Pre-Match Report

U-23s: West Ham United v Arsenal - The Brief

Arsenal Under-23s

Our under-23s have the chance to lift the Premier League 2 title when they travel to the London Stadium on Friday night.


After Leicester City’s 4-1 defeat at Sunderland on Sunday, the Premier League 2 title race has now swung in our favour.


Sat two points clear of second-placed Liverpool with a superior goal difference going into the final game of the season, a draw against West Ham United would see us claim the trophy - providing Leicester aren’t victorious against Derby on Monday and Liverpool do not beat Chelsea by more than two goals on May 8.

Under-23s celebrate against Zagreb

The odds are certainly stacked in our favour. We have won 12 of our 21 games this season, only tasting defeat on six occasions, and have scored more goals than any other team in the division.


If we can continue our free-flowing attacking form on Friday night, then we will be lifting the trophy in east London.


Currently fifth in the table, West Ham’s second string have enjoyed a more successful campaign than their first team, but have still endured many ups and downs throughout the campaign.


A strong start in their opening three games was followed by a heavy defeat at Leicester and a tough evening against Liverpool, but they bounced back to produce a four-match unbeaten streak.


More shock losses would follow, though, including a 5-1 defeat at home to Derby County and a 3-0 reverse to Swansea City, but they have rediscovered their best form over the past couple of months.


Convincing wins at Liverpool, Manchester City and Everton have filled Terry Westley’s side full of confidence again, and we will need to be at our best to pick up three points at the London Stadium.


After getting a first taste of Premier League football last weekend, Joe Willock will be keen to build on that experience.


The 18-year-old midfielder was handed his competition debut against Newcastle United at St James’ Park and, although we ultimately slipped to defeat, he impressed with his assured passing and athletic performance.

It would have no doubt been a learning curve for the teenager, too. Although it wasn’t his first senior appearance - he was a regular in the early rounds of our Carabao Cup and Europa League campaigns - there is still a long way to go before Willock forces himself into our first team on a regular basis.


For now, though, it’s all about performing for our under-23s and, with 15 appearances in all competitions for Steve Gatting’s side, it’s an opportunity for him to firmly establish himself as one of this country’s finest young midfield talents.


Vlad Dragomir scored a brace and Eddie Nketiah added a third as we saw off the Hammers in our reverse fixture at Meadow Park back in November.


It only took five minutes for Dragomir to break the deadlock, rising highest to head Josh Dasilva’s free-kick past Nathan Trott, before he latched onto Joe Willock’s teasing ball to slot past the Hammers’ keeper once more.

The Romania youth international had a chance to seal his hat-trick after half-time when Tolaji Bola whipped in a dangerous cross, but he could not stretch far enough at the far post.


We didn’t have to wait much longer for our third goal, though. Finding himself unmarked in the box, Nketiah smashed home from close range to pick up a well-earned goal and a deserved three points.


We will be providing updates on our Twitter account, @Arsenal.


Kick-off is at 7pm (UK time)

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