Nketiah strikes and four schoolboys called up as Arsenal U18s draw with Swansea


The prolific Edward Nketiah scored again as an inexperienced Arsenal U18s side drew 1-1 away to their Swansea City counterparts today.

Coach Kwame Ampadu made several changes to his side, with Joe Willock, Josh Benson, Daniel Ballard (who made his debut at this level) and schoolboy Trae Coyle all starting. Joao Virginia, meanwhile, returned in goal after he was part of the Portugal squad at the Olympics.

New scholar Jay Beckford made the bench for the first time, whilst there were call-ups for schoolboys James Olayinka and Vonte Daley-Campbell.


Osei Tutu-Omole-Olowu-Barden


J. Willock-Coyle-Smith Rowe


Subs: Burton (for Smith-Rowe, 64). Not used: Barden, Beckford, Olayinka, Daley-Campbell.

Swansea took the lead in the first-half courtesy of a neat finish from James Cullen that was beyond the reach of Virginia, but the young Gunners strove for an equaliser immediately, with Coyle coming close to scoring.

Eventually Nketiah managed to draw Arsenal level, with Ampadu’s team having taken four points from their first two fixtures. Next up is another away game against Brighton & Hove Albion.


Report- Maitland-Niles impresses as Arsenal U23s are beaten by Man. City

maitland niles

Arsenal U23s are still searching for their first win and their first goal of the season after they were beaten 1-0 by their Manchester City counterparts at the Etihad Stadium tonight.

Coach Steve Gatting made just one alteration to his side, with Glen Kamara replacing Gedion Zelalem, which meant that Ben Sheaf was once again deployed at centre-back in a vulnerable back line.


Johnson-Da Graca-Sheaf-Pileas


Nelson-Maitland Niles-C. Willock


Subs: McGuane (for Johnson, 75), Malen (for C. Willock, 75). Not used: Keto, T. Bola, Mourgos.

After an even opening Arsenal goalkeeper Matt Macey was pressed into action as he had to react quickly to thwart Javairo Dilrosun and Paolo Fernandes, before Ainsley Maitland-Niles almost found the net for the young Gunners with a fiercely-hit shot.

However, it was City who took the lead, with Rodney Kongolo finding the net following good work from Aaron Nemane.

Arsenal were more impressive as an attacking force in the second period, with captain Ismael Bennacer coming close to scoring with a free-kick before Maitland-Niles was denie by some last-ditch defending from City after Stephy Mavididi had done well to create an opening.

Maitland-Niles, who was at the hub of much of Arsenal’s good play, then struck a post after he was located by Kostas Pileas, but Gatting’s team couldn’t make the breakthrough.

Overall, this was an improved showing from Arsenal even though they were ultimately unable to find the net. However, their lack of assurance at the back could well prove costly as the campaign develops.

Arsenal U23s’ lack of options could make Sheaf’s centre-back transition a permanent change


Arsenal U23s take on their Manchester City counterparts at the Etihad Stadium tonight as they look to gain their first victory of the season, but their chances of achieving that aim are hampered by the lack of defensive options available to them.

Against Reading last week coach Steve Gatting called upon a central-defensive partnership of Kristopher Da Graca (who is unconvincing at the best of times) and Ben Sheaf (who is a central-midfielder), while, with Marc Bola out injured, Kostas Pileas was drafted in at left-back. As a consequence Arsenal struggled defensively and eventually lost 2-0.

The worrying aspect for Gatting is that it doesn’t appear that the situation will improve any time soon. There are other options available, with Jordi Osei-Tutu and Tolaji Bola capable of stepping up from the U18s, but it doesn’t appear as if it will be too long until 16-year-olds such as Tobi Omole and Joseph Olowu are pressed into action for the U23s.

Krystian Bielik was a regular at the heart of the defence for Arsenal’s second-string last season, but the Pole is unlikely to feature quite so prominently this time around as he will usually be training with the first-team or, perhaps later in the season, dispatched out on loan.

That could well mean that Sheaf’s transition from midfield to defence becomes rather more than just a temporary solution as the 18-year-old could be required to marshal the back line on other occasions, including against City tonight.

Sheaf is clearly better suited to playing in midfield, but he is efficient at winning the ball back and is calm on the ball. Nobody could have predicted such a scenario, but Arsenal’s lack of defensive options could well lead to a significant, and perhaps permanent change for Sheaf.


Johnson set to benefit as Arsenal youngster Moore seals Utrecht loan


It has been confirmed that Arsenal youngster Tafari Moore has joined Dutch team Utrecht on a season-long loan following a successful trial.

The right-back has featured prominently for Arsenal at youth level in recent seasons, although he has struggled with injuries at times, and he will hope to play a key part for the Eredivisie side as he gains his first experience of senior football. It is anticipated that Moore will initially play for Utrecht’s youth side before stepping up to senior level.

Moore’s temporary departure means Arsenal have one fewer option in defence at U23 level, although Chiori Johnson should now step up to be first-choice for Steve Gatting’s side, with Jordi Osei-Tutu providing back-up.


Nketiah hits brace as Arsenal U18s thrash Aston Villa in opening game


Whilst Arsenal U23s commenced the campaign in disappointing fashion with a defeat to Reading last night, the U18s got off to a rather better start as they thrashed Aston Villa 4-0 at London Colney today.

Edward Nketiah, who was prolific last season, scored a brace, whilst Josh DaSilva and first-year scholar Emile Smith-Rowe also found the net.

via @AFC Fixture News

Per Mertesacker confirmed as new Arsenal captain


Arsenal have confirmed in the official matchday programme that Per Mertesacker has been named as the club’s new captain for this season following the departure of Mikel Arteta.

Mertesacker, who has been at Arsenal for almost five years, will miss a significant part of the season through injury, during which Petr Cech, Laurent Koscielny and Santi Cazorla will share captaincy duties.


Report: Zelalem and Maitland-Niles feature as Arsenal U23s are beaten by Reading

Premier League 2- Division 1

Arsenal U23s 0 Reading U23s 2

By Jeorge Bird @ Meadow Park


This was supposed to be a night of significance for Arsenal’s youngsters as they participated in the first ever fixture of revamped second-string football.

However, it ultimately turned out to be a rather frustrating occasion as familiar failings resurfaced and Arsenal were beaten 2-0 by a well organised and hard working Reading side.

There were some notable inclusions in the Arsenal side, with Gedion Zelalem and Chris Willock, who featured for the first-team in pre-season, both called upon tonight. Ainsley Maitland-Niles, meanwhile, made his first appearance for Arsenal in over a year after returning from his mixed loan spell with Ipswich Town.

The most notable aspect of the Arsenal team, though, was the deployment of Ben Sheaf at centre-back. At a time when defensive options are running thin in the first-team, the same fate has befallen the U23s, with Krystian Bielik’s absence (and the departures of Julio Pleguezuelo and Stefan O’Connor on loan) meaning that Sheaf, normally a midfielder, was forced to operate at the heart of the defence.

Whilst he clearly wasn’t comfortable in that position, the 18-year-old did at least make some good interventions and appeared more assured than his central-defensive partner Kristopher Da Graca, although, in truth, that isn’t saying much.

Arsenal were all too vulnerable defensively, with full-backs Chiori Johnson and Kostas Pileas frequently getting exposed, and it seemed as if it was only a matter of time before Reading took the lead.

They did just that through Andy Rinomhota in the 70th minute before a spectacular strike from substitute Harry Caldwell ten minutes later effectively ended the game as a contest.

Bielik and Calum Chambers were watching on at Meadow Park, and how Arsenal could have done with those two players this evening. The young Gunners showed some encouraging signs in terms of their build-up play, with Zelalem, Willock and Reiss Nelson playing some slick passes, but they lacked ruthlessness in front of goal and Stephy Mavididi wasn’t able to make the most of the admittedly few chances that came his way.

There were some notable omissions from the squad, with Marc Bola, Kaylen Hinds, Aaron Eyoma, Tyrell Robinson and Savvas Mourgos all not involved. Glen Kamara, meanwhile, made the bench after his proposed loan move to Dordrecht broke down.


Johnson-Da Graca-Sheaf-Pileas


Nelson-Maitland Niles-C. Willock


Subs: McGuane (for Zelalem, 61), Kamara (for C. Willock, 61), Dragomir (for Bennacer, 88). Not used: Keto, T. Bola.

The opening stages were rather tight, with neither side able to make the most of the possession they had. Maitland-Niles and Zelalem, the two most experienced outfield players in the Arsenal side, saw a lot of the ball early on as Steve Gatting’s team sought to impress.

Macey, who featured for the first-team in pre-season against Lens, had to be alert to gather a couple of crosses before Arsenal made a venture down the other end with Ismael Bennacer, who was again impressive, doing well to win the ball back, although the move didn’t amount to anything of significance.

Arsenal’s side contained an abundance of creative talent yet a dearth of defensive resilience, and the latter fault was in evidence when Da Graca, who has never been especially convincing since joining the club, made a terrible error that Reading almost capitalised upon. It was Sheaf who stepped across to cut out the danger, with the former West Ham United player performing well in challenging circumstances.

Reading then had the ball in the net only to see the effort ruled out for offside. It seemed patently clear, though, that they would eventually be the side to open the scoring.

Before that eventually transpired, however, Arsenal tried their utmost to break the deadlock, with Nelson and Willock both being thwarted.

Reading came close to scoring on a couple of occasions early in the second-half, and Arsenal’s cause thereafter wasn’t helped by the withdrawal of Willock and Zelalem, who were presumably tired as a consequence of their involvement with the first-team this summer.

Marcus McGuane and Kamara entered the fray in their place, but it was Reading who wold then seize control, with Rinomhota finishing well after Macey failed to hold a previous effort.

At the other end Mavididi did tremendously well to shake off the attentions of the Reading defence, but he wasn’t able to provide the finishing touch and, with that, Arsenal’s hopes of getting something from this game vanished.

Moments later it was 2-0 and game over, with Cardwell scoring a spectacular goal to put the game beyond doubt.

There was a positive moment when the talented Vlad Dragomir entered the fray late on to make his first competitive appearance at this level, but this was a frustrating night and this result provides an indication of how challenging matters will be for Arsenal in the top tier. Next up is a trip to face Manchester City at the Etihad.