Defensive struggles persist as Arsenal U18s lose to Reading

Prior to Francis Coquelin establishing himself in that position, much had been made of Arsenal’s lack of a bonafide defensive-midfield player, and the same malaise is currently afflicting the Gunners’ U18 side, with coach Frans De Kat forced to field attack-minded midfielders in deep-lying positions.


Osei-Tutu-Da Graca-T. Bola-Robinson




Subs: Perrin, Chatzitheodoridis, Fortune, Da Silva. 

For the game away to Reading on Saturday, which Arsenal lost 4-1 despite taking the lead through Edward Nketiah, De Kat deployed Ismael Bennacer, making his debut at this level, in the pivot alongside Savvas Mourgos, who has shown previously that he is far more suited to operating in advanced positions.

The result was that Arsenal often struggled to cope with Reading’s attacks, not helped by the fact that full-backs Jordi Osei-Tutu and Tyrell Robinson frequently pushed too far forwards (the latter, admittedly, is more of a winger and was one of the side’s best players in an attacking sense).

Arsenal also showed a vulnerability with dealing with set-pieces, whilst an unfortunate slip from Osei-Tutu against his former club allowed Reading to score their fourth goal.

Question marks will again be raised about the defence, with Kristopher Da Graca once more enduring a disappointing match, whilst Tolaji Bola has some qualities but isn’t yet a consistent performer.

Further forwards there were some more positive elements to Arsenal’s display, with Nketiah working hard and putting Arsenal in front after Aaron Eyoma’s shot deflected off him.

Reiss Nelson, deployed in the number ten position, had a shot saved, whilst Joshua Da Silva was bright following his introduction as a substitute and Robinson came close to scoring late on.

Arsenal delivered an improved showing in the second-half, but, after taking four points from their first two games, this was a result, if not a performance, that called to mind the myriad of disappointments that occurred last season.

Arsenal will seek to bounce back when they take on Brighton & Hove Albion this weekend.

Loan report- Zelalem assists; Szczesny makes good save   

Gedion Zelalem played the whole game and set up a goal as Rangers thrashed Queen of the South 5-1. The midfielder’s pass found Jason Holt, who finished well. Zelalem was also the victim of an unnecessary challenge that occurred whilst he was on the ground.

Wojciech Szczesny played the whole game and made an impressive save but was beaten late on as Roma defeated Juventus 2-1. 

Chuba Akpom missed an opportunity and was booked as Hull City beat Preston North End 2-0. The striker was replaced in the 83rd minute by fellow Arsenal loanee Isaac Hayden.

Wellington played 79 minutes before being substituted as Bolton Wanderers drew 0-0 with Blackburn Rovers. The winger received a yellow card but was also involved in some intelligent approach play.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles received a yellow card and was substituted at half-time as Ipswich Town lost 3-2 to Brighton & Hove Albion.

Jon Toral played 54 minutes before being withdrawn as Birmingham City beat MK Dons 2-0. The midfielder created a chance for Demarai Gray and, shortly afterwards, was replaced by Jacques Maghoma.

Dan Crowley was introduced at the start of the second-half as Barnsley were beaten 3-0 by Rochdale.

Serge Gnabry was an un-used substitute as West Bromwich Albion beat Stoke City 1-0.

Yaya Sanogo was an un-used substitute as Ajax beat ADO Den Haag 4-0.

Carl Jenkinson missed West Ham United 3-0 victory against Liverpool through suspension.


Nketiah strike in vain as Arsenal U18s are beaten by Reading

Arsenal U18s suffered their first defeat of the season today as they were beaten 4-1 by their Reading counterparts despite taking the lead at Hogwood Park.

The young Gunners opened the scoring in the 16th minute through Edward Nketiah, who has enjoyed an impressive start to the campaign.

However, Reading soon levelled through Alex Andresson and were in front by the 40th minute before adding further gloss to the scoreline with two second-half goals.

Arsenal, who have taken four points out of a possible nine so far this season, face Brighton & Hove Albion in their next fixture.

U21s report- Bennacer makes debut as Arsenal thrash West Ham

U21 Premier League

Arsenal 5 (Hinds 14, Mavididi 15, 49, Kamara 58, Sheaf 89 (pen) West Ham United 0 

By Jeorge Bird @Emirates Stadium

Hinds and Mavididi both have three goals so far this season

Hinds and Mavididi both have three goals so far this season

Arsenal U21s maintained their immaculate start to the new season as they trounced their West Ham United counterparts at Emirates Stadium this evening, with the young Gunners’ attacking quartet continuing to thrive.

Stephy Mavididi scored a brace, whilst Kaylen Hinds was also on the scoresheet and wingers Jeff Reine-Adelaide and Alex Iwobi caused several problems for the opposition defence. There were two more unlikely scorers for Arsenal as well, with Glen Kamara capping off an excellent individual display with a goal before Ben Sheaf scored a penalty against his former side in the closing stages.

There were several other positives to take away from proceedings, with Matt Macey looking assured in goal, Krystian Bielik faring well at centre-back and Hinds continuing to provide a threat in the number ten position. There was also a debut for summer signing Ismael Bennacer, who impressed with some neat passes.

It is still very early days, with 19 matches remaining this season, but so far Arsenal have made the best possible start in their quest to gain promotion back to the top tier of U21 football. This was easily their most convincing performance yet, so it may come as a surprise to some that West Ham actually started the brighter of the two sides. Quick-fire goals from Hinds and Mavididi, however, shifted the momentum in Arsenal’s favour and the visitors, who contained two Hale End products in their line-up in George Dobson and Jordan Brown, never recovered.

Coach Steve Gatting made a solitary change to the side that beat Derby County 3-2 last week, with Matt Macey replacing Ryan Huddart in goal. Bennacer, meanwhile, made the bench at the expense of Tyrell Robinson.




Reine Adelaide-Hinds-Iwobi


Subs: Bennacer (for Mavididi, 79), C. Willock (for Hinds, 79). Not used: Eyoma, O’Connor, Huddart. 

West Ham started well and they could have taken the lead early on, but Macey was quick off his line to thwart the on-rushing Brown.

Dobson, who left Arsenal this summer to join his boyhood club, was impressive early on as he played some quick, snappy passes, but the youngster was at fault for the opening goal as it was his mis-timed ball that was seized upon by Reine-Adelaide and, after the French youngster’s cross was blocked, Hinds was on hand to score his third goal of the season and put Arsenal ahead.

West Ham looked dishevelled and they still hadn’t recovered by the time the game re-started. Arsenal raced downfield and quickly doubled their advantage, with Reine-Adelaide very much at the forefront of proceedings once more. His cross this time found Mavididi, who headed past Sam Howes to make it 2-0.

The visitors sought to respond thereafter, but Macey remained calm under pressure. It was a first-half of few clear-cut chances, but Arsenal gradually started to assert themselves and squandered an excellent opportunity to put the game beyond doubt when Reine-Adelaide shot wide after he was found by Hinds.

The second-half showcased all of Arsenal’s best qualities as they attacked relentlessly, causing havoc for the distressed West Ham defence.

It was 3-0 shortly after the restart when Mavididi, who was called up to the England U18 squad this week, seized upon a weak pass and finished cleverly.

Arsenal then started to create a plethora of chances, with Hinds seeing an effort deflected wide after he was found by Iwobi, before Reine-Adelaide had a header saved by Howes.

Dobson was enduring a difficult evening and the youngster then found himself dispossessed by Mavididi, who in turn found Hinds. On this occasion the striker’s effort was parried, but the Gunners continued to charge forwards with Bielik coming close to scoring following a well-worked corner.

Kamara was then on hand to make it 4-0, with the Finland youth international applying the finishing touch to a neat move. Even without the considerable creative talents of Dan Crowley and Gedion Zelalem, there is much to admire about the link-up play in this Arsenal side.

Arsenal looked to punish West Ham as much as possible, with Mavididi seeing another shot saved before Gatting saw fit to introduce Bennacer for his debut alongside Chris Willock.

It is a measure of the strength of this Arsenal U21 side that Bennacer and Willock, in addition to Stefan O’Connor, were amongst the substitutes this evening.

Indeed, Willock provided a measure of his undoubted quality as he made an instant impact, being fouled in the area and winning a penalty.

Sheaf stepped up to take it and got the better of Howes. It was a rather emotional moment for the midfielder, who progressed through West Ham’s academy before joining Arsenal last year.

In all, this was a hugely impressive display from the young Gunners. They end August with three victories from three games and will be confident of tackling the numerous challenges that lie ahead. It is worth noting that all three of Arsenal’s fixtures so far have been at home, whilst the squad will inevitably become depleted as the season progresses and loans, injuries and first-team call-ups take their toll.

For now, though, there is much to be positive about with regards to Arsenal’s U21 side, something we haven’t been able to say for quite some time.

Nelson, Agyei-Tabi, Da Silva + Malen train with Arsenal first-team 

Four promising youngsters trained with the Arsenal first-team squad at London Colney this morning as Arsene Wenger’s side participated in their final training session prior to tomorrow’s game away to Newcastle United.

Marcus Agyei-Tabi, Josh Da Silva, Donyell Malen and Reiss Nelson were all called upon to train with the senior squad, with Per Mertesacker still absent through illness. Laurent Koscielny, however, trained after recovering from injury.

Jack Wilshere, Tomas Rosicky and Danny Welbeck are all still out, whilst, with the U21s taking on West Ham United at Emirates Stadium this evening, Wenger had to call upon several young talents for training this morning.

Nelson, who is still a schoolboy, has impressed for the U18s in he early weeks of the season and can operate as an attacking midfielder or a winger, whilst Agyei-Tabi, who can also play centrally or out wide, enjoyed an excellent 2014/15 campaign.

Striker Da Silva, a product of the club’s Hale End academy, is very highly regarded, as is Malen, another forward, who was signed from Ajax last month but isn’t yet eligible to play for the club competitively.

Joel Campbell, meanwhile, continued to train, but is likely to miss out on the matchday squad for the Newcastle game.

Loan report- Crowley scores against Everton; Zelalem assists for Rangers

They are undoubtedly two of the most talented youngsters in Arsenal’s academy system and tonight Dan Crowley and Gedion Zelalem both had hugely positive experiences as they become accustomed to senior football.

Crowley started and scored as Barnsley lost 5-3 to Everton in the second round of the Capital One Cup. The midfielder scored Barnsely’s third goal with a neat strike on the hour mark, with the Premier League side eventually prevailing in extra-time.

Zelalem chalked up an assist on his debut for Rangers as his temporary side thrashed Airdrieonians 5-0 in the Scottish League Cup. The United States youth international was involved in the build-up to Rangers’ second goal as he found fellow Arsenal academy graduate Dean Shiels, who in turn played the ball through to Andy Halliday to score.

Zelalem himself was the provider for the third goal, with his ball finding Martyn Waghorn, who finished well. Zelalem was also involved in the build-up to Rangers’ fifth goal, which was scored by James Tavernier.

Chris Willock proves his worth for Arsenal U18s as Nelson impresses again



Arsenal U18s were outplayed for much of the first-half as they took on their Chelsea counterparts on Monday at London Colney, but they improved in the second period and eventually managed to salvage a point through Aaron Eyoma’s late header, which ensured that the game finished 1-1.

There were some elements of concern for coach Frans De Kat, with the central-defensive partnership of Kristopher Da Graca and Tolaji Bola not inspiring much in the way of confidence, but there were also some positives to take from the game, particularly in an attacking sense, with both Chris Willock and Reiss Nelson impressing.

Willock and Nelson are at different stages in their development. The latter has only just stepped up to full-time training at London Colney and is still a schoolboy, whilst Willock has already featured for the first-team, albeit only in non-competitive fixtures.

Against Chelsea, though, they were very much on the same wavelength, with both players dovetailing to excellent effect. Willock, operating primarily on the left flank, caused the opposition defence all manner of problems with his mazy dribbling, whilst his fellow Hale End product Nelson was dangerous throughout.

Nelson’s potential is such that he is starting U18 games ahead of both first year and second year scholars.

Willock can count himself a little unfortunate to be back in the U18 squad, albeit only on a temporary basis, but competition for places is strong for the attacking spots in the U21 side at present, with the likes of Jeff Reine-Adelaide, Alex Iwobi, Kaylen Hinds and Stephy Mavididi all heavily involved at that level.

Hugo Keto was impressive again in goal, although Yassin Fortune didn’t make much of an impact up front. The same couldn’t be said of substitute Eddie Nketiah, though, with the youngster emerging off the bench to rattle the woodwork with a fiercely struck effort.

Nketiah enjoyed an excellent pre-season and, despite being used as a substitute in the opening two league fixtures, looks to be full of confidence.

Arsenal, who were without Harry Donovan for this fixture, are still waiting to receive permission to field their new foreign signings- Ismael Bennacer, Kostas Pileas, Vlad Dragomir and Donyell Malen at this level.

The young Gunners take on Reading this weekend.