After a win and a defeat in their first two play-off fixtures, Arsenal U18s were held to a 2-2 draw by their Blackburn Rovers counterparts at London Colney today.
The young Gunners took the lead through schoolboy Marcus Tabi, who returned to the side in place of Elliot Wright in the only change from last week’s victory over Stoke City.
Blackburn then levelled from the penalty spot, but Arsenal went into the break in the ascendancy when the visitors scored an own goal.
Arsenal were denied victory when Blackburn were awarded another penalty in the second-half, with Ryan Huddart unable to keep out the spot-kick.
U15 player Josh Benson made his debut at this level as a second-half substitute, with fellow U15 players Jordan Perrin, Robbie Burton and Tobi Omole also making the bench for the first time.
subs: Perrin, Benson, Burton, Omole.
Nottingham Forest have announced that they have won the fiercely-contested race to sign Arsenal striker Chuba Akpom on loan.
Several Championship clubs, including Norwich City, were also interested in signing the 19-year-old before this evening’s loan transfer deadline, but Akpom has elected to join Forest, who are currently in ninth place in England’s second tier. Dougie Freedman’s side also have Arsenal academy products Henri Lansbury and Josh Rees on their books.
Akpom, who had spells in League One last season with Brentford and Coventry City, will be looking to score his first senior goal during his time at the City Ground, and is likely to make his debut for his new side against Wolverhampton Wanderers after the international break, when he could face fellow Hale End graduate Benik Afobe.
Before then Akpom is set to represent England U20s against the United States on Sunday. Last night the striker won and scored a penalty at that level in the 1-1 draw with Mexico at The Hive.
Akpom took to Twitter to express his delight at the move, with the youngster set to add to his experience of professional football before returning to North London in the summer.
Forest have been seeking additional firepower up front since losing Britt Assombalonga to a serious injury. They tend to deploy a 4-3-3 system with one central striker, but Akpom is capable of operating out wide if required.
Dexter Blackstock is currently Forest’s first-choice centre-forward, whilst Matty Fryatt is another player who Akpom will have to compete with.
Meanwhile, midfielder Jack Jebb has re-joined Stevenage on loan until the end of the season. Jebb featured five times for Graham Westley’s team during his initial spell at the club earlier this campaign before returning to Arsenal after sustaining a serious injury.
The 19-year-old has impressed since recovering from his spell on the sidelines, however, with the youngster catching the eye in the recent U21 game against Blackburn Rovers, and he will be available to feature in the League Two play-offs should Stevenage finish in the top seven.
The loan transfer window closes tomorrow afternoon and today another Arsenal youngster has headed out on temporary transfer, with Semi Ajayi set to spend the remainder of the season with Championship side Cardiff City.
The centre-back, who has been capped by Nigeria at youth level, is scheduled to leave Arsenal on a permanent basis in the summer, with his contract unlikely to be renewed. If he impresses during this loan spell then Ajayi could seal a permanent move to Cardiff City, with whom he has already had a successful trial period.
Ajayi was a mainstay of Arsenal U21 team last season after joining from Charlton Athletic, but, despite being named on the bench for the first-team in the Premier League and the Capital One Cup this season, he hasn’t done enough to be granted an extended stay in North London and also spent time on trial with Sunderland and Ipswich Town.
Ajayi’s move takes the current number of Arsenal loanees to ten (Emiliano Martinez, Joel Campbell, Carl Jenkinson, Lukas Podolski, Ryo, Yaya Sanogo, Wellington, Josh Vickers and Jon Toral are the others) and further youngsters could yet go on loan before tomorrow’s deadline.
Chuba Akpom, who is set to represent England U20s against Mexico tonight, had previously been linked with a temporary switch to either Norwich City or Nottingham Forest, whilst several other Championship clubs are also chasing the striker’s signature.
A deal could still materialise before tomorrow night. Midfielder Jack Jebb could also go on loan again.
Serge Gnabry, however, is likely to remain with Arsenal for the time being, with the winger currently attempting to get over his fitness problems by representing Germany’s U21 side this week.
U18 Premier League
Stoke City 3 (Da Graca o.g. (25), Shepherd (27), N’Goy (68) Arsenal 4 (Robinson (5), (23), Dryden o.g. (11), Eyoma (63)
Arsenal U18s have struggled for both victories and goals this season, so it came as something of a surprise that they managed to combine both feats away to Stoke City on Saturday afternoon.
The young Gunners raced into a three-goal lead, with Tyrell Robinson’s goals coming either side of an own goal by Stoke’s Edward Dryden.
Stoke were provided with something of a lifeline when Arsenal scored an own goal themselves through Kristopher Da Graca, with the hosts then reducing the deficit further courtesy of a strike from Tom Shepherd.
Arsenal found the net again through the in-form Aaron Eyoma in the second-half, but there was more drama to come with Stoke making it 4-3 when Julian N’Goy scored before coming perilously close to claiming a point.
Arsenal held on, however, and their confidence will be boosted by some of the attacking moves they created.
Arsenal were without one of their brightest talents, with Chris Willock away on international duty with England U17s. In his absence schoolboy striker Josh Da Silva came into the starting line-up, with Eyoma moving out to the right flank and Robinson being deployed on the left.
The other changes saw Ryan Huddart replace Hugo Keto in goal and George Dobson come in for Tolaji Bola at centre-back.
subs: Keto, Tabi, T. Bola, Nketiah.
Arsenal lost their opening play-off fixture to Norwich City last week, but they started brightly on this occasion and took the lead after just five minutes. Savvas Mourgos was the orchestrator, with the midfielder playing an excellent pass into the path of Robinson, who confidently lobbed the ball over goalkeeper Dominic Kurasic.
The young Gunners were subjected to some sharp pressing by Stoke, but they continued to launch regular attacks and one such move paid dividends with the second goal. Da Graca did well to seize possession, with the centre-back finding Eyoma, whose teasing cross was inadvertently turned into his own net by Dryden.
It was 3-0 shortly afterwards when Harry Donovan’s effort was blocked and the re-bound fell kindly for Robinson, who finished from close range for his sixth goal at this level this season.
Arsenal were cruising, but Stoke were provided with a way back into the game when Da Graca’s overhit pass bobbled past Huddart and into the back of the net.
Matters then went from bad to worse for Arsenal as Donovan conceded a free-kick and Shepherd finished confidently after Stoke had rattled the crossbar from the set-piece.
Arsenal regained momentum in the second period and their fourth goal owed much to a superb run from Dobson. The youngster ran downfield and found Robinson, whose cross eluded Da Silva, but was eventually met by Eyoma, who finished adroitly.
There was still much more drama to come, however, with Stoke then making it 4-3 when N’Goy finished well following some disappointing defending from Arsenal.
In an end-to-end game there were further opportunities for Arsenal, with Robinson denied a hat-trick by a good save before substitute Edward Nketiah’s effort was cleared off the line.
Stoke protested for a penalty in the dying moments after they felt that Huddart had committed a foul in the area, but the referee waved play on and Arsenal just about managed to hold on for the victory.
Afterwards coach Frans De Kat admitted that his side had played more longer passes than usual, but, despite the concerns that persist about the youngsters’ defensive capabilities, this game also emphasised Arsenal’s qualities in an attacking sense, particularly those of wingers Robinson and Eyoma.
It is looking increasingly likely that Arsenal striker Chuba Akpom will complete a temporary move to a Championship club before Thursday’s loan transfer deadline.
Akpom reportedly met with Norwich City officials on Saturday to discuss a potential move, but it is believed that Nottingham Forest also harbour hopes of signing the 19-year-old.
The Hale End product, who had spells with Brentford and Coventry City in League One last season, has featured seven times for Arsene Wenger’s team since being promoted to the senior squad earlier this campaign.
The youngster has yet to score a senior goal in 19 appearances, but the majority of those outings, particularly in an Arsenal shirt, have been late cameos as a substitute.
Another Arsenal youngster who could go on loan this week is midfielder Jack Jebb, who recently returned from a lengthy spell on the sidelines. Jebb has a loan spell with Stevenage earlier in the campaign and could return to the League Two side in the next few days if an arrangement can be agreed.
Emiliano Martinez had an eventful debut for Rotherham United yesterday.
The Argentinean goalkeeper joined the Championship side on an emergency loan deal on Friday which is set to run until the end of the season, and was thrown straight into the action against Sheffield Wednesday, with whom he had a successful loan spell last campaign. Martinez made a couple of excellent saves in the first-half.
However, he conceded three late goals, including two in injury time, as Sheffield Wednesday eventually prevailed with a 3-2 victory.
Carl Jenkinson played the entirety of West Ham United’s 1-0 victory over Sunderland.
Lukas Podolski started on the right wing but was substituted in the 87th minute as Inter Milan were beaten 1-0 by Sampdoria.
Joel Campbell started and was deployed on the left wing before later being substituted as Villarreal lost 2-0 to Sevilla.
Wellington started but was replaced after 61 minutes as Almeria were beaten 2-1 by Athletic Bilbao. The Brazilian’s cross led to an own goal by Mikel Balenziaga.
Jon Toral was introduced in the 71st minute of Brentford’s 2-2 draw with Millwall, with the Spaniard setting up a chance for Jota.
Yaya Sanogo was an un-used substitute as Crystal Palace beat Stoke City 2-1.
Josh Vickers played as Concord Rangers beat Weston-Super-Mare 2-1.
Ryo wasn’t involved as Twente drew 2-2 with Groningen, but the Japanese winger did feature for Twente’s B team against Helmond Sport last week.
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.
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.
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.
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.
U18 Premier League- Play offs
Arsenal 1 (Eyoma (78)) Norwich City 2 (Couzens (26), Middleton (79))
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
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.