by Andrew Crawshaw
A gloriously sunny evening at Meadow Park greeted the teams as they stepped out for the opening fixture of the Premier League 2 at Meadow Park Borehamwood on Friday evening.
The Arsenal Team:-
Matt Macey (GK), Chiori Johnson (RB), Kostas Pileas (LB), Kris Da Graca and Ben Sheaf (CB), Ismaul Bennacer, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Gedion Zelalem (MF) Reiss Nelson, Chris Willock and Stephy Mavididi (Attack)
On the bench
Hugo Keto (GK), Marcus McGuane, Vlad Dragomir, Glen Kamara and Tolaji Bola.
Jonathan Bond (GK) (overage but coming back from injury), Jack Stacey, Shane Griffin, Aaron Kuhl, Zach Jules, Danzil Gravenberch, Craig Tanner, Andy Rhinomiota, Andrija Novakovich, Josh Barrett, Tarique Fosu
On the Bench
Gabriel Osho, Luke Southwood, Dominic Hyam, Harrison Bennett, Harry Cardwell
The immediately obvious feature of the two teams was that the Reading outfield players were all physically larger than their Arsenal counterparts.
Reading kicked off and for the first 15 minutes or so were forced to defend, at times quite desperately. Arsenal pressed them high up the pitch and the Reading supporters had several heart in mouth moments. Zelalem having the two best chances, the first after 8 minutes curling just over the bar, the second an inswinging corner bouncing off the top of the crossbar.
After those opening minutes Reading started to come more into the game and most of the action was at the Arsenal end of the pitch. Macey made a good save from Josh Barrett and then we were saved by an offside flag when Craig Tanner poked the ball into our net following a goalmouth scramble.
Half time saw the score at nil all and the game reasonably poised, both sides had had chances.
Arsenal got the game under way for the second half and were immediately under pressure from Reading who continued in the manner they finished the first half. Novakovich with the first chance but just unable to score following a good run and cross from Stacey. Barrett was the next with a goal attempt, his volley going just too high.
Arsenal made two changes just after the hour mark with Willock and the increasingly ineffectual Zelalem being replaced by McGuane and Kamara. Reading also made a substitution with Gravenberch being replaced at Centre Back by Dominic Hyam. Dominic with a head bandage after 5 stitches in an earlier match (his dad was sat right behind me).
A Reading goal was coming and in the 70th minute it arrived. Fosu’s initial effort was well parried by Macey but the rebound came to Rhinomitota who gave Macey no chance as he thumped the ball high into the roof of the net.
Stephy Mavididi had an excellent chance to level the scores after he dribbled through the entire Reading defence leaving himself one on one with the keeper. Bond did excellently to smother the ball as the Arsenal striker tried to go round him. That proved to be our best chance of the match.
Reading had other good chances to extend their lead the ball going across our six yard box on several occasions without a Reading player quite close enough to tap it home. The continuing pressure eventually caught up with us in the 80th minute with another shot being parried by Macey, this time it went to Reading Substitute Cardwell who made no mistake with the follow-up. Two nil to Reading which was the final score.
I was impressed with Ismael Bennacer whom I (and the Reading supporters behind me) thought was our best player. Ismael is of Algerian/Moroccan descent but is a French youth international. He joined us from Arles-Avignon in the French second division at the start of last season and he is 19 years old. He was always composed on the ball, made very few sloppy passes and was always looking to be involved in the game. A definite positive to take from an otherwise poor performance.
After the initial 15 minutes I was not impressed with Zelalem who faded into obscurity. Maybe my expectations of him are too high but I would expect him to be taking games at this level by the scruff of the neck and controlling them and he very rarely does.
With our present lack of commanding centre backs I fear that we are set for a tough season at this level. Neither Da Graca or Sheaf (the better of the two) were particularly impressive.
My overall impression was that this was a group of players who haven’t trained together enough to know where each other were going to be. On the day they were out muscled and the two nil scoreline was in no ways flattering to Reading. They were the better team and deserved their win.
The next game is this Friday away at Manchester City and the following Friday we have a home game at the Emirates against Liverpool. All Arsenal Members can get into that game for free but you have to get your ticket by 15:00 on Monday 15/8
- Arsenal v Liverpool Sunday 14 August – The Match Officials. Prepare for bias.
- The predictions for this coming season: and rather cheery ones they are too.
- Premier League 2 – Arsenal v Reading Friday 12 August 19:00 Meadow Park – Preview
Just published in the Arsenal in the 30s series