Report- Iwobi hits hat-trick and Diaby impresses as Arsenal U21s beat Stoke



U21 Premier League 

Arsenal 4 (Iwobi 24, 42, 90, Mavididi 73) Stoke City 1 (Shenton 8)

By Jeorge Bird @Emirates Stadium

For a night that started so negatively for Arsenal U21s, with a mistake by goalkeeper Deyan Iliev allowing Ollie Shenton to open the scoring for Stoke City, by the end of the night’s events there were a multitude of positives to take away for the club as a whole.

Alex Iwobi enhanced his rapidly-growing reputation with a well-taken hat-trick that emphasised his key attributes of pace and skill, substitute Stephy Mavdidi struck his first goal at this level, Jack Wilshere and Serge Gnabry both completed 90 minutes, with the former more heavily involved in proceedings, club captain Mikel Arteta played an hour, Krystian Bielik was composed on his first appearance at Emirates Stadium and Julio Pleguezuelo returned from a lengthy spell on the sidelines to play the last 18 minutes.

Above all that, though, perhaps the most significant aspect of the game was the performance of Abou Diaby, who was Arsenal’s best player for the 72 minutes that he was on the field. It isn’t currently clear whether Diaby, the club’s longest-serving player, will be offered a new deal, with his current contract expiring at the end of June.

The Frenchman’s performance this evening demonstrated just why so many Arsenal supporters yearn for him to be granted an extended stay. Diaby set up Iwobi’s second goal with a precise pass, but his all-round game was hugely impressive.

Whether he can replicate that at first-team level, and, crucially, whether he can stay fit for a lengthy period of time, is still questionable, but tonight Diaby showed that, for all the setbacks he has endured over the past few years, he can’t be discounted just yet.

As soon as it was announced that Diaby, Wilshere and Arteta would be starting the game, an Arsenal win was expected. Gnabry and Bielik were also involved from the offset, with the latter being deployed at centre-back. Ainsley Maitland-Niles started at right-back in the absence of Glen Kamara.


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subs: Mavididi (for Arteta, 59). Pleguezuelo (for Diaby, 72). Not used: Zelalem, Dobson, Huddart.

Arsenal had the first opportunity of the game, with Diaby shooting over, but it was a moment of carelessness from Iliev that led to the young Gunners falling behind in the eight minute.

The Macedonian goalkeeper made a save but pushed the ball straight into the path of Shenton, who found the net from close range.

Arsenal immediately set about mounting a response, with Crowley seeing his audacious effort diverted for a corner. Wilshere was gradually beginning to assert himself on proceedings, with the England international coming close with a free-kick before producing a sublime piece of skill to work his way towards goal only for Daniel Gyollai to be equal to his effort.

An enterprising run from Diaby culminated in the midfielder being brought down in the area, but there were no claims for a penalty and, in truth, the award of a spot-kick would have been rather harsh on Stoke.

During last week’s friendly victory over Brentford Wilshere and Crowley exchanged some neat passes and the pair repeated the feat here, with their intricate move preceding an effort by Gnabry, who couldn’t get the better of Gyollai.

Arsenal were soon level, though, and, just as Stoke’s goal stemmed from an opposition mistake, so too did the Gunners’ first strike of the evening, with Iwobi capitalising on a slack pass before finishing well.

Wilshere and Gnabry continued to threaten thereafter, with Diaby then playing an intelligent pass into the path of Iwobi, whose powerful effort went just wide of the target.

The same two players combined as Arsenal went ahead just before the break, with Diaby’s precise ball being latched onto by Iwobi, who continued his excellent form with a fine finish.

Stoke had battled well, but never looked likely to recover once they were behind. Diaby’s showcase of his ability continued into the second-half, with a powerful surge down the right flank almost resulting in another goalscoring opportunity.

Iliev did well to keep out Charlie Ward’s free-kick at the other end, before Mavididi was introduced in place of Arteta. It was a good run-out for the Spaniard, but, despite the fact that he played some clever passes, he was beaten for pace a little too easily on some occasions.

Mavididi wasted little time in making it 3-0, with the striker, who was preferred to Austin Lipman for a place on the bench, lashing home after Crowley and Wilshere’s efforts were repelled.

Iwobi missed a chance to add further gloss to the scoreline when he shot wide following Gnabry’s astute dragback, but he made amends not long afterwards when he raced past the stranded Stoke defence and finished with aplomb.

There was still time for Mavididi to come close to adding another, but the damage had long since been done and, despite a shaky start, it turned out to be a very good night indeed for Arsenal.

U21 preview- Arteta and Wilshere to feature against Stoke

The chances of the Arsenal U21 side gaining promotion back to the top tier have been given a massive boost by the involvement of three senior players for tonight’s game at home to Stoke City at Emirates Stadium.

Jack Wilshere, Mikel Arteta and Abou Diaby, who are all in the final stages of their respective recoveries from lengthy injury lay-offs, are all set to play some part for Steve Gatting’s side, along with fellow first-team squad members Serge Gnabry, Krystian Bielik and Gedion Zelalem.

Competition rules state that clubs are permitted to field three players over the age of 21, meaning that club captain Arteta will be able to feature. The Spaniard, along with Wilshere and Diaby, was involved in the U21 friendly victory over Brentford last week.

The U21s have struggled for consistency this season and have gone two games without a win, but they will be confident of prevailing tonight, especially given that they beat Stoke 3-0 in the reverse fixture back in October.

It will be a big occasion for Bielik, who is set to make his first appearance at Emirates since joining the club in the January transfer window. Although primarily a defensive-midfielder, the 17-year-old could be deployed at centre-back tonight alongside Stefan O’Connor.

Deyan Iliev could start in goal, with Matt Macey currently on first-team duty following an injury to Wojciech Szczesny.

Isaac Hayden, Chiori Johnson, Kaylen Hinds, Julio Pleguezuelo and Tafari Moore are all likely to miss out through injury, but Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill is poised to return to the side, with Alex Iwobi, who has been in good form of late, set to start up front.

There are still seven games remaining this season for Arsenal after this fixture, but a win would be an important step in the right direction as they look to fulfil their aim of testing themselves against better opposition next term.

Oliver Shenton, who made his Premier League debut earlier this season, is Stoke’s player to watch, with the central-midfielder likely to see a lot of the ball if he plays tonight.

Possible team:


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Subs: Huddart, M. Bola, Maitland-Niles, Zelalem, Mavididi. 

Jonatas Centeno leaves Arsenal

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First-year scholar Jonatas Centeno has left the club.

The right-back, who is also capable of operating as a winger, joined Arsenal late last season after failing to earn a scholarship deal at Fulham.

He made 15 appearances for the U18s and was also named on the bench in the UEFA Youth League, but the 17-year-old struggled for consistency and stood no realistic chance of making the grade at the club, with Chiori Johnson, who has already signed professional terms, considered a better prospect.

Centeno’s departure leaves Marc Bola, Ilias Chatzitheodoridis, Harry Donovan, Aaron Eyoma, Hugo Keto, Stephy Mavididi and Savvas Mourgos as the club’s remaining first-year scholars, although Mavididi isn’t eligible to sign professional terms until he turns 17 next month.

Meanwhile, schoolboy Owen Moore, who wasn’t offered a scholarship with the Gunners, has joined Brighton & Hove Albion. The youngster, who can play at right-back or in central-midfield, has been capped by England at youth level.

Loan report- Akpom makes Forest debut; Jenkinson struggles; Ryo features

Chuba Akpom made his Nottingham Forest debut on Friday, with the England U20 international playing the whole game as his team were beaten 2-1 by Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Akpom endeared himself to the Forest fans with his work-rate and enthusiasm, with the youngster sending a header over the crossbar after he did well to win a free-kick. However, Akpom’s performance was overshadowed by that of another Hale End graduate, Benik Afobe, who continued his tremendous goalscoring form with an excellent strike.

Akpom, still searching for his first professional goal, should be involved against Brentford tomorrow.

Carl Jenkinson had a difficult afternoon as West Ham United were beaten 2-1 by Leicester City.

On the same day that his right-back rival Hector Bellerin further enhanced his reputation with an impressive performance against Liverpool, Jenkinson made several errors as Sam Allardyce’s side fell to defeat at the King Power Stadium.

Jenkinson gave away a penalty with a late challenge on Leonardo Ulloa and received a yellow card as punishment, but the defender was thankful that Adrian managed to save David Nugent’s spot-kick.

Later in the game Jenkinson was presented with a goalscoring opportunity but directed his header straight at Kasper Schmeichel.

Wellington played the whole game on the left wing and was booked as Almeria lost 4-1 to Levante, one of his former loan sides.

Lukas Podolski was introduced as a substitute in the 76th minute of Inter Milan’s 1-1 draw with struggling Parma. Inter manager Roberto Mancini ordered his players in for extra training today following the disappointing performance.

Emiliano Martinez couldn’t prevent Rotherham United from losing 2-1 to Birmingham City. The Argentinean goalkeeper was beaten by efforts from Robert Tesche and Clayton Donaldson, with the latter finding the net after Martinez punched the ball out unconvincingly. Martinez is expected to feature again when his temporary side face Brighton & Hove Albion tomorrow.

With Martinez out on loan and Wojciech Szczesny struggling with a rib injury, U21 goalkeeper Matt Macey was named on the bench yesterday for Arsenal’s Premier League game with Liverpool.

Jack Jebb played 66 minutes as he marked his return to Stevenage with a convincing showing during their 2-2 draw with Tranmere Rovers. The midfielder came to close to scoring with a shot from just outside the penalty area.

Ryo started on the left wing and played the whole game as Twente were thrashed 5-0 by PSV.

Joel Campbell started on the left wing and played 64 minutes as Villarreal took on Valencia.

Josh Vickers played the whole game as Concord Rangers’ unbeaten run came to an end with a 1-0 defeat to Eastbourne Borough.

Yaya Sanogo could feature when Crystal Palace face Manchester City tomorrow night.

Jon Toral was an un-used substitute as Brentford beat Fulham 4-1.

Semi Ajayi wasn’t involved as Cardiff City drew 1-1 with Reading, suggesting that the centre-back is likely to feature for The Bluebirds’ U21 side during his time at the club.

Arsenal’s Savvas Mourgos showing signs of improvement

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During the early days of his Arsenal career there were some difficult times for Savvas Mourgos.

The Greek attacking midfielder arrived at the club from Panionios on scholarship terms after previously progressing through Arsenal’s Elite Academy in his home country.

A delay with his paperwork meant that Mourgos had to be patient to make his Arsenal debut, but, when that moment finally arrived, for the U18s against Southampton last October, things didn’t exactly go to plan, with the youngster struggling to make a significant impact on proceedings.

The following week, as Frans De Kat’s side travelled to face West Ham United, Mourgos was involved from the offset again, but once more he failed to last the whole 90 minutes. It was a chaotic performance from him, with Mourgos squandering possession cheaply, often kicking the ball out of play, missing presentable chances and even clattering into team-mate Harry Donovan on one occasion as the language barrier proved a considerable problem.

The initial signs weren’t very encouraging, but Mourgos continued to train hard and has reaped the benefits of being deployed in his preferred attacking midfield position in recent months. Of late, he has often been one of the very few shining lights in some deeply disappointing team performances at U18 level.

Mourgos’ best qualities have been on display, with the 17-year-old demonstrating his ability to help link play quickly. His dribbling is also of a high standard and well-taken goals in the defeats to West Bromwich Albion and Tottenham Hotspur demonstrated that he is capable of finding the net himself.

Mourgos’ progression this season provides us with a reminder that sometimes we shouldn’t be so quick to judge youngsters, particularly those who require a period of adaptation after arriving from abroad. He will have designs on breaking into the U21 squad next season as he seeks to earn his first professional contract with the club, but for now Mourgos will be delighted with the progress he has made since those arduous early days of the campaign.

Wilshere and Crowley star as Arsenal XI thrash Brentford

Jack Wilshere, Mikel Arteta, Mathieu Debuchy and Abou Diaby all continued their respective rehabilitations from injury as an Arsenal XI beat Brentford 4-0 at London Colney today.

Wilshere hasn’t featured competitively since November because of an ankle problem but the England international could return to the matchday squad against Liverpool this weekend. He opened the scoring against Brentford, with Dan Crowley, a player who has been likened to Wilshere in playing style, then making it 2-0.

Alex Iwobi, who has enjoyed an impressive season, hit a brace as Arsenal made it 4-0 before the break and, despite a swathe of substitutions, the Gunners held on for the victory.

The Arsenal side was a mixture of first-team players and U21 regulars. Mathieu Flamini and Krystian Bielik started, the latter being deployed at centre-back, whilst Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill returned from injury to start at left-back.

First-years Chris Willock, Marc Bola, Stephy Mavididi, George Dobson, Ben Sheaf and Aaron Eyoma were all involved as substitutes, as was Austin Lipman.


Debuchy-O’Connor-Bielik-Ormonde Ottewill




subs: M. Bola (for Ormonde-Ottewill, 46), C. Willock (for Diaby, 46), Zelalem (for Arteta, 46), Mavididi (for Wilshere, 46), Dobson (for Crowley, 46), Maitland-Niles (for Debuchy, 60), Sheaf (for Bielik, 66), Eyoma (for Flamini, 66), Lipman (for Iwobi, 68).

Arsenal, as was to be expected given the strength of their side, were dominant from the offset. Flamini saw a shot deflected, with the re-bound falling into the path of Wilshere, who finished well.

In a move that will have many dreaming about a future first-team partnership, Wilshere and Crowley interchanged passes quickly in the build-up to Arsenal’s second goal, with Crowley finishing adroitly to make it 2-0.

Iwobi, who has trained regularly with the first-team squad this season, made it 3-0 with a precise strike and the winger rounded off the scoring when he found the net again, this time from Diaby’s neat pass.

With Diaby, Arteta and Wilshere all withdrawn at half-time, the Arsenal side for the second-half had a less experienced look to it, but Arsenal still managed to create several attacking opportunities.

Willock missed a penalty after he was brought down in the area, with Lipman, another substitute, later striking a post.

Matt Macey made a good save late on to preserve his clean sheet and, overall, this was a very positive outing for Arsenal, with several first-team players gaining valuable match fitness, whilst some promising youngsters had the experience of playing with more senior individuals.

Arsenal’s Glen Kamara targets foreign loan

Glen Kamara’s development has certainly gone to plan this season.

The stylish yet tenacious defensive-midfielder has established himself as a key component of Arsenal’s U21 side, has trained frequently with the first-team squad and has represented Finland at U21 level.

Now, the youngster, who is still only 19, is already looking ahead to the next stage of his development after he admitted that he is likely to go out on loan at some point next season. That in itself isn’t much of a surprise, with many players often being sent out on temporary transfer at this juncture of their progression. However, Kamara’s potential destination is intriguing, with the former Southend United player admitting that he would prefer to go to a French or Dutch side.

Kamara’s preference is an interesting one and may be due to the fact that many Arsenal youngsters have been sent on loan to lower league English sides in recent seasons only to find themselves deprived of valuable game time.

If Kamara, as expected, does go out on loan next season, then he is likely to be joined in that regard by several other players, including Alex Iwobi and Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill.