Arsenal Reserves have tended to struggle against their Aston Villa counterparts in recent years, with Villa most notably running out 10-1 victors just over a year ago, so it was a measure of some relief that the Gunners fought back to come from behind and draw 1-1 against a side who are perennial challengers for the Reserve League title at London Colney this afternoon.
Arsenal once again called upon Ryo and Ju Young Park after neither of the Asian duo made it off the bench against Leeds United on Monday night. Both players were lively and registered efforts on goal after Arsenal had gone behind. Ryo struck a shot straight at the goalkeeper after good work from Rhys Murphy and ex-Barcelona youngster Jon Toral, who was making his first start at this level, and Park struck a post with a fierce effort.
However, it was a substitute who made the vital intervention as far as Arsenal were concerned, with Josh Rees, who was ravaged with injury during much of the early part of the campaign, emerging off the bench to prod home the equaliser. A draw appeared a fair result on the balance of play, although it remains to be seen what the remainder of the campaign will hold for the aforementioned Ryo and Park.
Neither player has come anywhere near to establishing themselves as a regular part of the matchday squad, with Park’s only involvement outside of the Carling Cup coming against Marseille in the Champions League when he flattered to deceive. Ryo saw his development somewhat stifled by an injury that kept him out for several months, and has turned out seven times for the second string this season, but has been unable to impose himself on the first-team picture thus far.
Arsene Wenger’s initial plan appeared to centre on Ryo providing back up for Andrey Arshavin during Gervinho’s exertions at the African Cup of Nations, but with Tomas Rosicky and Yossi Benayoun also capable of operating on the left flank, a loan spell may be the most viable option for the Japanese starlet.
Concerns have been raised that a spell in a physical league such as the Championship could do him more harm than good given his slender frame, but such a process of adaption to English football may prove necessary and beneficial in the long run.
As for Park, the return of Thierry Henry seems to have served as confirmation of Wenger’s current lack of faith in him, although Marouane Chamakh’s absence at least means that he is likely to make the bench with more regularity over the next few weeks.
Although part of the first-team squad, Park and Ryo have effectively been Reserve players so far in their first seasons in North London. That is not likely to remain the case for the rest of the campaign, however, as they both seek to be involved in first-team football of some description.