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Arsenal U21s v Aston Villa U21s – Division 2 Play-off Final Preview

by Andrew Crawshaw

This evening at the Emirates Arsenal take on Aston Villa at U21 level to decide who joins Derby County in gaining promotion to the first division of U21 Football.  On Sunday afternoon the Senior teams meet with Villa already relegated to the Championship for next year.

Last Tuesday Arsenal U21s boosted by Thomas Rosicky and (for 60 minutes) Santi Cazorla dispatched West Brom U21s by two goals to one to qualify for the knock-out final.  Arsenal were the second placed team during the regular season, Blackburn were the fifth.

The Untold review of that game is here

Aston Villa reached the play-off final after finishing in fourth place during the regular season, they then played Swansea who finished one place higher on 25 April at the Liberty Stadium winning by the same two – one scoreline as Arsenal.  Here is a brief summary of their game Courtesy of the Birmingham Mail :-

Villa lined up in a 4-4-2, and looked nervous in the opening exchanges, Good defending though to prevent a Swansea goal in the 9th minute.  By the 17th minute Villa growing into the game, Abdo running the show in midfield.

More good defending from Mason and Suliman in Min 33 to deny first Bray and then Suliman. Min35 Villa take the leadHepburn-Murphy shot deflected, rebound fell to Davis six yards out and looked certain to score but for a magnificent save from Vickers (ex Arsenal GK).  The ball fell to Hale who was almost on the touchline but managed to squeeze the ball in.

Three minutes later Swansea make it one-all.  Gorre with a break down the left, gets the better of the Villa backline and slots home under Sarkic.  Min 41 and Villa should be ahead, dreadful defending from Swansea but Vickers with another good save to deny Hepburn-Murphy who should have done better.  At the start of the second half almose two one for Swansea as Sarkic drops the ball on the goal line but Suliman on hand to clear before the Swansea attackers.

On 52 minutes a clear penalty as Davis is hauled down inside the box.  Hepburn-Murphy with an excellent penalty in off the inside of the post despite Vickers going the right way.  Villa then hanging on, bookings for Lyden and Abdo for wild challenges, Kingsley and Borg for Swansea joining Lewis in the caution book.  Swansea nearly with a last minute equaliser but it hits the bar and goes out for a corner.  Villa hang on for a hard fought victory.

Villa Team – Sarkic (GK), Webb, Mason, Suliman, Borg, Hale, Lyden (C), Abdo, Green, Davis, Hepburn-Murphy.

Subs – Johansson, Leggett, Blackett-Taylor, O’Hare, Cox

The Aston Villa Squad (from the official Villa web-site)

GK – Bradley Watkins (England U16, U17), Charlie Bannister (England) and Matija Sarkic (Montenegro U17, U21)

Defenders  – Tom Leggett RB (England), Kevin Toner CB/LB (Ireland U19), Kodi Lyons-Foster CB (England), Ben Swift LB (England), Liam Batemen CB (England), Janoi Donacien CB (England), Niall Mason Utility (England), Easah Suliman CB/LB (England U17 Captain, U18),  Joshus Webb (England)

Midfielders –  Henry Cowans (England), Jordan Lyden (Australia), Rory Hale (N Ireland), Khalid Abdo (Sweden U18)

Forwards – Harry McKirdy (England), Jerell Sellars (England), Hepburn-Murphy (England U18), Davis

Loan – Riccardo Calder (England) on loan at Dundee, Lewis Kinsella LB (England on loan to Kidderminster), Callum Robinson (England U17) on loan at Bristol City

Arsenal Squad News

Some of the normal U21 players are currently playing at the U17 European Championships in Azerbaijan so some familiar names are missing.  Marcus McGuane, Reiss Nelson, and Tolaji Bola  are all away representing England, Joao Virginia for Portugal, Yasmin Fortune for France and Donyel Malen representing the Netherlands.

In the last game Arsenal drafted in three first team players Chambers at CB (NB he still qualifies as an U21 player), Santi Cazorla and Thomas Rosicky.

I thought it unlikely that any of these would be involved for this game – Chambers as he will be required as cover on Sunday, Santi because he is also likely to be involved and I suspect that Rosicky will also be on the bench, however I have now seen a tweet purporting to be from Santi stating that he will definitely play.  Assuming that to be true  I would expect the line-up to be something like this:-

Matt Macey

Chiori Johnson, Julio Pleguezuelo, Krystian Bielik, Tafari Moore

Ben Sheaf, Santi Cazorla

Jeff Reine-Adelaide,  Serge Gnabry, Chris Willock

Stephy Mavididi

Beach – Ryan Huddart (GK), Kaylen Hinds,  Kristopher da Graca, Daniel Crowley, Edward Nkeitah.

If Thomas also plays then one of Reine-Adelaide or Serge Gnabry will drop to the beach probably at the expense of Kaylen or Kristopher.

Kick off is 19:00 London time, There is provision for extra time and penalties if necessary to determine a winner.

I’ll be at the game and will try and post updates at intervals via the comments.

The game is being televised on Arsenal Player, free to all Arsenal members and there is also a free digital membership if you wish to sign up and enjoy access to all of the Arsenal Player content.


Recent Posts

Untold Arsenal has published five books on Arsenal – all are available as paperback and three are now available on Kindle.  The books are

  • The Arsenal Yankee by Danny Karbassiyoon with a foreword by Arsene Wenger.
  • Arsenal: the long sleep 1953 – 1970; a view from the terrace.  By John Sowman with an introduction by Bob Wilson.
  • Woolwich Arsenal: The club that changed football.  By Tony Attwood, Andy Kelly and Mark Andrews.
  • Making the Arsenal: a novel by Tony Attwood.
  • The Crowd at Woolwich Arsenal by Mark Andrews.

You can find details of all five on our new Arsenal Books page

42 comments to Arsenal U21s v Aston Villa U21s – Division 2 Play-off Final Preview

  • WalterBroeckx

    Thanks Andrew, I hope I can make myself free to see this match on Arsenal player.

  • Andrew Crawshaw

    I hope so too Walter, have a feeling it will be a good game. Santi looks to be a starter, he was most impressive in the 60 minutes he was on the pitch last week (although he looked pretty knackered when he came off).

    It now looks like there might be a break in the rain which will be a bonus for both players and spectators.

    Arsenal really need to be in the top division at this level, I know that playerdevelopment is the prime purpose at this level but they really need to be testing themselves against the best, not the second best.

  • Andrew Crawshaw

    Full details of how to get to Arsenal Player for the match are now on the main Home page of

  • Rich


    Surprisingly, Coquelin is in picture, as well as Cazorla, on Arsenal preview of game.

    Would guess that means we really are keen on getting back to top division.

    I think Chambers for last two league games would prob have ensured that. Who cares now, just glad to get an extra chance to watch them.

    Really hope they can win it,though.

    Could mean keeping a few extra around in early stages of next year, instead of loans, and I like idea of that; plus new challenges which should be good for players

  • Andrew Crawshaw


    Jeorge Bird has both Coquelin and Cazorla to start in his preview. It would certainly be a statement of intent as well as getting the two of them used to playing together again.

    The back line looked a lot more secure with Chambers in it last week, I hadn’t thought of playing him as he will certainly be needed on Sunday at least on the bench and Sunday’s game is more important in the global scheme of things. We’ll find out about 18:00

    It is worth noting that Villa did the double over us in the regular season and will certainly be ‘up for it’ this evening so I have no problem at all with us using the rules to allow three over age outfield players.

  • Thats a strong line up
    Under-21s: Macey, Pleguezuelo, Bielik, Chambers, Moore, Coquelin, Cazorla, Campbell, Reine-Adelaide, Gnabry, Mavidid

  • Good luck to the guys.

  • Good luck to the lads. Hope they win.

  • On the beach


  • I think we can fairly say that Arsenal feel they’ve had enough of the second division of the under 21s league, looking at that lineup.

  • Andrew crawshaw

    Just made it for kick-off thanks for posting team. Villa looking lively in the opening exchanges. Corner now to us hoofed clear after some pinball

  • Andrew crawshaw

    Oh crap. Big mistake from Macey. All to do

  • SamuelAkinsolaAdebosin

    Even the Arsenal vs Aston Villa match at the Ems on Sunday could be a dangerous match to play by Arsenal. All that Arsenal need in that match is a draw to secure a Champions League spot.

    But Villa could turn up to be the spoilers for Arsenal if the Gunners are not careful with getting over confidence of beating them before the watching eyes of their wifes, partners, kids and guests. Thus becoming complacent in their game.

    I don’t know much information of all our Under 21 Squad players save a few of them like, Chris Willock, Krystain Bielik, Jeff Reine-Adelaide and Sergy Gnabry.

    Much a do, they should be able to beat Villa. Moreso, if Santi Cazorla & Tomas Rocisky play. The relegation of our Under 21 team to the 2nd division last season showed some critical issues with their coaching and new players recruitment into the squad need to be addressed. And I think that would have been addressed if our Unders get back to the 1st division to compete at the top level of the Under 21 game.

  • SamuelAkinsolaAdebosin

    Would LvG boast and brag tonight if his Man Utd side beat Salven Bilic West Ham side in the West Ham’s very final match at Bolyn ground?

    We all know LvG to be a boaster and a bragger in the game if he wins an important match like the one being played tonight at Bolyn ground which will enhance his side chances to qualify for the Ucl next season. I think if LvG wins tonight, he’ll boast and brag once more.

  • Andrew crawshaw

    Half time one all, good attack from Arsenal and Chris Willock from close range. Stadium announcer and team sheets wrong both had No11 as Gnabry

  • Andrew crawshaw

    Second half about to start. No changes for either team

  • norman14

    All kicking off at Boleyn Ground.

    Maybe the tax payers should demand that ALL aid is withdrawn if that’s how they’re going to behave.

  • Last home game and this happened, dreadful. What is wrong with these people, West Handout’s need to sort this out and quick.

  • Andrew crawshaw

    Min 67 ish Mavididi with a header for two one

  • Andrew crawshaw

    Villa fans making a lot of noise Arsenal fans arent

  • dan

    Happy birthday Dennis Bergkamp

  • Samuel Akinsola Adebosin

    Andrew Crawshaw, I have not seen any link on player that can enabled me watch the Arsenal vs Aston Villa Under 21 game. It’s’ only the audio commentaries application that’s available to be accessed. Maybe it’s’ only in the UK that one can watch the match. I login to Arsenal Android Application on my Android. But only the Sunday’s final BPL match picture logo is there looking at me with some other news on some Gunners and the Boss’s press conference on the last Man City match.

  • Andrew crawshaw

    Another fantastic save to deny Santi. That brought a loud chant which he readily acknowledged. A good save from Macey at the other end.

  • Andrew crawshaw

    Mavididi again to put the finishing touch to a lovely Arsenal move. All players involved were U21s. That should be enough.

  • avfc64

    Villa fielding an all u21 team, a team played together all season, Arsenal clearly chucking their sky 4 weight around with not only senior but seasoned internationals, pathetic really, thought this was about develop men and by fielding these players your not doing them any favours in div 1 which clearly were not good enough last year. If Villa have done the double finishing 4th with no senior squad members what do you expect next year, and are already trying to poach 3 of ours at least like the paying off of Dan Crowley to join you. I’ve always liked Arsenal traditional club like Villa but really this is poor from a club with class and shows real desperation they are falling behind other London clubs in the poach kids and loan out for revenue stakes

  • porter

    Mavididi looks useful kind of Kevin Campbell ish. Big and powerful , knock off the rough edges and we might have something.

  • Gord

    Congratulations Young Gunners!

    Looking at some of the pictures in the twit feed, you would have to say that Santi doesn’t look a day over 21.

  • bushido

    congratulation to the under 21 team for their 3-1 win

  • Breakthrough player of next season.,,,

    Chris Willock.

    Stunning, brilliant, amazing

  • SamuelAkinsolaAdebosin

    Sorry Andrews, my curosity has led me to accessed directly through Google Crome Browser on my same Android. And after logging in with password, I was taken to the match – live. And I watched Arsenal 3rd goal scored after a beautiful moves down to right and then a pass to the scorer down the middle to left who cuts in before sending a low drive to bottom left corner past Villa’s goalee.

  • Andrew crawshaw

    Three one to Arsenal and deservedly so. Macey much better in the second half after a very shaky start.

  • Markyb

    Willock looks very good recently. Like a better version of Sterling potentialy

  • Andrew crawshaw

    Sometimes goes down blind alleys but yes a much improved player. Will certainly be looking for a loan spell next year but like Iwobi the Boss might want to keep him around for another year. Definitely a future prospect.

  • Andrew crawshaw

    Samuel, glad you got there eventually

  • dan

    Congratulations to u21, best present to Dennis.

  • dan

    becoming a very pleasant evening, the manc’s crying, no cl footy for them.

  • Mandy Dodd

    Well done the U21s.
    And the much derided, but much wished for amongst most …top four place is secured again for the first team.

  • Gord

    The Daily Mail, said that about 100 of the 2357 fans were away fans for AVilla. Apparently they sung that Cazorla is 31.

    Birmingham Mail had a nice writeup on the game.

    ESPN (worldwide leader in being ESPN) put up a mediocre

    I didn’t read Metro.

    There are a couple of hints that Welbeck’s injury is fairly serious, which would be a real shame if true.

    There is the usual crap about problems from the medja.

    And finally, the BBC is reporting that 30,000 tickets are already sold to the Womens FA Cup final of Arsenal vs Chelsea. They think it likely the record attendence 30,710 set last year will be broken.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Well done the younglings ! Congrats .

  • AVFC, well, yes, I suppose that is one way of looking at it. It involves avoiding a fair number of the facts, like the rules and regs, but still…

  • avfc64

    Breakthrough players for u21s Sante, Wiltshire, Chambers, Coquelen, Cambell what a joke, Hepburn Murphey goalscorer for the Villa just turned 17,

  • Yep AVFC, the published rules of competitions are a joke to many people. But (and this is the thing most people don’t get) they are the same for everyone.

    All you have to do is start a web site and campaign for the rules of the under 21 competition to be changed. It’s not that hard – Untold campaigns every day for rules and regs that we want changed. The only difference is we tend to investigate the reasons behind the way things are then argue to change them. You can of course reduce everything to “what a joke” but it doesn’t really help the debate.

    The rules of these various competitions are there because the clubs voted for them. I have no idea if Villa voted for them or not, but if they did not, they can leave and join another competition, and/or with you, campaign for the rules to be changed. Just as we do. Every day. Although not on the issue of the under 21 competition, because we can see the validity of the rules as they stand.