Emirates Cup report- Iwobi scores as Arsenal are kings of Lyon

Fresh from winning the Barclays Asia Trophy, Arsenal closed in on further pre-season silverware as they thrashed Lyon 6-0 in their opening Emirates Cup fixture this afternoon.

The headline event from a youth perspective was the performance of Alex Iwobi, with the Hale End product joining Olivier Giroud, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Ozil and Santi Cazorla on the scoresheet, whilst also demonstrating some neat link-up play and having another effort ruled out for offside.

Chuba Akpom, on as a substitute, came perilously close to finding the net himself, with the youngster’s effort hitting the outside of the post. There were further positives, too, with French prospect Jeff Reine-Adelaide being introduced, along with Isaac Hayden, who made a welcome return to first-team action after his injury problems.

Martinez

Debuchy-Mertesacker-Koscielny-Gibbs

Ramsey-Coquelin

Oxlade Chamberlain-Ozil-Iwobi

Giroud

Subs: Arteta, Cazorla, Akpom, Walcott, Hayden, Reine-Adelaide. Not used: Cech, Bellerin, Gabriel, Chambers, Monreal. 

It was an excellent performance from Arsenal, and one that called to mind their triumph over Benfica this time last year, but both sides were a little slow to get going in the opening exchanges.

Iwobi, stationed on the left flank, looked bright early on, but the first opportunity of note fell to Lyon, with Clinton Njie forcing a save from Emiliano Martinez.

It wasn’t long, though, until Arsenal started to get into their groove, with Ramsey and Giroud both having chances before Lyon suffered a major disappointment when Clement Grenier had to be substituted because of injury.

Grenier’s withdrawal certainly had an adverse effect on the French side, with Arsenal proceeding to dominate thereafter. The Gunners nearly took the lead when Ramsey’s long pass found Ozil, but the German was unable to find the net.

Shortly afterwards, however, Ozil created the first goal of the game as his free-kick was headed in by Olivier Giroud, who opened the scoring.

From there Lyon were simply unable to withstand the waves of Arsenal pressure. The second goal was an excellent free-flowing team move, with Ramsey and Giroud combining to find Oxlade-Chamberlain, who finished adroitly.

Arsenal were determined to inflict as much damage upon Lyon as possible and the third goal followed very quickly. Ramsey was again involved in the build-up, with Iwobi this time providing the finishing touch and doing his first-team prospects no harm at all.

Iwobi then had the ball in the net again and it seemed almost too good to be true. Indeed it was, with the youngster’s effort being correctly ruled out for offside, but his earlier goal had clearly provided the 19-year-old with a huge confidence boost.

Arsenal continued to dominate, with Ozil playing a clever pass through to Ramsey, who made it 4-0.

At the other end Martinez then had to make a rare save to deny the much talked about Alexandre Lacazette. You could say that there was certainly a lack of zest about Lyon’s performance today.

Somewhat inevitably, the intensity levels dropped a little after the interval, but Oxlade-Chamberlain was still lively and the England international had a shot deflected wide.

Giroud and Debuchy then came close to scoring, with the fifth goal eventually being scored by Ozil, who applied the finishing touch to another intricate move involving Ramsey and Giroud.

Arsenal then made a triple substitution, with Akpom, Mikel Arteta and Cazorla all being introduced. Akpom, deployed on the left flank, was eager to make an impression, but failed to get his shot away properly following a good run.

As the game wore on Arsene Wenger made further changes, with Reine-Adelaide, Theo Walcott and eventually Hayden all being brought on. Reine-Adelaide made the biggest impression of the trio with some neat skill, but it was one of the more experienced players, Cazorla, who concluded the scoring with a clever free-kick that was sent underneath the jumping wall.

There was still time for Akpom to strike the outside of the post at the conclusion of a highly eventful game, but this was a hugely positive outing for Arsenal as they won their third pre-season fixture in succession.

They will aim to continue this momentum against Wolfsburg tomorrow, with Wenger set to make numerous changes to his side.

To reflect on today’s proceedings, Iwobi will be delighted with his first appearance at Emirates Stadium for the first-team, whilst Reine-Adelaide, on this evidence, could be set for involvement in the Capital One Cup this season.

Reports- Arsenal sign Donyell Malen from Ajax

Arsenal have reportedly made a late addition to their scholarship intake for the new campaign after agreeing a deal to sign promising Ajax youngster Donyell Malen.

The 16-year-old, who has been capped by the Netherlands at U17 level, can play anywhere across the forward line but is most adept as a central striker.

If the deal does go ahead then Malen will add depth to Arsenal’s U18 squad ahead of the new season. There has already been a significant recruitment drive at youth level this Summer, with Jeff Reine-Adelaide, Yassin Fortune, Vlad Dragomir, Kostas Pileas and Jordi Osei-Tutu all joining the club.

Reine-Adelaide seeks to hit the ground running against Boreham Wood

After what seems like an awfully long wait, Arsenal’s youngsters will find themselves back in the familiar surroundings of Boreham Wood’s Meadow Park tomorrow night for the annual friendly fixture against Ian Allinson’s side.

Much has changed since Arsenal’s last game at the venue, with several long-serving youngsters having departed on a permanent basis, whilst Ainsley Maitland-Niles has gone out on loan and a clutch of promising players from abroad have been added to the club’s youth set-up.

One player who falls into the latter category, Jeff Reine-Adelaide, will be seeking to make a substantial impression tomorrow night as he looks to build upon his impressive debut against Bristol Rovers last weekend.

A confident winger who was plucked from Lens’ academy, Reine-Adelaide has already drawn praise from manager Arsene Wenger and was perilously close to travelling with the first-team squad for their trip to Asia. Although he is eligible to represent Arsenal at U18 level, Reine-Adelaide seems set to play the majority of his football this campaign for the U21s and he will be looking to cement the right wing position as his own.

Against Bristol Rovers Reine-Adelaide formed part of an exciting attacking quartet which was also comprised of Hale End products Kaylen Hinds, Tyrell Robinson and Stephy Mavididi. There will be plenty of competition for places ahead of tomorrow night’s game, with Chris Willock and Jon Toral likely to drop down from the first-team squad.

Chuba Akpom, Alex Iwobi and one of Dan Crowley and Gedion Zelalem are likely to remain with the senior side ahead of the Emirates Cup, but, otherwise, the group that features against Boreham Wood will form the basis of Steve Gatting’s squad for the new season.

It says something about the rapid change that occurs at youth level when the most experienced player in the current U21 team is Glen Kamara, a player who only signed scholarship terms three years ago. Gatting was without several players for the win over Bristol Rovers, with Tafari Moore, Stefan O’Connor and Chiori Johnson all lacking fitness, whilst there are also question marks about the availability of Isaac Hayden, Wellington and Krystian Bielik. George Dobson is set to complete a move to West Ham United this week.

As the season progresses the composition of the U21 team is likely to get even younger, with several players from the U18 squad being drafted in to cover those who are either with the senior side or out on loan. Indeed, Kostas Pileas and Vlad Dragomir, two of the other new signings, were on the bench against Bristol Rovers, whilst much is expected too of forward Yassin Fortune.

Arsenal’s performances and results in this traditional friendly against Boreham Wood have been mixed down the years, but with an exciting new side at his disposal and Reine-Adelaide at the forefront of proceedings, Gatting will be hopeful of leading his side to victory.

Da Graca seeking to push on after difficult start to his Arsenal career

There has been considerable criticism of Arsenal’s scouting network at youth level in recent years, with several players from abroad failing to impress.

Admittedly there have been some major success stories, with Hector Bellerin and Serge Gnabry breaking into the first-team squad, whilst Julio Pleguezuelo seems set for a future at a very high level.

There are, though, numerous examples of players recruited from elsewhere who have struggled greatly before fading into insignificance. One player who will be hoping to avoid such a fate is defender Kristopher Da Graca, who endured a difficult first campaign at the club following his arrival from Hisingsbacka.

The Swedish youth international, who is also eligible to represent Bosnia & Herzegovina, is a player who had been on Arsenal’s radar for some time; indeed his transfer to Arsenal was agreed in August 2013, just under a year before he officially linked up with the club.

Da Graca had to be patient to make his debut, with registration problems and injuries taking their toll, but when opportunities finally did arrive for the youngster he failed to seize them, with the centre-back frequently being caught out of position and making costly errors whilst representing Arsenal’s U18 team.

Da Graca made a total of 12 appearances for Frans De Kat’s side last season, but, despite his difficult campaign, he has featured prominently for Arsenal’s U21 side during pre-season and will be hopeful of stepping up to represent the second-string when the competitive action gets back underway.

A tall player who is capable of bringing the ball out from defence, one of the most prominent concerns regarding Da Graca is his apparent lack of awareness and decisiveness. It is hoped that, with a year’s experience of English youth football now under his belt, he will be better equipped to tackle the challenges that lie in wait.

At just 17, it is perhaps a little harsh to judge Da Graca in such a light, and it is certainly possible that he could develop considerably this season. So far, though, the signs don’t seem to be positive at all, with the youngster’s performances calling to mind those of Elton Monteiro, who is now representing Lausanne in the Swiss second tier.

Da Graca, who signed his first professional contract last season, will hope to instead push on and will be aiming to put his challenging start to his Arsenal career behind him.

Which youngsters will feature for Arsenal in the Emirates Cup?

GettyImages AsiaPac

GettyImages AsiaPac

Arsenal’s pre-season trip to Singapore couldn’t have been much more successful, with the Gunners returning to London with the Barclays Asia Trophy in tow after two victories and a week of intense training sessions.

The preparations for the new campaign will step up yet another gear over the next few days as this weekend’s Emirates Cup creeps into view. The Gunners will face Lyon and Wolfsburg on Saturday and Sunday respectively as they look to win the tournament for the first time since 2010.

Four players from outside the first-team squad- Alex Iwobi, Jon Toral, Dan Crowley and Chris Willock- travelled with the team to Asia, along with fringe senior players Chuba Akpom and Gedion Zelalem, but which of them will remain in the set-up for the Emirates Cup?

Akpom, after his impressive hat-trick against a Singapore Select XI, seems a certainty for inclusion, with the England U20 international’s cause helped by the fact that fellow forward Danny Welbeck is still struggling with an injury which could rule him out of the weekend’s games.

Likewise, the continued absence of Tomas Rosicky is likely to open the door for a young midfielder to play some part in the Emirates Cup, but, at present, it seems as if Crowley, rather than Zelalem, is the prime candidate to feature, with the former Aston Villa player having enjoyed a more consistent 2014/15 campaign. Both players, though, remain excellent prospects for the future.

As far as the rest of the squad is concerned, Arsenal have at least two senior players available in most positions, as detailed below: (based on where players have tended to feature in pre-season)

Goalkeepers Cech, Szczesny, Martinez

Right-back Debuchy, Bellerin

Centre-backs Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gabriel, Chambers

Left-back Monreal, Gibbs

Defensive-midfield Coquelin, Flamini, Arteta

Central-midfield Cazorla, Ramsey

Right wing Oxlade-Chamberlain, Wilshere

Central attacking-midfield Ozil

Left wing Walcott

Striker Giroud

This suggests that there may be an opening for a youngster on the left flank (such as Iwobi or Willock), although the situation is complicated a little as there is a possibility that either Santi Cazorla, Aaron Ramsey or Jack Wilshere could also be deployed in that position.

Another potential option is Serge Gnabry, who hasn’t featured for the first-team, competitively or otherwise, for well over a year. The young German was due to return to training this week after representing his country at the U21 European Championships and he will be hopeful of at least playing some part over the weekend after suffering terrible misfortune with injuries in recent times.

David Ospina, who has been strongly linked with a move away from the club this summer, is on holiday until Monday, meaning he won’t play any part this weekend, whilst Alexis Sanchez is not due back until August 3rd. Joel Campbell is another absentee following his involvement with Costa Rica this summer.

There is a slight possibility that some youngsters who weren’t selected to go to Asia could feature this weekend, with Julio Plegueuzuelo, for example, ready to provide cover at centre-back in the event of an injury to a senior player. Krystian Bielik, meanwhile, is unlikely to feature because of injury.

There is some uncertainty over Wellington’s participation. The Brazilian winger, who is now eligible to represent the club competitively, didn’t travel with the squad to Asia and instead remained at London Colney to undergo fitness training. Wenger is likely to assess the 22-year-old in training first before deciding whether to use him this weekend.

Those youngsters that aren’t used will probably feature for the U21s against Boreham Wood on Friday, whilst there is the possibility that some players, such as Toral, could be loaned out in the near future.

Arsenal’s Ben Sheaf hopeful of U21 progression

Zimbio.com

Zimbio.com

When Arsenal completed the signing of promising youngster Ben Sheaf from West Ham United a year ago there were some raised eyebrows, with some observers puzzled as to why the Gunners needed to recruit yet another central-midfielder.

Now, however, with Ainsley Maitland-Niles out on loan at Ipswich Town and Dan Crowley and Gedion Zelalem currently with the first-team squad, a void has opened up for a midfielder in Arsenal’s U21 squad and Sheaf, 17, appears the prime candidate to fill it.

It is wise not to read too much into pre-season, but the preparation fixtures can sometimes provide us with some clues regarding how the team will line up for the forthcoming campaign. Sheaf, for instance, has been heavily involved in Arsenal’s two U21 friendlies so far, with the England youth international featuring in the matches against Bournemouth and Bristol Rovers.

An excellent free-kick taker, Sheaf spent much of last season playing for Arsenal’s U18 team, with the youngster often deployed alongside Harry Donovan in central-midfield. Sheaf’s performance levels fluctuated throughout the campaign, but there were some surefire signs that the club regard him highly as he signed his first professional contract, featured in the UEFA Youth League and FA Youth Cup and also made the bench for the U21s on several occasions.

Sheaf’s aim this season will, inevitably, be to establish himself as a regular for the second-string. It seems unlikely that Crowley and Zelalem will spend the entire campaign in the U21s, with first-team call-ups and potential loan deals set to have an impact on proceedings.

Sheaf, then, will be confident of featuring prominently for the U21s. In the opening two friendlies he has shown some promising signs and seems particularly comfortable when playing alongside a bonafide defensive-midfielder such as Glen Kamara. The difficulty for Sheaf, though, is that there aren’t too many players similar to Kamara in Arsenal’s system at present, which could prove problematic for the team as a whole if the Finland U21 international, as expected, heads out on loan at some point this campaign.

Sheaf’s key attribute is his passing, whilst he has also demonstrated that he is a good reader of the game who is becoming increasingly effective in a defensive sense as well. It was a major step for Sheaf to leave West Ham’s renowned academy, where he had played since the U13 age group, to join Arsenal.

His first year at the club wasn’t exactly plain sailing, with the U18s struggling for consistency throughout the campaign, but Sheaf will hope that his impending promotion to the U21s will provide him with a platform to express his talent.

Mavididi strikes and Reine-Adelaide debuts as Arsenal XI beat Bristol Rovers

Pre-season friendly

Bristol Rovers 0 Arsenal XI 1 (Mavididi)

Zimbio.com

Zimbio.com

Stephy Mavididi scored the only goal as a new-look Arsenal U21 team continued their pre-season preparations with a 1-0 victory away to a strong Bristol Rovers side this afternoon.

This fixture was arranged two years ago as part of the deal which brought goalkeeper Matt Macey to North London, and the 20-year-old, who was named on the bench for the Arsenal first-team last season, had to make several good stops to keep his former side at bay.

The headline team news saw summer arrival Jeff Reine-Adelaide, a late withdrawal from the first-team’s Asia trip, make his debut for the club on the right flank. The majority of the starting players were second years, with a smidgeon of experience provided by the inclusions of Glen Kamara and Julio Pleguezuelo.

Two of the new scholars, Vlad Dragomir and Kostas Pileas, were named amongst the substitutes, whilst Harry Donovan also received a call-up.

There were some notable omissions from the Arsenal squad. Wellington and Isaac Hayden remained at London Colney for fitness training, whilst Tafari Moore, Stefan O’Connor and Chiori Johnson also missed out. George Dobson, meanwhile, remains an Arsenal player for now with a move elsewhere having so far failed to materialise.

Macey

Eyoma-Da Graca-Pleguezuelo-M. Bola

Kamara-Sheaf

Reine Adelaide-Hinds-Robinson

Mavididi

Subs: Iliev, Mourgos, Pileas, Donovan, Chatzitheodoridis, Dragomir. 

Rovers, who earned promotion to League Two for the forthcoming campaign, created the first chance of note, with Danny Greenslade shooting over, but Arsenal soon started to assert themselves on proceedings.

They were rewarded with a goal when the eager Mavididi, who recently signed his first professional contract, capitalised on a defensive mix-up and slotted the ball beyond the reach of goalkeeper Steve Mildenhall.

Arsenal, who drew 1-1 with Bournemouth in their opening friendly last week, came close to doubling their advantage shortly afterwards, but Bristol Rovers started to create chances of their own, with Ellis Harrison shooting wide before Macey had to be alert to deny Chris Lines.

Billy Bodin and Chris Gosling also failed to find the net when well placed, meaning that Arsenal went into the break in the ascendancy.

Macey was called into action again almost immediately after the restart as he made a good save to deny Ollie Clarke. Matty Taylor, meanwhile, was becoming increasingly influential for the hosts, but Arsenal managed to withstand the pressure.

There was a nice moment for Macey midway through the second-half as he received a standing ovation from the Bristol Rovers supporters when he was replaced by Deyan Iliev.

Iliev himself had to make a smart stop shortly after his introduction before at the other end Mavididi was unable to double both his and Arsenal’s tallies.

His first-half goal was sufficient, though, for the U21s to secure their first victory of pre-season.

Arsenal face Boreham Wood in their next friendly on Friday, after which they will travel to South Africa to participate in a tournament.

Meanwhile, Chuba Akpom was introduced as a late substitute as the Arsenal first-team beat Everton 3-1 in Sinagpore to win the Barclays Asia Trophy. Akpom, who scored a hat-trick against a Singapore Select XI in midweek, had a shot saved by Joel.

Alex Iwobi was an un-used substitute, whilst the other youngsters- Gedion Zelalem, Dan Crowley, Jon Toral and Chris Willock- were left out of the squad, but all received winners’ medals.