Report- Akpom returns and Nketiah hits winner as Arsenal U23s beat Derby

Premier League 2

Arsenal 2 (Mourgos, Nketiah) Derby County 1 (Elsnik)

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Chuba Akpom could have been forgiven for thinking he was watching his former self as the striker, having been withdrawn after playing 45 minutes on his return to action for Arsenal U23s against Derby County today, looked on as his replacement, the prolific Edward Nketiah, hit the winning goal at London Colney.

Akpom was once in Nketiah’s position – the highly regarded, bright young attacking prospect in Arsenal’s second-string side.

Now 21, however, Akpom no longer has quite as much time on his side to make the grade at Arsenal, and, after showing some encouraging signs on this occasion, the forward may be dispatched out on loan again before the closure of the transfer window.

As far as Nketiah is concerned, this season just keeps getting better and better. It may be  a new year, but Nketiah is very much the same. Having found the net with regularity for the U18s he is now replicating that with the U23s and is also demonstrating that, in addition to his clinical nature in front of goal, he is able to hold the ball up effectively.

A case in point is his goal – the winning goal – which came in the 70th minute. The forward showed great strength to hold off his marker and then quickly exchanged passes with Savvas Mourgos (who was excellent on a rare start). Nketiah then, as he is so skilled at doing, raced towards goal and finished expertly before wheeling away in celebration.

It was a joyous occasion for Nketiah, but also for centre-back Joseph Olowu, with the first-year scholar making his debut at this level. Gedion Zelalem, Vlad Dragomir and Stephy Mavididi also started in a side that, while lacking some key players, was still strong.

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Bennacer-Zelalem

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Subs: Nketiah (for Akpom, 46), Malen (for Mourgos, 75). Not used: Virginia, Eyoma, DaSilva.

Arsenal signalled their attacking intent from the offset, with Ben Sheaf coming close to scoring with a free-kick.

That was a warning to the Derby defence, but the Rams were simply unable to cope when, with just seven minutes played, captain Ismael Bennacer slipped the ball through to Mourgos, who scored his first goal at this level.

It has been a hugely frustrating season for Mourgos so far. No longer eligible for the U18s, this was just his third appearance for the U23s this campaign, but, on this evidence, he should be getting much more game time.

Akpom almost marked his return to action with a goal but shot just wide and Mavididi then rattled the crossbar with a ferocious strike as the half drew to a close.

Derby looked determined to equalise in the second period, with Lewis Walker forcing an impressive stop from Arsenal goalkeeper Hugo Keto.

The visitors’ persistence eventually paid off as Timi-Max Elsnik got the better of Keto with an assured strike.

Arsenal, though, simply wouldn’t settle for a point, and, after Bennacer and Mourgos had been unable to find the net Nketiah eventually succeeded in doing so.

The young Gunners, who are now fifth in Premier League 2, face Southampton away in their next game.

DaSilva, Chris Willock and Maitland-Niles travel with Arsenal squad for Preston tie

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Youngsters Josh DaSilva, Chris Willock and Ainsley Maitland-Niles have all travelled with the Arsenal first-team ahead of tomorrow afternoon’s FA Cup third round tie away to Preston North End.

The trio all trained with the senior side this morning and it was a particularly busy day for DaSilva, who was also an unused substitute for the U23s in their victory over Derby County.

The 18-year-old, a product of Arsenal’s Hale End academy, was previously a striker but was then converted into a midfielder and has featured at centre-back and left-back of late. DaSilva was on the bench for the victory over Nottingham Forest in the EFL Cup but would make his debut if he featured tomorrow.

Reiss Nelson and Aaron Eyoma also trained with the first-team today.

 

Report: Arsenal set to complete signing of Cohen Bramall

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Arsenal are set to announce the signing of Cohen Bramall from Hednesford Town this week, according to reports.

The 20-year-old recently spent two days on trial with the Gunners and has reportedly impressed sufficiently to earn a permanent deal.

It is anticipated that the left-back will initially go into Arsenal’s U23 squad and the move would certainly make sense given that there is a dearth of available youngsters at the club in that position.

Marc Bola is the regular left-back for the U23s, whilst Tolaji Bola can also play there but Bramall, who is renowned for his searing speed, would provide Arsenal with greater depth in that department.

Should the move go ahead Bramall, who has already trained with the Arsenal first-team squad, will aim to prove to Arsene Wenger that he can make the step up to the senior side, with the Gunners looking to strengthen at left-back.

First-year scholars ready to step up for Arsenal U18s

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Arsenal are renowned for usually playing youngsters above their age group, but there has been a considerable change in that policy over the past couple of seasons, with the club’s U18 team now often comprised mainly of second-years.

This season U18s coach Kwame Ampadu has regularly been able to call upon the likes of Donyell Malen, Marcus McGuane, Josh DaSilva, Jordi Osei-Tutu and Tolaji Bola, while Reiss Nelson and Edward Nketiah have also featured prominently, meaning that many of the club’s talented first-year scholars haven’t received much of a look in so far.

That could well change in the second half of the campaign as some of the aforementioned players push into the U23s on a more regular basis.

Some of the first-years are already firmly established in the U18 side – goalkeeper Joao Virginia, for example, has produced some encouraging performances, while Joseph Olowu is a regular at the heart of the defence and Emile Smith-Rowe is a threat out wide.

There are plenty of other players, though, who are eager to make an impact, including winger Nathan Tormey (pictured above), who hasn’t featured this season because of injury. A fast player and an excellent crosser, Tormey is an exciting talent, while central midfielder Josh Benson is also nearing a return to action after a spell on the sidelines.

Furthermore, winger Jay Beckford has been used sparingly this season, and competition for places in his position is fierce, but the prospect will hope to get a run of games as the campaign wears on.

Midfielder Robbie Burton, a Welsh youth international, has featured occasionally for the U18s this campaign and is capable of making a contribution both defensively and going forwards.

There are several young defenders in this intake, too. Centre-back Zech Medley recently joined from Chelsea, while Daniel Ballard is capable of playing either at the heart of the defence or in midfield.

Tobi Omole, meanwhile, is now seemingly seen as a left-back, where he could compete for a place with Dominic Thompson, who is also able to play further forwards on the left flank.

The current batch of first-years will form the bulk of next season’s U18 side, so it is important that they gain experience at that level. Arsenal’s youngsters are back in action when they host Brighton & Hove Albion on Saturday.

 

 

Glen Kamara set to return to Arsenal following frustrating Colchester loan

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Colchester United

Glen Kamara is set to return to Arsenal when his loan spell with Colchester United expires early next month.

The defensive-midfielder’s temporary deal with the League Two side is due to run out on January 3rd and it is expected that Kamara will head back to Arsenal given that he hasn’t been involved in Colchester’s matchday squad in recent weeks.

Kamara, who had a spell on loan at Southend United last season, has been restricted to just six appearances for Colchester across all competitions and could immediately be sent out on loan again by Arsenal for the remainder of the campaign.

It is widely expected that the Finnish youth international, who has made one competitive appearance for the Arsenal first-team, will be released when his deal with the Gunners expires at the end of the season.

 

Non-league trialist Cohen Bramall trains with Arsenal first-team

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Trialist Cohen Bramall trained with the Arsenal first-team squad at London Colney yesterday.

The 20-year-old left-back, who currently plays for Hednesford Town, has recently been on trial with Sheffield Wednesday.

A fast and skillful player, Bramall has previously represented Nantwitch Town, Kidsgrove Athletic, Newcastle Town and Market Drayton Town.

Meanwhile, three members of the U23 squad trained with the first-team today, with Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Ben Sheaf and Chris Willock all in attendance.