Nelson scores, Nketiah and Smith Rowe feature as Arsenal beat Lazio

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It has been a productive pre-season for Reiss Nelson and the winger was on the scoresheet in Arsenal’s final friendly against Lazio in Sweden on Saturday, with the Gunners prevailing with a 2-0 win.

Nelson, who started on the right wing in a 4-4-2 formation, finished from close range in the 18th minute after Alex Iwobi’s effort had hit the post, with the prospect building upon the assist that he provided against Chelsea.

Eddie Nketiah, meanwhile, started the game up front and was lively although he was unable to get on the scoresheet on this occasion.

Emile Smith Rowe, the other U23 squad member involved, featured as a substitute and had some good touches.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s well-taken effort in the second half secured Arsenal’s victory as Arsenal prepared for next weekend’s Premier League opener at home to Manchester City.

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Virginia’s shock move to Everton leaves Arsenal short of U23 goalkeepers

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Many transfers, even regarding youth players, tend to have some build-up in terms of speculation, but that wasn’t the case with Joao Virginia yesterday as the goalkeeper, rather out of the blue, secured a permanent switch to Everton.

Virginia, who joined Arsenal as a schoolboy three years ago, was widely regarded as the Gunners’ standout young goalkeeper and the 18-year-old produced some excellent performances at academy level last season, including in the run to the final of the FA Youth Cup.

Despite being short in stature, Virginia possesses superb reflexes and it was anticipated that he could eventually break into the first-team squad.

However, having assessed his options, Virginia, who won the U19 European Championship with Portugal recently, has decided that he has a better chance of making the breakthrough at Everton.

From his point of view, the switch is understandable as had he remained at Arsenal this season Virginia would have had a battle for game time in the U23s with Deyan Iliev and most probably wouldn’t have been involved with the first-team save for the occasional training session.

At Everton it seems likely that he will be a regular for the U23s and could potentially get on the bench for the first-team should an injury occur to one of the Toffees’ senior shot-stoppers.

With Arsenal having signed a rather young goalkeeper in Bernd Leno, who, at the age of 26, has much time on his side, Virginia could be forgiven for thinking that getting into the senior squad was something of an impossible task, especially when he also had the likes of Petr Cech, David Ospina, Emiliano Martinez, Matt Macey and Iliev ahead of him.

It is a major blow for Arsenal to lose Virginia, but only time will tell whether they will regret allowing him to leave.

Regarding the ramifications for Arsenal’s U23 team, Virginia’s departure leaves Freddie Ljungberg’s side rather short of goalkeeping options.

Iliev is still there, but a host of young goalkeepers have left this summer, with Macey going on loan, while Hugo Keto, Ryan Huddart and Alex Crean were all released.

In hindsight, if Arsenal knew about Virginia’s willingness to leave, they may well have offered Keto a new deal.

Now, though, Iliev is the only established goalkeeper for the U23s and it looks as if Ljungberg will have to rely upon some of the U18 goalkeepers as back-up throughout the campaign.

Karl Jakob Hein, who signed from Nomme United in his homeland of Estonia, featured as a substitute in the friendly win at Hornchurch, and, at present, seems set to be second choice.

Daniel Barden, meanwhile, is now a second year scholar and made the bench for the U23s last season, and the highly rated Arthur Okonkwo is another option along with Tom Smith.

There is also a possibility that Martinez, should he stay at the club, could drop down to the U23s on occasion to get some playing time.

However, the situation certainly isn’t ideal and an injury to Iliev could lead to Arsenal having to field a 16-year-old goalkeeper against senior players in the Checkatrade Trophy.

Regardless of that, Virginia’s departure is massively disappointing and he will certainly be determined to prove to Arsenal that he made the correct choice in leaving.

Report – Arsenal to sign Catalin Carjan in December

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Arsenal are set to sign talented young Romanian midfielder Catalin Carjan in December, according to a report in the player’s homeland.

Carjan previously had trial spells with Arsenal and will officially link up with the club when he turns 16, according to Digisport.

Capable of playing in numerous midfield positions, the Romania U16 international is currently with Viitroul Domnesti and his agent, Catalin Sarmasan, oversaw Vlad Dragomir’s move to the Gunners.

Nelson assists and Smith Rowe features against Chelsea

Arsenal beat Chelsea 6-5 on penalties in the International Champions Cup in Dublin tonight, with Alexandre Lacazette scoring a late equaliser to make it 1-1 in normal time.

Reiss Nelson, on as a substitute, provided the cross from which Lacazette scored and the youngster also scored a penalty in the shootout.

Emile Smith Rowe was initially named as a substitute but he was a late introduction into the starting lineup after Aaron Ramsey suffered an injury in the warm-up.

Deployed as an attacking midfielder, Smith Rowe wasn’t able to have the same impact as he did in the previous friendlies but will still have benefitted hugely from the experience.

Eddie Nketiah, meanwhile, was an unused substitute.

The trio of youngsters will hope to remain with the squad for the final friendly against Lazio in Sweden on Saturday.

Report – Osei-Tutu impresses as Ljungberg’s Arsenal U23s overcome Hornchurch

Pre-season friendly

Hornchurch 0 Arsenal 3 (Gilmour, John-Jules, Ballard)

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Arsenal U23s face a tough task in attempting to retain the Premier League 2 title this season but they showed some encouraging signs tonight in a 3-0 friendly success against Hornchurch.

Charlie Gilmour, Tyreece John-Jules and Daniel Ballard were on the scoresheet for Freddie Ljungberg’s team but Hornchurch had some moments of their own, including when they won a penalty, which was saved expertly by Deyan Iliev, who had conceded the spot-kick in the first place.

Jordi Osei-Tutu and Joe Willock, who featured for the first-team in Singapore, both started and made an impact, while new goalkeeping arrival Karl Jakob Hein made the bench.

Emile Smith Rowe, Reiss Nelson and Eddie Nketiah remain with the first-team and Gedion Zelalem isn’t yet fit again after injury and Ben Sheaf is also sidelined.

However, there were some notable names on show. Julio Pleguezuelo, into the final year of his contract, captained the side, while Cohen Bramall was deployed on the left wing and Stephy Mavididi started.

There was no place in the starting lineup for Krystian Bielik, who instead featured as a substitute and played in midfield.

Iliev

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Subs: Omole, Saka, Olayinka, Bielik, Bola, Tormey, John-Jules, Hein.

Arsenal went into the game having lost two friendlies in Germany so were eager to return to winning ways but they found themselves up against a spirited Hornchurch team.

Mavididi, who has been linked with a permanent departure from the club, was causing problems for the Hornchurch defence early on with his pace and power.

However, the hosts stood firm and at the other end Iliev had to be alert to make an impressive stop.

Xavier Amaechi was next to try his luck for Arsenal and Willock then had an effort saved.

It was far from one way traffic, however, with Iliev only just managing to cope when put under pressure from a Hornchurch corner.

Despite that, Arsenal’s superiority remained evident and they took the lead when Charlie Gilmour finished adroitly following a well-worked corner routine.

Arsenal continued to place Hornchurch under much pressure and they almost doubled their advantage but Mavididi’s attempt was saved and Robbie Burton’s subsequent effort rattled the post.

Hornchurch, evidently rattled themselves, then almost scored an own goal and were grateful for the half-time whistle.

The first half hadn’t been especially eventful but the second period was full of drama and Arsenal started brightly with Gilmour, whose confidence had been boosted by his earlier strike, sending a thumping effort towards goal, which was deflected wide.

Arsenal had made just one change at the break, with Daniel Ballard replacing Julio Pleguezuelo, but it was Iliev upon who the focus would be on.

The goalkeeper, who recently signed a new contract with Arsenal, conceded a penalty with a clumsy foul in the area.

However, he was determined not to be beaten from the spot and pulled off a spectacular save to preserve Arsenal’s lead and redeem himself.

Then came a host of changes, with Tobi Omole, Bukayo Saka, Joseph Olowu, Bielik, Tolaji Bola and James Olayinka all coming on.

Rather than disrupting Arsenal’s flow, the alterations actually helped them as Ljungberg’s team benefitted from the fresh legs on the pitch.

Amaechi, constantly lively on the right flank, had a shot saved before he was replaced by Nathan Tormey, while John-Jules came on for Mavididi.

Tormey, who has been tormented by injury over the last two years, tore down the right wing and sent an effort over.

John-Jules also sought to make an impact after being introduced and the striker proceeded to do just that as he finished well following a slick move.

Worse was to come for Hornchurch as Ballard made it 3-0 from close range to end the game as a contest.

Hein then received a late run out as he replaced Iliev and Arsenal looked to add further gloss to the scoreline, with Willock and Tormey going for goal.

In the end 3-0 was enough and, although it wasn’t a flawless performance, Ljungberg will be pleased with what he saw from his side.

Next up is a friendly against Bournemouth on Saturday before the title defence gets underway away to Manchester City the following weekend.

Some of the older players in this group could leave permanently or on loan before then but, as the second half showed, there are some talented younger individuals available to Ljungberg.

Saka, only a first-year scholar, looked very lively, as did Tormey, who is looking to make up for lost time.

Gilmour, meanwhile, finished last season strongly and is looking to push on even further this campaign as he looks to make his senior debut, whether at Arsenal or out on loan.

As far as some of the more experienced players are concerned, Osei-Tutu performed very well at right-back and certainly seems to have benefitted from his time with the first-team squad.

The 19-year-old was composed in possession and provided a frequent attacking threat, while Willock was exceptional in the second period having been a little underwhelming in the first half.

Bielik started slowly as he returned from injury but he soon settled into the game and started spraying passes around with ease in his old midfield position. Quite what lies in store for him remains to be seen.

Bramall struggled to make much of an impact on the left wing and, at this stage, it is difficult to envisage him making it at the club.

It will be intriguing to see how Arsenal’s U23 squad changes over the next week with players potentially heading out on loan, but this was a very good workout as the new campaign draws ever closer.

 

Macey joins Plymouth on loan but what does it mean for Iliev and Virginia?

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Arsenal goalkeeper Matt Macey will spend the season in League One after he joined Plymouth Argyle on loan.

Macey, who arrived at Arsenal in 2013, made two first-team appearances for the Gunners last season but was unlikely to be involved this campaign with several shot-stoppers ahead of him.

The 23-year-old, who previously had loan spells with Accrington Stanley and Luton Town, will be met by a familiar face at Plymouth in Tafari Moore, with the former Arsenal youngster having made the switch to Home Park earlier in the transfer window.

Macey’s temporary departure could have repercussions for two of Arsenal’s other young goalkeepers in Deyan Iliev and Joao Virginia.

There had been suggestions that Iliev, who is also 23, could go out on loan this season but Macey’s departure means that there are few goalkeeping options available for the U23s.

As a consequence, Iliev, who made the bench in the Carabao Cup last season, could be retained for the first half of the campaign at least.

Meanwhile, with Macey out of the picture, Virginia, who won the U19 European Championship with Portugal yesterday, may be given the chance to challenge Iliev for a regular starting berth at U23 level.

Virginia is very highly regarded at Arsenal and it would be a surprise if he wasn’t the first-choice goalkeeper for the second-string by the end of the campaign.

As a consequence of his international exploits, however, Virginia won’t be available for the U23s’ friendly against Hornchurch tomorrow night, with Iliev set to start that game instead.

 

Arsenal’s Joao Virginia wins U19 Euros with Portugal

Arsenal goalkeeper Joao Virginia played the whole game as Portugal won the U19 European Championship by beating Italy 4-3 in the final.

Virginia, who produced some excellent performances for Arsenal at youth level last season, was an unused substitute for much of the tournament but was brought on during the semi-final success against France.

The prospect then started the final, which went to extra-time, and will return to Arsenal with a medal.

An Arsenal player was also victorious in this competition last year as Josh Dasilva featured in England’s success.