Arsenal XI 0-2 Chelsea XI
By Chris Harris at London Colney
Jack Wilshere and Bacary Sagna both played 90 minutes in a training ground friendly against Chelsea on Wednesday.
The duo have started under-21 fixtures this month but, until now, neither had completed a game since recovering from the long-term injuries that hampered them last season.
Wilshere operated in an advanced midfield role and, encouragingly, was still making driving runs through the Chelsea defence in the closing stages. Sagna was as composed as ever, playing the first half at right back before moving into a central role after the break.
For the record, Chelsea won the game courtesy of well-taken goals from Billy Clifford and Islam Feruz. But the only number that matters from an Arsenal perspective is the 180 minutes that Wilshere and Sagna shared.
This was another important staging post on their road back to first-team football.
An experienced Arsenal line-up at London Colney included Andre Santos, Francis Coquelin, Andrey Arshavin and Marouane Chamakh, while Emmanuel Frimpong got another 90 minutes under his belt following his recent return in the Capital One Cup.
John Terry was the stand-out name in a youthful Chelsea line-up, although he was withdrawn at half time.
Wilshere was straight into the thick of the action on a bright, blustery afternoon, harrying opponents from his position just behind the striker.
Frimpong and Coquelin were also lively in Arsenal's midfield but it was Sagna who fashioned the home side's first chance, linking up well with Serge Gnabry before the German winger stung the palms of goalkeeper Jamal Blackman.
But his opposite number was busier in the first half. Damian Martinez got down well to deny Patrick Bamford and made an even better save from the Chelsea centre forward after a fine through-ball from George Saville.
Bamford had got in behind Santos before testing Martinez but the Brazilian was soon in action at the other end, forcing Blackman to save at his feet after a well-timed run into the box.
Chelsea just about had the upper hand and they opened the scoring in the 23rd minute when Bertrand Traore showed delightful control to bring down a diagonal ball and then crossed from the left. Arsenal could not clear their lines and Clifford rifled the ball high past Martinez.
Clifford and Bamfield were linking up well and the latter almost doubled Chelsea's lead just before the half-hour mark but could not get enough purchase on his shot, allowing Martinez to save.
Arsenal came back into the game before half time and almost levelled when a flowing move involving Santos, Arshavin and Frimpong ended with Gnabry's powerful strike flying just wide.
Arsène Wenger made three changes at the break, replacing Martinez, Sebastien Squillaci and Chamakh with James Shea, Carl Jenkinson and Chuba Akpom. Shortly after the hour mark he made three more as Santos, Coquelin and Arshavin made way for Thomas Eisfeld, Nico Yennaris and Jernade Meade.
Chelsea also made wholesale changes and Arsenal gradually exerted a semblance of control in the second half.
Four minutes after the restart Arshavin's cross was only half-cleared and Akpom's towering header was nodded just over by Gnabry. The same player lobbed Blackman after a move down the left but the ball was hacked away before it bounced over the line.
Wilshere himself went close to an equaliser in the 65th minute, surging into the box and forcing a low save from Blackman. It was a sign that Wilshere's trademark "burst" is gradually returning.
Akpom drew another decent save from Blackman and then scooped a difficult chance over the bar as Arsenal pushed Chelsea back, but the visitors found a second goal with 17 minutes left.
Traore had sounded a warning with a jinking run that ended with a shot into the side-netting and the visitors scored with their next attack, Aziz Conteh crossing for Feruz to guide a header past Shea.
Wilshere and Frimpong quickly wrestled back control of the midfield and both were making driving runs into Chelsea territory in the final moments. But the nearest Arsenal got to a goal was Akpom diverting Meade's excellent cross over the bar from close range.
No matter. On this occasion, the result was of secondary importance.
Arsenal: Martinez (Shea 45), Sagna, Squillaci (Jenkinson 45), Miquel, Santos (Meade 63), Coquelin (Yennaris 63), Frimpong, Wilshere, Gnabry, Arshavin (Eisfeld 63), Chamakh (Akpom 45)
Chelsea: Blackman, Cesar (Kane 45), Christensen, Terry (Pappoe 45 (Saville 88)), Nditi (Conte 45), Ince (Angban 45), Clifford (Swift 45), Saville, Baker (Musonda 45), Traore, Bamford (Feruz 45)
Goals: Clifford 23, Feruz 73Copyright 2015 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source