It was yet another strong weekend for our young Gunners as we enjoyed an unbeaten Saturday across our under-21 and under-18 sides.
Arsenal U21 1-1 Wolves
Mehmet Ali’s under-21 side continued their unbeaten start to the Premier League 2 season, picking up a point in a 1-1 draw with Wolves at Meadow Park.
The game presented a different challenge from any other game for us this season after Henry Jeffcott was sent off in the first half for two bookable offences.
The visitors took the lead midway through the first half from the penalty spot, but we demonstrated impressive fighting spirit to restore parity through James Sweet early after the restart.
We had to dig deep for much of the second half to get a result, with goalkeeper Hubert Graczyk to thank for that, after a series of impressive stops in the closing stages to preserve a point at Meadow Park.
After the match, head Coach Ali praised the fighting spirit that we showed to take something from the match despite being down a man.
“Considering we had 10 men, I thought we dug in deep and showed a lot of character,” he said.
“We didn’t allow them to control the game in the second half, even though they had an extra player and I thought we defended really well as a unit.
“At half time I told the boys that it was a great opportunity for us to show what we’re all about in terms of character and grit, we told them to stick together and the boys executed the game plan really well.”
Graczyk, fresh from playing a major part in us maintaining our unbeaten record, hailed the work of his defense and reflected on his season so far.
“I think you saw a lot of heart out there today,” he said.
“It’s never ideal when you get a red card so early, but the boys dug deep and did really well.
“It’s crucial to have a solid structure in front of me, as a keeper you’re not always going to be able to get to the ball and save, so my defense being there really helps me out.
“I think I’ve improved my ability to manage games this season, we all want to play nice football, but sometimes you just need to get a result – it’s development football, but at the same time, everyone wants to win.”
Arsenal U18 4-4 West Brom
Jack Wilshere’s young charges were involved in an eight-goal thriller at London Colney, as we rescued a point in a 4-4 draw with West Brom on Saturday afternoon.
Under-18 debutant Osman Kamara got proceedings off to a Flying start for us, racing in behind the Baggies defense and showing real composure to find the bottom corner after just three minutes.
The visitors equalized through Fenton Heard, before Sebastian Ferdinand quickly restored our advantage with a poacher’s finish after some forceful pressing from Kaleel Green.
Green had a goal of his own to celebrate shortly after the break, tapping home the rebound after Jimi Gower’s initial effort was parried back into danger.
West Brom pulled one back with 20 minutes left to play, Layton Love capitalizing on an error as we tried to play out of defense.
Our lead was wiped out Moments later, Akeel Higgins found the roof of the net in a goal-mouth scramble after we failed to deal with a lofted corner to the back post.
We fell behind for the first time in the match with just over 10 minutes remaining after Rojas was adjudged to have brought down Heard in the box. Love dispatched the penalty to put the visitors into a shock lead.
Lewis-Skelly scored our fourth and game’s eighth goal deep into stoppage time, his effort taking a deflection and wrong-footing Cisse to roll into the bottom corner as we snatched a point with almost the last kick of the game.
After the match, Wilshere was keen to point out the positives he saw in our performance, despite giving away our lead in the second half.
“We showed some good character to fight and score a goal right at the end,” he said.
“This group is learning a lot all the time and we dominated for much of the game, but it’s just our ability to maintain that level for 90 minutes that we need to keep working on.”
Following the frantic draw, Osman was full of pride after marking his debut with a well-taken goal.
“The game allowed me to express myself and show what I could do for the team,” he said.
“I didn’t really have any nerves at the start, I just stayed calm because these guys are my teammates, I train with them all the time, they know what I can do, so I just stayed calm and played my game.”
“This season I just want to be a regular in the under-18s, get some more goals and assists and get respect from my teammates.”
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