Pre-Match Report

U-23s: Arsenal v Reading - Preview

Under-21 training session
Steve Gatting's side will return to action on Friday

Steve Gatting is anticipating a different test for his side this season, ahead of Friday’s curtain-raiser against Reading.

Arsenal will compete in the new-look Premier League 2, with the rules changed to allow teams to name unlimited players under the age of 23, as well as an over-age goalkeeper and three over-age players.

The Gunners will be lining up in the top division after earning promotion with a 3-1 play-off win over Aston Villa in May, and Gatting is looking forward to testing his side against new opposition.

“It’ll be a challenge for us this year,” he told “Last year we found the games difficult but it was a different sort of game.

"It’s a learning curve for us all and for the players it’s a step up from last year."

Steve Gatting

“We played teams that were stronger and more powerful than us but this year we expect the teams we play against to be more technical. In that way, it’ll be a good challenge for us to see how we compete with teams who can play the ball really well.

“It works both ways. How do we defend against sides who are technically very good and how do we beat them? It’s a learning curve for us all and for the players it’s a step up from last year.

“It’s nice to be in the top division and playing against the so-called bigger clubs, so we’re looking forward to it.”

After a pre-season which saw numerous youngsters involved with Arsene Wenger’s first team, Gatting admits that it is hard to predict exactly how the team will line-up in the opening game of the season.

“The under-19s went to South Africa and only got back on Tuesday, the older boys who were too old to go to South Africa stayed and trained with the others,” he said. “So, we haven’t had a lot of chance to work on too many things as a squad but that’s nothing unusual, that’s how it works at Arsenal.

“We’re not sure what sort of side we’ll put out on Friday because obviously some of the boys have been training with the first team and might be involved with them.

“It’s a great experience for them, especially the ones who’ve been with the first team since they got back to training. They’ve had a great experience, travelling all around the world and finding out what it’s all about being with the first team and also that added experience of playing in games with them and training day in, day out.”

Follow @Arsenal on Twitter from 6:55pm (UK time) on Friday for live updates of the game at Meadow Park

Supporters are welcome to attend this fixture and admittance is free.











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