Arsenal U17s may not have been able to secure silverware at the Al Kass International Cup in Qatar, but they played some impressive football throughout the tournament and ended up finishing in third place after beating AC Milan 4-2 today.
Arsenal gave opportunities to some of the promising schoolboys who made the trip, with two of them, Eddie Nketiah and Josh Da Silva, hitting braces agains the Italian side.
Goalkeeper Hugo Keto, as he was in many of the previous games, was again impressive, but Arsenal’s stand-out performer was Chris Willock, who caught the eye with the sheer audaciousness of his array of trickery. The recently-signed professional has a tendency to operate on the periphery of games before suddenly bursting into life at crucial moments and can look forward to further involvement in the U21 squad upon his return.
As far as their prospects in this tournament were concerned, Arsenal were left to rue the fact that Willock was suspended for the Semi-Final defeat to Paris Saint-Germain as a consequence of his involvement in the brawl that ensued after the tempestuous fixture against River Plate.
Had Willock been available Arsenal may well have fared better against PSG, but the young Gunners can still look back on this tournament with fond memories.
Several Arsenal players enjoyed fine displays throughout, including Willock, Kaylen Hinds, Keto, Harry Donovan and Stephy Mavididi, with the latter finishing as the competition’s top goalscorer.
It was a good opportunity for the schoolboys, some of whom aren’t yet guaranteed scholarships with the club for next season, to catch the eye. Winger Nathan Tella has much raw potential, whilst central-defender Kostas Pileas was impressive until his costly mistake against PSG.
Reiss Nelson, an England youth international winger who will still be a schoolboy next season, also showed glimpses of his undoubted potential, and this trip certainly wasn’t a wasted one for Arsenal.
Now attention will turn to the U18s’ FA Youth Cup campaign, which continues with a home tie against Crewe Alexandra on Thursday.
Arsenal at the Al Kass International Cup
Arsenal 3 (Mavididi 7, 57, 70) Vissel Kobe 2
Keto; Centeno, Da Graca (Nelson, 46), Pileas, T. Bola (O. Moore, 90); Sheaf (Da Silva, 82), Donovan; Tabi, Hinds (Musendo, 85), C. Willock (Mourgos, 67); Mavididi. Not used: House, Tella, Gilmour, Nketiah.
Aspire Qatar 0 Arsenal 3 (Mavididi 9, Donovan 14, Willock 25)
Keto; Centeno, Musendo, Pileas (Gilmour, 77), T. Bola; Sheaf, Donovan; Tabi (Tella, 61), Hinds (Da Silva, 46), C. Willock (Mourgos, 46); Mavididi (Nketiah, 61). Not used: House, Da Graca, Nelson, O. Moore.
Arsenal 1 (Hinds 64) River Plate 0
Keto; Centeno, Da Graca (Mourgos, 64), Pileas, T. Bola; Sheaf (Nelson, 62), Donovan; Tabi, Hinds (Da Silva, 71), C. Willock; Mavididi. Not used: House, O. Moore, Tella, Musendo, Gilmour, Nketiah.
Arsenal 1 (Mavididi 65) PSG 2
Keto; Centeno (Nelson, 53), Da Graca (Nketiah, 77), Pileas, T. Bola; Sheaf, Donovan (Musendo, 69); Tabi (Tella, 68), Hinds (Da Silva, 53), Mourgos, Mavididi. Not used: House, O. Moore, Gilmour.
3rd place Play-off
AC Milan 2 Arsenal 4 (Nketiah 3, 47, Da Silva 8, 54)
Keto (House, 83); O. Moore, Da Graca, Musendo, Mourgos; Sheaf (Donovan, 46), Gilmour (Tabi, 69); Tella (Mavididi, 46), Da Silva, C. Willock; Nketiah (Nelson, 88). Not used: Centeno, T. Bola, Pileas, Hinds.
Lukas Podolski was restored to the starting line-up and played the whole game on the left flank as Inter Milan beat Atalanta 4-1.
Joel Campbell played the full game and was booked as Villarreal were beaten 2-0 by Rayo Vallecano.
Carl Jenkinson played the whole game as West Ham United were trounced 4-0 by West Bromwich Albion.
Wellington played 80 minutes before being withdrawn as Almeria drew 2-2 with Real Sociedad on Friday.
Jon Toral was introduced for the final 31 minutes of Brentford’s 3-0 loss against Charlton Athletic. The Spanish midfielder sent a shot over the crossbar.
Josh Vickers made three superb saves as Concord Rangers drew 0-0 with Boreham Wood.
Ryo wasn’t part of the Twente squad for their 4-2 defeat to Ajax.
Yaya Sanogo missed Crystal Palace’s 2-1 defeat to Liverpool because of injury.
Matt Macey has returned to Arsenal following his loan spell with Accrington Stanley. The goalkeeper conceded 11 goals in four games.
Tyrell Robinson’s goal was sufficient to give Arsenal U18s a 1-0 win over Leicester City at London Colney this morning, with Frans De Kat’s side earning their first league win since September.
De Kat named a stronger side than usual with the vast majority of his usual squad currently at the Al Kass International Cup in Qatar.
Dan Crowley, Gedion Zelalem and Stefan O’Connor were amongst the familiar names who were involved, but the most significant team news saw schoolboy Brooklyn Beckham earn his first call-up to the U18s, with the right-winger remaining an unused substitute throughout.
The U18s travel to face West Bromwich Albion next weekend, but before that they will continue their FA Youth Cup campaign at home to Crewe Alexandra on Thursday night.
subs: Phillips, Maitland-Niles, Parker, Beckham, J. Willock.
Kaylen Hinds’ goal saw Arsenal U17s progress to the Semi-Finals of the Al Kass International Cup with a 1-0 victory over River Plate today.
Arsenal made just one side from the team that dispatched of Aspire, with Kristopher Da Graca replacing Rugare Musendo at centre-back.
Centeno-Da Graca-Pileas-T. Bola
This was undoubtedly Arsenal’s toughest test in the tournament so far in more ways than one. The young Gunners were the victims of some rough challenges from the Argentinean side but still came close to scoring through Marcus Tabi and Stephy Mavididi.
Arsenal eventually made the breakthrough in the second period, with Hinds heading home from schoolboy Reiss Nelson’s corner.
River Plate threatened to draw level, but Hugo Keto made an impressive save late on to ensure Arsenal’s progression to the last four, where they’ll face either Aspire or Paris Saint-Germain on Friday.
A brawl broke out between both sets of players in the end, but the important thing is that Arsenal are still very much alive in this competition.
U21 Premier League
Newcastle United 1 Arsenal 2
Austin Lipman has endured a frustrating season so far, with the striker’s loan spell with Boreham Wood not working out as expected.
However, the youngster, who was re-called from his stint with the Conference South side just last week, marked his first appearance in an Arsenal shirt this season by scoring a dramatic late winning goal for the U21s away to league leaders Newcastle United at St James’ Park this evening.
Alex Iwobi had earlier given the lead but Newcastle levelled through Daniel Barlaser. However, it was the diligent Lipman, on for the returning Serge Gnabry, who proved to be the match-winner.
Gnabry completed 68 minutes on his first appearance of 2015, although there was no place in the side for Krystian Bielik, who instead remained in London to train with the first-team squad.
Deyan Iliev made his first appearance since August in goal, whilst Renny Smith, George Dobson and Marc Bola were drafted into an unfamiliar back four. Iwobi operated as a central striker, whilst there were first call-ups at this level for Aaron Eyoma and Ilias Chatzitheodoridis, who made the bench.
subs: Huddart, Wright, Chatzitheodoridis (for Kamara, 90), Eyoma (for Zelalem, 81), Lipman (for Gnabry, 68).
Arsenal started in the ascendancy, with Dan Crowley shooting just wide following an intricate passing move.
The Gunners continued with their patient build-up play. Renny Smith found Gedion Zelalem, with the midfielder cleverly playing the ball into the path of Iwobi, but the latter’s effort was saved by Freddie Woodman.
Zelalem then went for goal himself, but still Woodman wouldn’t be beaten as he gathered the effort comfortably.
Arsenal eventually made the breakthrough just before half-time when Iwobi drifted in from the right flank and beat Woodman with a well-struck effort. It was Iwobi’s third goal of the season, with the Hale End product playing with increased confidence of late.
Newcastle fought their way back into the game after the interval, however, and equalised when Barlaser, who signed his first professional contract prior to kick-off, sent a volley beyond the reach of Iliev.
Arsenal attempted to regain their lead, with Ainsley Maitland-Niles, who featured against Newcastle in the Premier League in December, and Iwobi both coming close.
Newcastle had an effort of their own courtesy of Tom Heardman.
Eyoma was introduced for his debut at this level and it was the winger’s cross that found Lipman, who directed his header past Woodman to give Arsenal the most dramatic of victories.
The result moves Arsenal level on points with Newcastle at the top of the table, albeit with an inferior goal difference.
Wellington was impressive as Almeria beat Cordoba 2-1 as the Brazilian set up both of Michael Macedo’s goals to change the course of the game.
Cordoba took the lead before Wellington, who had earlier sent a shot wide himself, crossed accurately for Macedo to equalise in the 61th minute.
Just four minutes later the pair combined again for what proved to be the winner, with Wellington receiving the ball back after taking a short corner and then crossing for Macedo, who scored with a header.
Jon Toral was introduced for the final 32 minutes as Brentford beat Leeds United 1-0. The Spaniard’s time on the field was eventful as he hit the post, received a yellow card for a late challenge and produced a superb piece of skill.
Joel Campbell made his first league start for Villarreal, who beat Granada 2-0. The Costa Rica international was withdrawn after 61 minutes.
Carl Jenkinson played the entirety of West Ham United’s 1-1 draw with Manchester United. The right-back made some good interventions and was a threat going forwards, but it was his header that unfortunately fell to Daley Blind, who equalised for the visitors late on.
Yaya Sanogo was introduced at the start of the second-half as Crystal Palace beat Leicester City 1-0. The striker made something of an impact, sending an effort into the side-netting.
Josh Vickers made a good save and kept a clean sheet as Concord Rangers drew 0-0 with Sutton United.
Ryo was back amongst the Twente substitutes, but didn’t make it onto the field as his loan side were beaten 1-0 by Excelsior.
Matt Macey watched from the bench as Accrington Stanley lost 1-0 to Plymouth Argyle. The goalkeeper’s loan agreement with the League Two club expires today and it isn’t currently clear whether it will be extended.
Lukas Podolski was an unused substitute as Inter Milan beat Palermo 3-0.
Austin Lipman has returned to Arsenal after his loan spell at Boreham Wood was cut short. The striker hadn’t featured as regularly as he would have liked for the Conference South side.
Boreham Wood manager Ian Allinson said: “In regards to Austin Lipman, It was agreed between the clubs that Austin would return to Arsenal. That has frustrated me, as the player, his agent and his family felt he should be starting each week. Again due to the other striker’s performances, myself and my management team saw things very differently”.
“I did want to keep Austin but I felt he would be an impact player. I also needed him to work harder, to defend from the front a bit more and in my opinion if he listened, it would improve his game and improve his game management. I like to play a pressing game if I can but Austin couldn’t press the ball with the intensity I wanted and I couldn’t justify changing my shape while we were top of the league, which again frustrated him”.
Arsenal U17s eased into the knockout stages of the Al Kass International Cup in Qatar as group winners by confidently dispatching of the Aspire Academy with a 3-0 victory today.
Tabi-Hinds- C. Willock
subs: Tella, Nketiah, Da Silva, Mourgos, Gilmour. Not used: House, Da Graca, O. Moore, Nelson.
Having started their campaign with a 3-2 win over Vissel, the young Gunners were keen to rack up another victory and quickly established a lead when Chris Willock did well to find Stephy Mavididi, who is the competition’s top scorer so far with four goals.
It was soon 2-0 when Harry Donovan lashed home a powerful effort after several of his team-mates had seen their efforts cleared.
Donovan’s goal was spectacular, but Arsenal’s third, scored by the diligent Willock, was even more impressive as the England youth international curled the ball into the net.
Arsenal played superbly in the first half as they stroked the ball around confidently, emphasising their technical superiority over their opponents.
Kaylen Hinds, operating as an attacking midfielder, was central to most of Arsenal’s attacking moves, whilst Willock and Mavididi were always dangerous, ably supported by clever passes from Donovan and Ben Sheaf in midfield.
Arsenal’s defence, containing three schoolboys in Kostas Pileas, Rugare Musendo and Tolaji Bola, was rarely tested, although the intensity in Arsenal’s play did drop a little when Hinds and Willock were withdrawn at half-time.
Arsenal still possessed an attacking threat, however, with substitute Nathan Tella lively out wide and Savvas Mourgos and Eddie Nketiah both squandering presentable chances.
Arsenal will face one of River Plate, AC Milan or Juventus in the Quarter-Final on Tuesday, fully aware that their toughest tests in this competition lie ahead of them. Today’s performance, though, is one that they will certainly aspire to replicate in the latter rounds.
Midfielder Ben Sheaf has become the latest Arsenal youngster to sign professional terms with the club after he turned 17 yesterday.
The England youth international, who joined from West Ham United last summer, has delivered some impressive performances for a struggling Arsenal U18 side this season. He has also featured in the UEFA Youth League and has made the bench for the U21s.
Sheaf put pen to paper just days after striker Kaylen Hinds also signed his first professional contract with the club.
Hinds has featured twice for Arsenal at U21 level and scored three goals for the UEFA Youth League side. Predominantly a striker, he is also capable of operating out wide or as an attacking midfielder.
George Dobson, Chiori Johnson, Tyrell Robinson and Kristopher Da Graca have already signed professional terms from this season’s group of scholars.
Chris Willock, a little surprisingly, is yet to sign professional terms.
The other first-years that are yet to sign professional deals are Marc Bola, Ilias Chatzitheodoridis, Jonatas Centeno, Harry Donovan, Aaron Eyoma, Hugo Keto, Stephy Mavididi and Savvas Mourgos, although some of them aren’t yet eligible as they’re still 16.
Arsenal’s youngsters managed to put their frustrating league form to one side by beating Vissel 3-2 in their opening fixture of the Al Kass International Cup.
Stephy Mavididi, who has found the net with regularity this season, scored a hat-trick, with Chris Willock also hugely impressive before going off injured.
Trialist Kostas Pileas started at centre-back, with newly-signed professional Kaylen Hinds also involved from the offset.
Centeno-Da Graca-Pileas-T. Bola
Nelson (for Da Graca), Mourgos (for Willock), Da Silva (for Sheaf), Musendo (for Hinds), O. Moore (for T. Bola).
Mavididi put Arsenal ahead following good work from Willock, with Arsenal impressing thereafter.
However, Vissel grew in confidence as the half progressed and would have equalised but for a superb challenge from Pileas just before the interval.
Promising schoolboy Reiss Nelson was introduced at the start of the second-half, but it was Mavididi and Willock who continued to impress, with the latter having a shot saved.
Willock then turned provider again to set up Mavididi, who made it 2-0, but Vissel soon reduced the deficit.
Mavididi completed his hat-trick after latching onto Sheaf’s pass, and, although Vissel scored again, Arsenal prevailed and will go into their second and final group stage game, against Aspire Qatar on Sunday, full of confidence.
Arsenal have submitted their updated squad of eligible players for the Champions League knockout stages, with new signing Gabriel added to the list.
Meanwhile, Olivier Giroud and Francis Coquelin, who were omitted from the previous squad, have been reinstated and are eligible to face Monaco.
Krystian Bielik, who arrived from Legia Warsaw, has been left out as clubs are only permitted to make three alterations to their squad at this stage.
All players out on loan have been left out, whilst Semi Ajayi, Julio Pleguezuelo and Dan Crowley aren’t yet eligible for the B-List despite being on professional terms.
Surprisingly, youngsters Chiori Johnson and Tyrell Robinson haven’t yet been added to the B-List despite signing professional terms recently.
Arsenal Champions League squad:
1. Wojciech Szczesny, 2. Mathieu Debuchy, 3. Kieran Gibbs, 4. Per Mertesacker, 5. Gabriel, 6. Laurent Koscielny, 7. Tomas Rosicky, 8. Mikel Arteta, 10. Jack Wilshere, 11. Mesut Ozil, 12. Olivier Giroud, 13. David Ospina, 14. Theo Walcott, 16. Aaron Ramsey, 17. Alexis Sanchez, 18. Nacho Monreal, 19. Santi Cazorla, 20. Mathieu Flamini, 21. Calum Chambers, 23. Danny Welbeck, 24. Abou Diaby, 26. Emiliano Martinez, 34. Francis Coquelin, 35. Gedion Zelalem.
15. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, 27. Serge Gnabry, 38. Chuba Akpom, 39. Hector Bellerin, 42. Isaac Hayden, 43. Ryan Huddart, 44. Deyan Iliev, 45. Alex Iwobi, 47. Glen Kamara, 52. Tafari Moore, 54. Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill, 64. George Dobson, 70. Ainsley Maitland-Niles, 73. Stefan O’Connor.