nelson-Mavididi-C. Willock


Subs: Huddart (for Macey, 46), Dasilva (for Welbeck, 60), Mourgos (for C. Willock, 81). Not used: Malen, Eyoma. 

Arsenal pressurised their opponents immediately and they opened the scoring with just two minutes on the clock when Nelson seized upon a defensive error before finishing well for his first goal at this level.

Brighton simply couldn’t cope with Arsenal’s early attacking momentum, with Nelson coming close to doubling his tally shortly afterwards, only to fire just over on this occasion.

The second goal would soon arrive, however, and it came as no surprise that Nelson was heavily involved in proceedings as his corner was headed in by Bielik.

The victory was put beyond doubt as early as the 17th minute when Nelson played the ball into the path of Mavididi, who continued his excellent goalscoring form by finishing calmly.

Nelson continued to probe in the search of further openings but Brighton were provided with a lifeline at the other end when a push from Kristopher Da Graca on Jonah Ayunga led to the visitors being awarded a penalty.

They failed to make the most of the situation, however, with Matt Macey doing superbly to keep out Jack Harper’s penalty before the Brighton player blazed the rebound over the crossbar.

Despite missing the penalty, Brighton started to provide a greater attacking threat, but Macey again came to Arsenal’s rescue with an impressive save.

Macey was withdrawn at the interval, with Ryan Huddart entering the fray.

Arsenal’s dominance continued in the second period, but they struggled to create chances with as much regularity as they did in the first-half.

The first opportunity of note in the second half fell to Da Graca, but the defender could only fire over after he was located by Nelson.

Welbeck was then replaced by Joshua Dasilva on the hour mark but the game became something of a non-event for a spell as the difficult weather conditions meant that neither side was able to enjoy a lengthy spell of possession.

There was still time, though, for Arsenal to extend their advantage even further, with Bennacer curling a superb free-kick into the back of the net.

Brighton, to their credit, refused to give in and forced Huddart into a good save, with James Tilley then reducing the deficit from the penalty spot after Marcus McGuane committed a foul.

The last significant act of the game may have been a Brighton goal, but this was Arsenal’s, and, more specifically, Nelson’s game.

Arsenal add Elneny, McGuane and Eyoma to Champions League squad but Bielik left out

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Arsenal have submitted their updated Champions League squad for the knockout stages of the competition.

The Gunners face Barcelona in a two-legged tie in the Last 16.

Mohamed Elneny, who joined from Basel in the January transfer window, has been added to the list of eligible players, whilst Dan Crowley and Stefan O’Connor have also been included after returning from loan spells.

Youngsters Aaron Eyoma, Tolaji Bola and Marcus McGuane, who recently signed their first professional contracts with the club, have been added to the squad.

Despite being part of the first-team squad Héctor Bellerín has been included on the B-List as he is still classed as an U21 player. Jeff Reine-Adélaïde, meanwhile, is on the senior list as he isn’t yet eligible for the B-List.

Carl Jenkinson and Serge Gnabry have been left out despite the fact that they have been re-called from their respective loan spells.

All of the players out on loan (Wojciech Szczęsny, Mathieu Debuchy, Yaya Sanogo, Emiliano Martínez, Chuba Akpom, Isaac Hayden, Glen Kamara, Wellington, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Gedion Zelalem) have been left out.

In addition the following players are currently ineligible for the B-List and have been left out of the squad altogether there isn’t space for them on the A-List: Ismael Bennacer, Krystian Bielik, Kristopher Da Graca, Hugo Keto, Ben Sheaf, Jordi Osei-Tutu and Yassin Fortune.

All of the players on scholarship contracts have also been left out: Marc Bola, Ilias Chatzitheodoridis, Vlad Dragomir, Charlie Gilmour, Savvas Mourgos, Edward Nketiah, Kostas Pileas, Nathan Tella, Donyell Malen and Joe Willock.

The squad rules state that two goalkeepers must be included and Arsenal fulfil that quota with David Ospina and Petr Čech being named in the squad.

At least eight players in the squad must be locally trained, with no more than four of these players being association trained. Below is a breakdown of how Arsenal have fulfiled this quota.

Five club-trained players have been named. (UEFA regulations state: A “club-trained player” is a player who, between the age of 15 (or the start of the season during which he turns 15) and 21 (or the end of the season during which he turns 21), and irrespective of his nationality and age, has been registered with his current club for a period, continuous or not, of three entire seasons (i.e. a period starting with the first official match of the relevant national championship and ending with the last official match of that relevant national championship) or of 36 months.

Kieran Gibbs, Jack Wilshere, Theo Walcott, Aaron Ramsey and Francis Coquelin all fall into this category.

Three association-trained players have been included: These are players who, between the age of 15 (or the start of the season during which the player turns 15) and 21 (or the end of the season during which the player turns 21), and irrespective of his nationality and age, has been registered with a club or with other clubs affiliated to the same association as that of his current club for a period, continuous or not, of three entire seasons or of 36 months.

Alex Oxlade-ChamberlainCalum Chambers and Danny Welbeck fall into this category.


List A: 13. David Ospina, 33. Petr Čech, 3. Kieran Gibbs, 10. Jack Wilshere, 14. Theo Walcott, 16. Aaron Ramsey, 34. Francis Coquelin, 15. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, 21. Calum Chambers, 23. Danny Welbeck, 4. Per Mertesacker, 5. Gabriel, 6. Laurent Koscielny, 7. Tomas Rosický, 8. Mikel Arteta, 11. Mesut Özil, 12. Olivier Giroud, 17. Alexis Sánchez, 18. Nacho Monreal, 19. Santi Cazorla, 20. Mathieu Flamini, 28. Joel Campbell, 35. Mohamed Elneny, 49. Matt Macey, 54. Jeff Reine-Adélaïde.

List B: 24. Héctor Bellerín, 38. Dan Crowley, 42. Kaylen Hinds, 43. Ryan Huddart, 44. Deyan Iliev, 45. Alex Iwobi, 46. Chiori Johnson, 50. Stephy Mavididi, 51. Tafari Moore, 52. Stefan O’Connor, 53. Julio Pleguezuelo, 55. Tyrell Robinson, 59. Chris Willock, 60. Marcus McGuane, 62. Tolaji Bola, 64. Joshua DaSilva, 67. Aaron Eyoma.

Arsenal include Elneny, Jenkinson and Gnabry in Premier League squad

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Arsenal have submitted their squad list for the remainder of the Premier League season, with January arrival Mohamed Elneny being included.

Carl Jenkinson and Serge Gnabry, who have been re-called from their loan spells at West Ham United and West Bromwich Albion respectively, have also been named, although the former is set for a lengthy spell on the sidelines with inury.

Youngsters Donyell Malen, Vlad Dragomir and Joe Willock, who were left out of the previous squad, have also been included.

The players who are on loan and over 21 (Wojciech Szczesny, Mathieu Debuchy, Yaya Sanogo, Emiliano Martinez and Wellington) have been left out.

Players in bold are homegrown.

Senior list: Gabriel, Arteta, Campbell, Cazorla, Cech, Coquelin, Elneny, Flamini, Gibbs, Giroud, Jenkinson, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Monreal, Ospina, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ozil, Ramsey, Rosicky, Sanchez, Walcott, Wilshere, Welbeck.

U21 list: Akpom, Bellerin, Bennacer, Bielik, M. Bola, T. Bola, Chambers, Chatzitheodoridis, Crowley, Da Graca, Dasilva, Dragomir, Eyoma, Fortune, Gilmour, Gnabry, Hayden, Hinds, Huddart, Iliev, Iwobi, Johnson, Kamara, Keto, Macey, McGuane, Malen, Maitland-Niles, Mavididi, Moore, Mourgos, Nketiah, O’Connor, Osei-Tutu, Pileas, Pleguezuelo, Reine-Adelaide, Robinson, Sheaf, Tella, Toral, C. Willock, J. Willock, Zelalem.


Fortune hoping to push on to greater heights after signing professional terms

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He may not have made quite so many headlines as his close friend and compatriot Jeff Reine-Adelaide since joining Arsenal, but Yassin Fortune has still developed well in the ensuing period, and yesterday the prospect put pen to paper on his first professional contract with the club.

Whilst Reine-Adelaide has been on the cusp of the first-team squad, Fortune has mainly been restricted to playing for the U18s; indeed the attacker has made just one appearance for the U21s and hasn’t yet featured in the UEFA Youth League.

He has, however, been a mainstay for Frans de Kat’s improving U18 side and, despite initially being signed as a striker, has made quite an impact from wide positions so far this season, scoring six goals in the league.

Possessing elegance on the ball and an ability to weave his way past defenders, Fortune is an intriguing prospect, even though he has missed his fair share of goalscoring opportunities this season.

The 17-year-old also perhaps needs to pay more attention to his defensive duties when operating out wide, but for the most part he has made a positive impression since moving to the club.

The next step will be for Fortune to attempt to break into the U21 squad on a regular basis. Doing so certainly won’t be easy, with Arsenal possessing a wealth of talent in attacking areas at that age group, but the France youth international should get his chance in due course.

On the subject of professional contracts, the club also announced this week that Aaron Eyoma has accepted the club’s offer of a new deal, leaving Marc Bola, Savvas Mourgos and Ilias Chatzitheodoridis as the remaining second year scholars, who now have less than five months remaining on their contracts.

Fortune, meanwhile, became the latest member of the 2015 intake of scholars to turn professional, following Jordi Osei-Tutu, Tolaji Bola and Josh DaSilva (although the latter’s deal is still to be formally announced by the club).

It is a little surprising that the highly regarded Donyell Malen (who turned 17 last month) hasn’t yet signed a new deal. Meanwhile, midfielder Marcus McGuane is now eligible for professional terms after turning 17 yesterday.


Crowley’s encouraging display suggests the best is yet to come

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So far this season has been rather frustrating for Dan Crowley, with the midfielder’s loan spell at Barnsley having fizzled out after an encouraging start.

The prospect struggled for consistency upon returning to U21 football with Arsenal, but against Stoke City last weekend there were some surefire signs that Crowley is returning to something approaching his best form.

Crowley’s display in the enthralling 3-1 win was overshadowed by the fact that he was sent off for dissent after saying something untoward to the referee in the wake of Marcus McGuane’s goal. That incident means that Crowley will miss the U21 matches away to Swansea City and Blackburn Rovers.

He will, though, be able to participate in the game at home to Brighton & Hove Albion on Friday and Crowley will be seeking to build upon the more positive elements of his display against Stoke.

Wearing the number seven shirt, he was initially deployed as a right winger, but the England youth international roamed across the field to excellent effect and linked play superbly as Arsenal dominated the early exchanges.

As one of the more experienced players in the U21 set-up, Crowley’s game understanding and ability to unlock defences stands out, although he does still have some improvements to make in order to make the step up.

The 18-year-old can still lose possession unnecessarily at times, whilst he also needs to improve physically. For the most part, though, Crowley remains an encouraging talent, albeit one who hasn’t progressed quite as quickly as many would have expected.

There is still much time on Crowley’s side and next season it is hoped that he will be able to enjoy a more fruitful loan spell elsewhere, perhaps after receiving some run-outs for Arsenal in the Capital One Cup.

The talent and dedication is certainly there with Crowley, but he is a little raw in some aspects of his game. With Gedion Zelalem catching the eye at Rangers and Nigerian starlet Kelechi Nwakali poised to join the club, Crowley can’t afford to rest on his laurels in the quest to make the breakthrough.

Although he featured for the first-team in pre-season, Crowley has yet to make his competitive debut for Arsenal and has only trained with the first-team occasionally since his return.

His performance against Stoke, however, suggested that his confidence hasn’t suffered, and indicated that the best may be yet to come from this much-hyped youngster.



Loan report- Akpom hits hat-trick; where will Gnabry end up?

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Chuba Akpom scored his first professional hat-trick yesterday as Hull City beat Bury 3-1 in the FA Cup.

The forward, who has struggled to command a place in the starting line-up for Steve Bruce’s side in recent weeks, put Hull in front with a neat finish before doubling his tally from the penalty spot.

Akpom saved his best goal for last as he careered forwards and finished clinically to put the game beyond doubt.

Isaac Hayden, meanwhile, was introduced as a substitute in the 80th minute.

Serge Gnabry‘s disastrous loan spell with West Bromwich Albion has been cut short, with the winger set to be sent out on temporary transfer again tomorrow.

Gnabry, who was restricted to just three appearances for Tony Pulis’s side, has been linked with Fulham and Charlton Athletic.

Jon Toral started for Birmingham City against Bristol City in the Championship but had to be taken off after 34 minutes after suffering an injury as a consequence of a rash challenge from Nathan Baker.

Wojciech Szczesny played the whole game as Roma beat Frosinone 3-1.

Carl Jenkinson‘s second stint with West Ham United is effectively over, with the right-back ruled out for between six to nine months after suffering a serious injury against Manchester City last weekend.

Wellington started and played 70 minutes as Bolton Wanderers were beaten 2-1 by Leeds United in the FA Cup.

Gedion Zelalem was introduced in the 77th minute as Rangers beat Falkirk 1-0.

Glen Kamara was an unused substitute as Southend United beat Coventry City 3-0.

Yaya Sanogo wasn’t involved as Ajax drew 2-2 with Roda JC.

Wolverhampton Wanderers didn’t have a game this weekend and, in any case, Emiliano Martinez is still recovering from injury.

Ipswich Town also weren’t in action, meaning that Ainsley Maitland-Niles didn’t feature.





Jay Beckford amongst nine Arsenal youngsters offered scholarships for next season

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Arsenal have offered six players scholarship deals for next season, with Reiss Nelson the most high profile player to be given a contract.

The winger, who has already featured for the U21s this season, is expected to form part of next season’s scholarship intake along with goalkeeper Joao Virginia, who joined the club last year and winger Emile Smith-Rowe.

Winger Nathan Tormey and central-midfielder Josh Benson, who have both featured for the U18s this season, have been offered terms along with striker Jay Beckford, who previously played for Leyton Orient.

Toby Omole, Joseph Olowu and Dom Thompson have also been offered deals. 

Several of the other players under consideration, including goalkeeper George Phillips, have been told that a concrete decision has yet to be made on their futures.

Mo Diallo, Rob Howard and Jaidon Anthony have been released. 

It seems likely that the club will again seek to make several new signings at youth level to bolster next season’s U18 squad.

Good luck to all of the U16s in their future endeavours.