So far, so very good for Arsenal’s youngsters in pre-season.
The first week of preparations for the new campaign have gone very well indeed for the club’s younger contingent, with a talented selection of players impressing during the first-team’s opening friendly in Asia, whilst, on the domestic front, a younger U21 side than usual managed to see off Sutton United with a 4-3 victory on Friday night.
It is the Asia Tour, however, which has garnered the most attention. Eight players from outside the first-team made the 24-man squad, with Damian Martinez, Ignasi Miquel, Chuks Aneke, Kristoffer Olsson, Serge Gnabry, Chuba Akpom, Thomas Eisfeld and Gedion Zelalem all being called upon, whilst Nico Yennaris was left at home owing to injury.
All eight players featured at some point during the 7-0 trouncing of an Indonesian Dream Team on Sunday, with Akpom, Olsson and Eisfeld getting on the scoresheet and Zelalem, on his first appearance for the senior side, impressing with some perfectly-weighted through-balls.
Akpom, too, earned praise from Wenger in the aftermath of the game and it is easy to forget just how meteoric the 17-year-old’s rise has been in recent times. Just over two years ago he was featuring, and, naturally, scoring for the U16s in an end-of-season friendly against Aston Villa and now finds himself very close to the first-team squad, providing an example to the many youngsters working their way through Hale End that it is possible to get close to the first-team.
Olsson, meanwhile, was extremely comfortable in possession, and, even if his goal was little more than a tap-in following a stupendous pass from Tomas Rosicky, will have been delighted to have found the net for the senior side, as will Eisfeld, who seems to score in almost every game he plays, such is his uncanny ability for being in the right place at the right time.
Back in England, an Arsenal U21 side containing debutant Dan Crowley just about managed to see off Conference South side Sutton with a 4-3 victory. Crowley was largely impressive in the first half as he frequently slalomed his way past defenders, and the 15 year old won the free-kick which Jack Jebb dispatched expertly. Jebb found the net again and could have had a hat-trick, whilst the ever-lively Anthony Jeffrey and the composed Isaac Hayden also found the net.
The rhythm of the game was largely disrupted as both sides made a whole range of changes at the interval, with Arsenal handing a debut to another summer signing, Jamaal Raage, who slotted in well on the right wing, whilst Wellington, back from his latest loan spell in Spain, was also handed a rare outing in red and white. Sutton showed spirit, however, and managed to claw the deficit back to 4-3, but Arsenal just managed to hold on for victory. They face Boreham Wood on Saturday in their next pre-season outing prior to further fixtures against Leyton Orient and Luton Town.