Sunday, June 16, 2024

Arsenal U21s emphasise their strength in depth with Villa victory

At Arsenal it is not uncommon for 16 and 17 year olds to feature regularly for the club at U21 level, but, at present, such are the options available to coach Steve Gatting, there is much competition for places in the second-string.

Last night, for instance, Arsenal U21s maintained their unbeaten start to the campaign with a 4-2 victory over Aston Villa, having assembled a four-goal lead by half-time. Jon Toral, back from a lengthy spell on the sidelines, scored twice, whilst first-team players Serge Gnabry and Emmanuel Frimpong also found the net.

It was a rather strong Arsenal side, with Nico Yennaris, Isaac Hayden, Thomas Eisfeld and the returning Benik Afobe also featuring in the starting line-up, whilst Chuba Akpom and Kristoffer Olsson could only make the bench. When it is considered that Zak Ansah was missing through injury and Gedion Zelalem, Hector Bellerin and Glen Kamara were on international duty, the strength in depth that the club have at this level, despite releasing a large number of players in the summer, is rather staggering.

Jack Wilshere, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Carl Jenkinson, Yaya Sanogo and Ryo are also still eligible to play at this level, whilst others, such as Lukas Podolski and Abou Diaby, may feature for the second-string at some stage as they make comebacks from their injury setbacks.

Following a torturous pre-season, which yielded much-publicised defeats against Luton and Colchester, Arsenal U21s look to have turned a corner in terms of results and performances, with Gatting’s side registering 14 points from their first six fixtures, with home games against Sunderland, Leicester City and Manchester United to come before Christmas.

As well as the more established players, some more unfamiliar names have made commendable starts to the season, with first-year scholars Stefan O’Connor, a centre-back, and Ainsley Maitland-Niles, a fleet-footed winger, establishing themselves as part of the U21 set-up, whilst Semi Ajayi, a recent defensive recruit from Charlton Athletic, has slotted into his new surroundings seamlessly.

The U21s are competing for silverware on two fronts this campaign, as, in addition to their exploits in the league, they are also taking part in the inaugural U21 Premier League Cup, with their first fixture away to Norwich City next week. Zelalem and Bellerin should be back in time for that fixture, and Arsenal will be confident of progressing, even though yesterday’s game against Villa emphasised that there are still some defensive deficiencies that need to be ironed out.

Jeorge Bird is the author of  Follow him on Twitter @jeorgebird



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Bring in the younglings

Arsene was at the game apparently. Hope the likes of Afobe and Sanogo are given chances to come off the bench for the first team as long as they out in the effort. Players for the future. More than you can say for Bendtner.

Loop A Hole

Funny thing is, we were lamenting about the lack of depth in both the senior and U21 teams all during the transfer window. And we made like what, 2,3 signings for each team? And now the strength in depth is what stands out in both the teams. Arsene knows magic.


top top top quality always beats numbers


‘first-team players Serge Gnabry and Emmanuel Frimpong’. I don’t think a player who doesn’t make the team for the COC can be called ‘first team’. *appreciate technically he makes the first team squad.


Frimmy has had to battle two serious knee injuries, a personality overdose, as well as being subjected to the most selective case of racism known to man – by a man actually more often accused of favouring african players over english ones.

He’s a first team player because he is listed in the arsenal first team squad

Bould's Eyeliner

I’m missing the whole thing about selective case of racism known to man… care to inform us?


It was very obviously an ironic, tongue in cheek joke post . Which anybody who follows Arsenal events should know by now… Google is you friend.

But also your enemy.

Gutbukkit Deffrolla

Just tell us so that we don’t have to get our hands sticky by touching our Googles.

Arsenal Induced Heart Attack Survivor

Gnabry played against Swansea City this year, while Emmanuel Frimponged Nasri in years past. They’re first team players all right.


I was referring to Frimpong, not Gnabry.

Nebraska Gunner

Just wanted to drop by and say a quick “thanks” for writing these, Jeorge. Excellent stuff.

Genuinely looking forward to seeing who makes the grade in coming years – so many with so much potential!


Zelalem was on international duty? What country was this for, Germany or the United States? I’m curious as to see which he’ll pick when the time comes.

the fonz

Ethiopia I believe.

Aussie Gooner

Germany U-17s. Zelalem’s their #10.

Gunner From Another Mother

I would looooove to see him in the Stars and Stripes


Germany fo sho

Or else the BFG will give him a good ol’ spankin’


yeh, thanks for the write-Ups, I look forward to reading your well-informed comments.

Hoosier Gunner

Toral seems to be back on track. Its been a while.

Michael Farmer

Toral has really impressed in the games in Dortmund last week and against Villa last night.Benik Afobe showed great timing in breaking through Villa’s defence to get onto passes.Semi and Stefan made a good centre back partnership.
It was a very enjoyable game to watch on the whole apart from two of Villa’s defenders opting for some Pulisesque challenges later in the game.

Tolu reports that Arsenal is interested in Iheanacho (the Nigerian u17 starlet) I would really like him to join the u21s cos am a Nigerian 🙂

dc – nuff said!


“ understands..”
As soon as I read that the not gonna happen switch in my head goes to overdrive and I stop reading.

Sometimes I save even more time by checking the author.. Wayne Veysey is a blowarse

harrypotter's Arsenal

I would rather we signed the nigerian right back, mohammed. His delivery, assist & goals accounted for a lot the success. In fact I have not seen crosses with that level of accuracy in a long while @ u17. His positional sense, strenght & stamina to go up & down the right wing is near perfect in my view. I know its just u17, but trust me that talent is hard to come by.

brian Molloy

Chuba Akbom or Sanogo should definitely be in squad instead of bentner seei him coming on against mancs when needing a goal is just pathetic

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