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‘It prepares us for the big bad world out there’

Joe Willock rounded off the scoring on Wednesday night as our under-21s beat Coventry City 3-0 in their first-ever Checkatrade Trophy clash.

The League One outfit fielded a number of senior players - and Willock believes that such an experience will be crucial to his development at the club.

He spoke to Arsenal Player after the final whistle - and this is what he said:

on the team’s bright start…
I thought we did well. It’s a young side and I thought that we dealt with the pressure well, and we were clever and mature in the way that we played, and I thought that we took our chances, but we should have finished them off more at the end. It could have been four or five and we could have made a statement, but I think we did well overall.

on the team showing greater game management in the second half…
We’re young, so there’s going to be mistakes and there’s going to be things that we need to improve on, but I feel like under Freddie we’re maturing so much and we’re gaining more game management in every training session and every game, and I feel like there’s a big improvement since the start of the season.

on what the team can learn from playing against League One opposition…
Well, obviously it prepares us for the big bad world out there and it prepares us for if we want to go out on loan to League One, we know what they’re already like because we’ve played against them in this good cup, so it’s good for us. 

on whether the team are starting to show a greater understanding of Ljungberg’s philosophy…
Yeah, we’re understanding it more because it’s a different formation to what we played last season and at the start we were questioning it and battling with each other because we won the league last season, so it’s hard to understand what he wanted us to do, but now we're getting used to it it’s so much better and it’s brilliant.

on his personal goals for the remainder of the season…
Obviously i need to continue playing well, continue scoring goals and carry on working hard really. I’m obviously trying to get into Unai’s side and get into the first-team and break in, because last season I played a few games and I need to try and make my mark. If that doesn’t happen then I’ll maybe go on loan, but I’m not sure and I’ll see whatever football brings me.

Post-Match Report

U-23s: Blackburn 0-0 Arsenal - Report


Our under-23s extended their unbeaten run to four Premier League 2 fixtures on Monday night despite going down to 10 men early in the second half at Ewood Park.

It was the hosts who started out on top, with Deyan Iliev forced into a number of early saves.

Willem Tomlinson’s curling effort from the edge of the area was parried to safety, before Jack Rodwell’s towering goalbound header was denied by an instinctive save.

On the half-hour mark Dan Butterworth slipped Joe Nuttall through on goal down the right, but once again, Iliev was quick to react and clear the danger. 

Freddie Ljungberg would have hoped to see his rotated side impose themselves on the Rovers defence after the break, but just three minutes into the second half, Charlie Gilmour was shown a straight red card for kicking out at Lewis Travis. 

Joe Willock then fired wide from 25 yards, before Tomlinson’s effort from the edge of the box was held well by Iliev.

But while the game remained goalless, there was plenty of drama in the closing stages.

Hayden Carter saw red for hacking down Willock on the edge of the box in the 85th minute, before Willock himself had a golden opportunity to seal all three points.

Our No 8 raced into the box and fired at goal from close range, but Andy Fisher produced a stunning diving save to keep the score level.


We will now turn our attention to our Premier League 2 clash with Liverpool on Friday.

The game will take place at Meadow Park with kick-off at 7pm (UK time).


‘That’s the best full game I’ve seen from them’

Our under-21s beat Coventry City 3-0 on Wednesday night - and Freddie Ljungberg believes that it was our strongest performance of the season so far.

Emile Smith Rowe broke the deadlock in the fourth minute, before Eddie Nketiah and Joe Willock scored late in the second half to ensure that we left the Ricoh Arena with all three points.

We spoke to Ljungberg after the final whistle - and this is what he said:

on marking 20 years since signing for the club with a win...
I’ll have to say thanks to the boys. It was a great day!

on their positive start and handling some late pressure in the first half...
That’s what we talk about and this is why I wanted to play in this tournament. This is men’s football and they need to understand that sometimes you get under pressure and it’s a different kind of football. They crossed the ball a lot in the later stages of the first half and we dealt with it, and that’s part of the football. Of course when it comes to the beginning we want to be offensive, we want to play football and get at it and keep the ball, so the boys did great.

on his side showing greater game management in the second half…
Yeah, exactly. Even in the end of the first half it was about game management too. Sometimes you won’t have the ball and you’ll have to do more defending and they did that. Then we talked about that they will get tired, there will be spaces and you have to be brave and play out of the back to get space, so they did everything and I’m really proud. I said to them that that’s the best full game that I’ve seen them play where it looked like proper football.

on the importance of finding the right balance between youth and experience…
In general terms I think it’s important in under-23s or under-21s to find a mix and if you look in Germany they have some much older players to give some leadership and understanding for the young players and almost be the coach on the pitch, so it’s good of course, but we had quite a lot of young players and we didn’t have a problem with the rules because they’re quite complicated, but it was easy!

on the experience of playing against a League One side…
It’s great - it’s invaluable! Like I said, this is what I think is most important for my boys. They played against grown up players and you could see that. Sometimes there were harder tackles and they’re not physically as strong as their opponents, so they had to work on other thing.

on Joe Willock’s performance…
He played really well and he’s a very good player, but today we shouldn’t just bring out Joe. There were other players that made great contributions and I’m just very proud of them all.

Post-Match Report

U-21s: Coventry City 0-3 Arsenal - Report

Our under-21s won 3-0 against Coventry City in their first-ever Checkatrade Trophy clash on Wednesday night.


Emile Smith Rowe, Eddie Nketiah and Joe Willock all found the net as Freddie Ljungberg – 20 years to the day since he signed for the club himself – presided over an impressive 3-0 victory at the Ricoh Arena.

It would take us just four minutes to break the deadlock, thanks to a fine finish from Smith Rowe inside the box.

Our playmaker stifled Coventry’s build-up play and won the ball high up the pitch, before receiving the ball once more on the right wing and finding the back of the net with a low, right-footed strike. 

The hosts then went on to enjoy a spell of possession, carving open a number of half-chances. Amadou Bakayoko failed to hit the target with a powerful header from six yards out, before forcing Deyan Iliev into a difficult save from the edge of the box.

Smith Rowe then came close to his second on the stroke of half-time, but Liam O’Brien was quick to react and parried the ball to safety.

Robbie Burton tried his luck with a half-volley that was turned behind for a corner, before Zech Medley fired his first-time effort wide from inside the box.

We continued to apply pressure on the hosts and with 13 minutes remaining Nketiah doubled our advantage. Former Gunner Abu Ogogo undercooked a back-pass which set substitute Nketiah through on goal – and our young forward made no mistake in finding the bottom right corner with a composed finish.

Coventry were failing to contain our attacking talent, and in the final minute, Willock rounded off the scoring with a dinked effort into the top left corner from inside the six yard box. 


We now turn our attention to our Premier League 2 clash with Blackburn Rovers on Monday, September 17.

The game will take place at Ewood Park with kick-off at 7pm (UK time).