Monday, June 17, 2024

Senior players help Arsenal U21s in promotion battle

Traditionally development has always tended to take precedence over results at youth level. That remains the case, but, this season, with promotion back to the top tier of U21 football a key aim, the earning of points has taken on a new level of importance for Arsenal’s youngsters.

A set of inconsistent results last campaign meant that Arsenal U21s failed to keep their place in the top tier of second-string football and were instead effectively relegated to the newly-created second division. The biggest consequence of their demotion was that, rather than playing the likes of Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City and Liverpool, Arsenal’s youngsters have instead been facing sides of the calibre of Derby County, Reading and Brighton & Hove Albion this season.

It can be difficult for teams to perform consistently at U21 level with players often dropping out of the side due to first-team commitments, loan deals, international call-ups and injuries, but this week the young Gunners were boosted by the inclusion of three senior players- Jack Wilshere, Mikel Arteta and Abou Diaby- for their game against Stoke City.

Arsenal, despite a slow start, ran out 4-1 winners at Emirates Stadium. The goals came courtesy of a hat-trick from Alex Iwobi and a strike from Stephy Mavididi, but it couldn’t be denied that the first-team contingent, which was added to by the involvement of Serge Gnabry and Krystian Bielik, had helped Arsenal to prevail.

The result could prove to be a crucial one in terms of the U21 side’s aspirations of earning promotion. The top two of the division will be promoted and, at present, Steve Gatting’s team are currently in fourth place, with games in hand on all of the teams around them.

Their next assignment is also at Emirates, against Reading on Monday, and, although there are likely to be fewer first-team players on show, Gatting’s team will still be confident of registering another victory, with Iwobi in fine form and Bielik adjusting quickly to English football.

Following that, there are six more league games to come, including a trip to face league leaders Middlesbrough, but the victory over Stoke has certainly put Arsenal’s youngsters in a great position going into the closing stages of the campaign.

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


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Wots all this bollocks, I only want to hear about Bieiieilik.

Proff Gooner

Sad to see you didn’t notice Akpom’s best friend Iwobi, who both signed for Arsenal as youngsters on the same day, score three goals!!!

Forever COYG!


My apologies to Jeorge Bird, it was only meant as a joke.


Considering Chambers has not been in the match day squad recently why do you think he hasn’t been getting match practice and crucially central defensive experience with the U21’s?


Probably because we have needed cover for RB until Debuchy is fit in case something happened to Bellerin. No point in risking our last RB with first team experience in youth matches until then.

But if Debuchy is back, probably a good idea for everyone concerned.


Interesting to see how our young Pole is adjusting to the English game, I’m hoping his development continues nicely with consistent youth team appearances and hopefully some cup action next season. It’d be great if we could win the Credit Card Cup with a young team like we almost did a few years ago…

So the Stoke youth team is where the senior team should be.


Liam Bergkamp

Dors anyone know why Arsenal’s under 18 side are so poor this season? They’re currently 2nd bottom with a -9 goal difference!

Was at the u21 game on Tuesday, whilst Wilshere and Diaby stood out as a few levels about everyone else I was particularly impressed by Bielek who played centre back but looked calm on the ball. Gnabry was lively on the wing and so was Dan Crowley. However Iwobi’s hatrick was excellent and hugely promising. I would like to see more Arsenal strikers break through, Afobe is doing well a MK Dons and I hope there is some sort of buy back clause whilst Akpom has great potential and natural physicality.

Andy Mack

I think you mean “Afobe is doing well at Wolves”.

I meant Afobe is doing great at Wolves!


Hoping Diaby plays again on Monday. Going to the game and would be good to see him play!

Living for Bellerin

Promotion is essential! Need our U21’s playing against the best opposition possible.

David C

I had no idea there were separate divisions for U21 teams. I learn something daily on this amazing site.

Thanks for the post!

Arshavin's Dietician

Is there a limit as to how many over 21 players are allowed to play in a game, as obviously it’s good for 1st team players to get fit but in turn hinders the youth development.

Where has Zelalem been playing recently, with the U-21’s?


Yes 3

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