Another weekend of Academy action and another unbeaten weekend for our Young Gunners, as both our Under-18 and Under-21 sides travelled for tough away battles.
Norwich City 1-2 Arsenal U18
After a thrilling eight-goal draw in their last game against West Bromwich Albion, Jack Wilshere's side set their sights on a victory as they made the trip up to Norwich City on Saturday.
A goal and assist from record-breaking first-team debutant Ethan Nwaneri secured our victory, but it was the Canaries who made a strong start – taking the lead after just five minutes through a scrambled corner.
It didn't take long for our side to conjure up a response, however. After Seb Ferdinand intercepted a Norwich break, we worked the ball over to Osman Kamara down the left wing. He found Nwaneri waiting in the penalty area and one clean turn and finish later, the scoreline was level once more.
We built on this momentum to get our second goal shortly after, with Nwaneri's vision again proving vital. As Josh Robinson stormed down the wing and played it short to Nwaneri, he picked out Ismail Oulad M'Hand on the edge of the Norwich box who unleashed a wonderstrike into the top corner. The three first-half goals were enough to secure our win.
Speaking after the match, Wilshere was particularly proud of our grit and determination to see out the win.
"Sometimes, Arsenal youth teams of the past have been accused of maybe not being hard to play against, not being hard to beat," he said. "You know, we play nice stuff but when you have to do the other side of the game, we've been questioned in that area.
"I thought, today, we were brilliant. We were really difficult to play against. They're developing every part of their game all the time, but sometimes you have to go through games and experiences like that, where you suffer, to see the other side."
Liverpool 1-1 Arsenal U21
Mehmet Ali's Under-21 side maintained their season-long unbeaten run in the league away at Liverpool, as we were held to a 1-1 draw on Merseyside.
It took us a while to find our rhythm but once we did, our side came very close to scoring from a corner routine, straight from the training ground. Jack Henry-Francis whipped a cross into the box and Nathan Butler-Oyedeji's looping header narrowly missed the target.
We eventually broke the deadlock five minutes before half-time through another corner, as Joel Ideho continued his fine form and found the net once more. Our boys came close to doubling their lead immediately, as we won the ball straight from the restart, but Amario Cozier-Duberry's shot forced a fine save from Caoimhin Kelleher.
In the second half, Liverpool came out fighting and put our lead under significant pressure, eventually equalising in the 70th minute through Harvey Blair. Despite some opportunities for us to take the lead again on the counter, less than 10 minutes later, Reuell Walters was judged to have brought down Oscar Kelly in the area and a Liverpool penalty was awarded.
However, Hubert Graczyk was more than ready for Luke Chambers' spot kick and he dived low to his left to keep it out. Not content with one heroic save, Graczyk showed up again right before the final whistle, with an incredible double save from close range to secure our point away from home.
The draw means we drop down to third place in Premier League 2, behind Man City and Crystal Palace, but that isn't Ali's primary focus.
"I'm not really too bothered or worried about what's going on with other teams. We focus purely on us," he said. "We make sure that we support the first team to the best of our ability – they got a very good result today, which was excellent. Our Under-18s got a win today, as well.
"But our job is to make sure that we're trying to win football games and we're getting the maximum out of our players to perform and enhance their careers."
Looking ahead to next weekend, our Under-21s already have their eyes on the north London derby away at Tottenham. For penalty hero Graczyk, it's a rivalry the team relishes.
"It's the north London derby – I think everyone wants to win it! I don't see why anyone should back down from it and everyone has to step up to the plate, really. Obviously, the men won 3-1 against Spurs today, so we'll have to try and beat that scoreline!"
Copyright 2023 The Arsenal Football Club Limited. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source.