Arsenal U23 6-1 Chelsea U23 – match report and the season so far for our young guns
A very strange game in which the scoreline didn’t tell the full story.
Arsenal were awarded a very questionable penalty in the first few minutes, which karma ensured Balogun missed.
20 minutes later, Arsenal were 3-0 up with Balogun netting twice and Biereth once with a superb finish from a Balogun long ball. The midfield three of Patino, Salah-Eddine and Akinola were dictating play with some slick pass-and-move plays. Biereth’s movement was phenomenal across the front line with Balogun operating from the left and linking up well with Spanish wing-back Joel Lopez, who was rampant on the left flank all game.
Having been largely untested, the back three consisted of Rekik as the central ball-carrier with Monlouis and Ogungbo operating either side of him. The game was turned on its head towards the end of the first half as Rekik slid in on the edge of the area and denied the Chelsea striker a goal-scoring opportunity. Down to 10 men, Chelsea dominated the rest of the game.
Full-time: Chelsea Under-23s 1-6 Arsenal Under-23s
⚽️ Salah Oulad M'Hand
What a win for our under-23s, who were reduced to 10 men after 35 minutes 🤯 pic.twitter.com/qq2sh5hH67
— Arsenal Academy (@ArsenalAcademy) September 19, 2021
Despite their backs being against the wall, Biereth netted again on either side of half time, the first an excellent finish after a great move down the Arsenal right involving Patino and assisted by right wing-back Alebiosu; the second was finished well after a fortunate block from substitute Olyinka’s shot. Arsenal’s sixth came from a cheeky blasted corner by Salah-Eddine that caught the Chelsea defence by surprise.
Arsenal defended fantastically well – much unlike last season – with performances particularly from Monlouis and Ogungbo, both who seem to be excellent prospects, but Chelsea were incredibly unfortunate not to score more, hitting the woodwork several times and making poor decisions in the final moment. Eventually, they got their goal in stoppage time with a rebound off the post.
The season so far
After getting destroyed by West Ham in their first game, new gaffer Kevin Betsy has been doing a fantastic job, with the team looking tactically flexible and well-drilled in the transition. Most notably, they have looked defensively superb despite the odd mistake, with the team seemingly all aware of their responsibilities and gelling as a unit both in and out of possession.
As for individuals, Balogun has been clinical and neat in possession, linking up well with teammates although his confidence, at times, crosses into arrogance. He knows he’s too good for this level and I’d like to see him sent on loan for the second half of this season.
Tim Akinola, snapped up after he was released by Spurs last summer, had a horrible time with a dejected U23s last season but looks completely rejuvenated. His defensive work rate is excellent and he carries the ball very well, showing great ball control and bursts of pace. He still tends to make rash decisions and often looks like a red card waiting to happen, which is problematic as it speaks more to a personality trait than something that might be coached, but watch this space for sure.
Ogungbo and Monlouis have really gone from strength to strength as well since breaking into the U23s last season. Both are defensively solid, showing great decision-making and, Monlouis in particular, carries the ball superbly. Both are still inconsistent and need to improve passing accuracy but for an academy not known for producing defensive talents, these two are worth keeping an eye on.
A special mention, too, for Patino and Hutchinson (both 17 years old), both of whom are already well-known and look ready to break into the first team. Expect both to feature in some way in mid-week against Wimbledon.
It’s been a great start to the Premier League season for the U23s who find themselves 2nd in the table at the time of writing.