By Andrew and Tony
Arsenal beat Blackburn 2-1 to progress through to the Under 21 play off final in a game which saw Santi Cazorla make his comeback as Arsene Wenger, Ivan Gazidis and Petr Cech all looked on.
Santi was indeed, by a distance, the best player on the pitch even though he was only using second gear. Some of his touches and passes were breathtakingly good, and even when Blackburn players were trying to foul him he was able to escape. Boy have we missed him!
Rosicky was also class but generally less in evidence than Santi. He won the ball back in the Blackburn half early in the second half with a fair but determined challenge, passed to Santi who played a superb through ball for the first goal which was well taken.
Chambers was generally solid at Centre Back, the only moments of concern were when his headers out were picked up by Blackburn midfielders, or before he got back into position when he had gone forward for a corner.
Blackburn were well organised with ten behind the ball much of the time, not quite the full bus parking but certainly a couple of mini-busses. Their keeper kept them in the game with quite a few good saves and was generally well placed to pick up most of our efforts.
The Blackburn goal came from a free kick when Gnabry made a silly challenge, he then compounded that error by not looking at the ball when they took the free kick and being partly culpable in not helping to block or clear the second ball. He seems to have regressed a long way from his pre injury form of 2 years ago. Whilst he still is young he needs to work harder if he is to restart his senior Arsenal career.
However Blackburn owed the fact that the score was just 2-1 to their remarkable goalkeeper Andrew Fisher, who made a series of fine saves.
Bielik looked more assured than normal and his positioning was better, had a good game, while Julio Pleguezuelo played out of position at RB but was assured throughout. Tafari Moore made few errors at LB.
Ben Sheaf again had a good game as did Mavididi although he had the wrong boots on and failed to make the most of his chances. Macey was assured in goal, could do nothing about the one they scored but claimed everything else with ease.
Crowley came on for Santi just after the hour mark and had a much calmer match than he often does. He was booked for a challenge soon after but there was nothing that warranted the card. There were very few poor challenges and in general the officials had a good game.
But overall our two goal hero must get the MOTM award though, he was always lively and seeking to get behind the Blackburn defence and finished well for both goals. He has a very promising future and will surely be looking for first team experience next year. Well done Chris Willock. Aged 18 he is another Arsenal find to follow Iwobi, Bellerin, Coquelin…
To that effect, the hosts also started with 35-year-old Tomas Rosicky, whose only football these days is with players nearly half his age, and Calum Chambers.
Macey; Sheaf, Pleguezuelo (c), Bielik, Moore, Chambers, Cazorla (Crowley 62), Rosicky, Willock, Gnabry, Mavididi
Substitutes not used: Huddart (GK); Johnson, Hinds, Nketiah
Scorer: Willock 49, 80
Arsenal have been lurking in division 2 of the under 21s league having been pulling players forwards into the first team squad with regularity, and of course disrupting the team by using the “three over age players” rule to allow senior players to get a match as part of injury recovery. As part of this process under 18 players have been moved forwards rapidly, and results have suffered a little.
However a different sort of fate awaits Leicester, currently bottom of the top division. Having lost five in a row, and conceded 11, scoring two in those games, they now have one match left to leapfrog their rivals and secure the top division spot for next season. Their last game is against Chelsea on 12 May.
Meanwhile Arsenal will play the play off final against Aston Villa two days earlier on 10 May at the Ems at 7pm. It is a winner takes all game with extra time and penalties to be played if required.
- Ref Review: Arsenal – Crystal Palace: again no penalty for Arsenal
- Wenger is a better supporter than some who pretend to be supporters
- Arsenal U21s v Blackburn U21s – The Last Chance Saloon