Arsenal U23s drew 3-3 with their Manchester United counterparts yesterday in an enthralling encounter.
Steve Bould’s side were 3-1 down at one stage but a brace from Folarin Balogun, whose future remains unresolved, saw them salvage a point.
The game was notable for the involvement of five first-team players, with Cedric, Joe Willock, Emile Smith Rowe, Reiss Nelson and William Saliba all featuring.
Nelson found the net with a free-kick, while Smith Rowe was taken off at half time in a pre-planned change as he works his way back to full fitness following injury.
With Arsenal having a rather large first-team squad and a somewhat small U23 squad, it seems likely that the involvement of senior players at this level will continue for the foreseeable future when games don’t clash with Europa League commitments.
The likes of Pablo Mari, Calum Chambers and Gabriel Martinelli, who are all stepping up their respective recoveries from injury, could feature for the U23s at some stage, while it is possible that others could be involved if they are omitted from first-team matchday squads.
Following the recent flurry of loan departures, there are just nine outfield players who can be considered full-time members of the U23 team (i.e. too old to play for the U18s). Therefore, first-team players could be used to fill the gaps, especially in the case of Saliba, who wasn’t included in the Gunners’ Europa League squad.
Arsenal’s start to the season has been rather disappointing at U23 level – they are second bottom with two points from five games – but the involvement of some senior players could see their fortunes improve somewhat.