Arsenal U21s v Blackburn U21s – The Last Chance Saloon

by Andrew Crawshaw

On Tuesday evening at 19:00 the Arsenal U21 team who promised so much at the beginning of the season have a final chance to secure promotion to the first division of football for that age level.

A month ago we were looking good for winning the second division outright and gaining automatic promotion, but a string of poor results meant that we finished in second place behind Derby County and so entered the dreaded play-offs.  The teams in second to fifth place play a semi-final and the two winners meet to see who gets the second promotion spot.

The third and fourth placed teams met last Monday with Aston Villa winning away at Swansea two one, so they await the winner of our game v Blackburn

The end of season table was :-

Position Team Played Goal Diff Points
1 Derby 22 +18 42
2 Arsenal 22 +15 40
3 Swansea 22 +18 39
4 Aston Villa 22 +1 39
5 Blackburn 22 -4 34
6 West Bromwich 22 +4 33
7 West Ham 22 +3 32
8 Stoke 22 0 32
9 Fulham 22 -3 29
10 Newcastle 22 -18 18
11 Brighton & Hove Albion 22 -19 14
12 Wolves 22 -15 13

The First Division table to date is

Position Team Played Goal Diff Points
1 Man United 21 +24 45
2 Sunderland 22 +18 43
3 Everton 21 +8 36
4 Man City 20 +8 31
5 Southampton 22 -1 30
6 Chelsea 18 +7 29
7 Liverpool 21 _9 28
8 Spurs 22 +18 27
9 Reading 22 -6 27
10 Middlesbrough 22 -4 20
11 Norwich 22 -20 19
12 Leicester 21 -26 18

Man United are league champions, Norwich are definitely relegated, Leicester can avoid relegation if they win their last game which would put them above Middlesbrough.

There were suggestions from Arsène, at the pre Norwich press conference, that some of our first team players may get an outing tomorrow, the rules allow for three over-age players.  Santi, The Ox, and Jack are possibilities, also Chambers is still technically U21 this season so he might get an outing in the centre of defence.

I am not entirely sure that this is a good strategy, it certainly hasn’t worked in terms of team results with Jack Wilshere who has both played in three of our last four games (one win and two losses) and Thomas Rosicky who featured with Jack in the Swansea and Newcastle games.  Our record in the last three months is.

Date Game Score
5 Feb Arsenal v Brighton 4 – 1
29 Feb Arsenal v Wolves 1 – 1
9 Mar Fulham v Arsenal 0 – 3
14 Mar Aston Villa v Arsenal 1 – 0
1 April Blackburn v Arsenal 1 – 0
8 April Arsenal v Newcastle 3 – 1
11 April Derby v Arsenal 1 – 2
14 April Swansea v Arsenal 3 – 1
18 April Arsenal v West Brom 1 – 2

In general this season we have been good going forwards but have been pretty poor defensively at times with players caught out of position on quite a few occasions.  Not dis-similar to the first team in fact.

Recent Games

Arsenal v West Brom (1 – 2)

I was at Borehamwood for the loss against West Brom, and we never really looked like winning the game.  Jack scored our goal but looked far from fully match fit and West Brom were extremely well organised defensively and scored two breakaway goals.  A surprise for me with Gnabry playing as Centre Forward against his former loan club and he was unable to beat the West Brom defenders at all.  Right back Johnson one of the few players showing a lot of appetite for the game until he tired late on.  Reine Adelaide looking the part but not actually contributing much.  Jack’s goal was class.

Our team was

Macey, Reine Adelaide (77), Pleguezuelo, McGuane (72), Wilshere, Gnabry, Bielik, Sheaf, Johnson (81), Crowley and Moore

Subs – Huddart, O’Connor, Malen (72), Nelson (77) and Hinds (81)

Swansea v Arsenal (3 – 1)

Both Jack and Thomas Rosicky were in midfield for this game.  Our former goalkeeper Josh Vickers had an outstanding game for Swansea.  Poor defending cost the opening goal, King losing his marker to head home.  Rosicky was denied a penalty appeal after going down in the box (for me a poor decision from the ref).  Swansea doubled their lead before half time Gorre curling the ball past Macey.  Gnabry scored a belter with twelve minutes to play but Swansea had the last word scoring their third following yet more poor defending.

Our team

Macey, Wilshere, Willock (61), Moore, Bola, Gnabry, Hinds, Bielik, Rosicky (71), Reine Adelaide (82) and Pleguezuelo

Subs Keto, Crowley (82), Sheaf (71), Nelson (61) and O’Connor

Derby v Arsenal (1 – 2)

Derby started better but failed to make anything from excellent opportunities in the opening minutes, Arsenal steadied and Malen scored with 15 minutes gone.  Derby equalised before Ben Sheaf was sent off for a second bookable offence.  A full half to play against the division leading team meant that the players had to dig deep.  They did just that in the second half and scored the winner with a great counter attack, Hinds making the most of a great Crowley through ball

Our Team

Macey, Bielik, Reine-Adelaide, Bola, Pleguezuelo, Mavididi (46), Sheaf (red card ), Nelson, Crowley, Johnson, Willock

Subs Keto, DaSilva, Hinds, Pileas and Robinson

Team for Tuesday Evening

GK – Macey

Defence – Johnson, Pleguezuelo, Chambers, M Bola

DM – Bielik, Cazorla

Mid – Reine-Adelaide, Wilshere, Crowley

CF – Mavididi

Subs Keto (GK), Hinds, Robinson, McGuane, Gnabry

If Santi doesn’t feature, I would move Wilshere into that role, Crowley into the No10 role and have Gnabry on the opposite wing to Reine-Adelaide.  Without Santi and Jack I would have McGuane as second DM.  Bielik has usually played as a CB this year at that level, I’m sure he is better as DM – but then I’m only a supporter and blogger!


Recent Posts

The anniversaries – from first to last

  • 3 May 1893: George Lawrence signed the documents to turn Royal Arsenal formally into Woolwich Arsenal.  He then ensured the freehold of the Manor Field was obtained by arranging contracts and the deposit with the freeholder of the Manor Ground.
  • 3 May 1998: 105 years to the day after the formation of Woolwich Arsenal, and 27 years to the day after the winning the league as part of the first double, Arsenal beat Everton 4-0 and won the League in game 36 of the second Double season. Adams scored his most famous goal on 89 minutes in front of the north bank as Arsenal secured 10 successive wins, a new Premier League record.  Arsène Wenger became the first foreign manager to win the English league, with an unbeaten run of 18 games starting on Boxing Day.   Even the commentary of the Arsenal v Everton game became famous as Martin Tyler said, “That sums it all up” as Tony Adams scored and turned to the crowd, arms out wide.  The second double: part 1, part 2, part 3.

20 Replies to “Arsenal U21s v Blackburn U21s – The Last Chance Saloon”

  1. I think that playing over 21s who are making their way back from injury never helps the under 21s. The older players know it is a run out, and have no commitment to the cause, while the opposition youngsters have no fear about showing an old man who they are.

    But putting over 21s in to help gain promotion – that is different, and they will treat it differently.

    Interesting though that Leicester are facing relegation. An interesting juxtaposition.

  2. Think Mcguane is away with Nelson, Malen and two or three others with their countries at Euros.

    Does seem to be plenty of similarities with seniors judging by highlights, a lot of it presumably because plenty of teams seem to be playing defend deep and counter even at youth level.

    That’s quite shocking to me at times, but I suppose it makes sense for them if their first team is likely to play that way,too. A plus for us is that it gives the youngsters lots of practice of dealing with that if they are to make it with us.

    Memories of Iwobi for instance at the end of last season doing well against deep defences, and he’s looked at home against those challenges with the senior team.

    We also seem to attempt to convert wingers to full back a lot and fairly often go for one or two too many attacking players in midfield. Benefit of doubt suggests this is all down to prioritising development over results.

    We do actually have quite a poor record these days,though, of bringing through centre backs, for the first team or elsewhere. Remarkable difference with us and Utd in terms of bringing through cb’s for prem/championship.

    Don’t know what’s behind that, but I suppose main thing is these have been a great few years in bringing players through- Gnabry, Bellerin, iwobi- and hopefully that will continue. Lots of talent there.

    I thought Sheaf looked a brilliant prospect at beginning of season; bit mixed since but still hopeful he will kick on. Mavididi’s another i really like the look of.

  3. Come on guys , strut your stuff and make us proud. Up the Younglings !

  4. Rich,

    Sheaf has been playing as backup/makeshift for quite sometime. I think that is why his performances have mixed.

    At academy level we lack numbers of defenders. So watch out for some defensive signings this season.

  5. Leicester could supplement their under 21s with the brilliance of their stars. Now theres a thought.

  6. OFF TOPIC… Anthony Taylor (From Greater Manchester) is the ref for our game against Man City. What are the odds of Arsenal playing both Manchester clubs this season and getting a ref from Manchester on 2 occasions.

  7. Usama,
    The odds are such that it wasn’t even worth opening a book on it!

  8. @Rich,
    I like Johnson as well, he was really stepping on before his injuries last season and missed many months. He was understandably rusty when he came back in January but seems to have got back to where he was before. He is also one of the few defenders who has any inkling of how to tackle.

  9. @Andrew

    Yeah, Johnson looked good in the youth cup game I saw on Arsenal player. Surprised me as, for no good reason, my expectations were modest.

    I try to keep my expectations down a bit these days after I was so convinced, a few years back, we should get Akpom into the first team as quickly as possible. Further back, in a previous spell when I’d seen a bit of youth team, I thought JET should get a good chance at the club and was keen on a centre back Luke Ayling. Also had hopes for Chuks Aneke

    Bit of a thread running through them- in that I’m extra keen to see a powerful player who can stand up well directly to the bullies emerge to the first team

    Lesson learned.

    Outside bet Nketiah could be involved tonight. His progress seems fantastic of late (quality hatrick at Spurs loaded on Arsenal player today).

    My attentions were on Mavididi,Malen and Akpom in the striker stakes (producing our own sometimes feels like the best chance of getting someone who can hit 20+ again), but if he can keep up what he’s doing I’ll soon have to consider him as the best bet we have.

    Will be funny if Chambers plays tonight. Right through the season we only seem to have used seniors immediately after an injury, which I think contrasts with how Utd play it.

    I approve of that, but thought we should have made an exception with Chambers in the last couple of games just to get our young team over the line (and give Chambers some needed game time).

    Plus he’s under 21 anyway.

  10. The under 21’s need game time against adults , which is why it was a shame that the Combination and Central leagues were disbanded.

  11. Team
    Macey, Pleguezuelo (c), Moore, Sheaf, Bielik, Chambers, Willock, Cazorla, Mavididi, Rosicky and Gnabry

    Bench. Crowley, Huddart(gk), Hinds, Johnson, Nketiah

  12. Half time, no score but we have had more of the ball in their half. Several half chances and a number of tame efforts that Fisher the Blackburn keeper has had little trouble with. Santiago with some fabulous touches. Rosicky able to outpace most of the Blackburn defenders. Gnabry had the ball in the net but went too soon and flagged offside. All to play for.


  13. Two one tithe Arsenal, both by Willock. The first Rosicky won the ball back in midfield, passed to Santi who gave a delightful through ball for Willock to run on to. The second was a solo effort. Now for the play off final next Tuesday here st the Ems.

  14. Gord,

    Was a good game. Santi with some exquisite touches. Easily the best player on the pitch. Crowley must have been watching because he gave the calmest performance I have ever seen from him after he came on for Santi on the hour mark.

  15. Thanks Andrew.

    I hope the young guys enjoyed having Santi (Rosicky, Wilshere and Chalmers?) out with them for the game.

  16. Okay, I guess Wilshere wasn’t there. 🙂

    I also guess that Chambers played centreback, so that Bielik could play DM? How did Bielik look there? How did Chambers look at the back?

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