Academy

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Interview

‘We were athletic, technical and mentally strong'

Ken Gillard

Ken Gillard was full of praise for our under-18s on Thursday night following their 5-2 win over Tottenham Hotspur in the FA Youth Cup.

With the scores deadlocked after 90 minutes, we delivered a thrilling attacking performance in extra time, scoring three goals inside 15 minutes.

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

on the team performance…
I’m delighted for the boys to come through. In the first half we were poor and they moved the ball much better than us. We were poor both on and off the ball and we made some incorrect decisions off the ball especially. But in the second half it was a much improved performance. We tweaked one or two things at half-time and stepped on to them a little bit. We wanted to make it uncomfortable for them and that’s what we did. We were better with the ball as well and that was good, we created a lot of chances. But again, it was touch and go because it was 2-2, they had chances, we had chances, but then going into extra time I was confident because I thought they were tiring a bit and we have more athleticism in the team. I fancied us in extra time, but I’m just delighted for the boys. There were some really good performances out there.

on extra time…
Athleticism is one thing, but then there’s the execution and cleverness of the final pass, where they think you’re going to shoot but then you cut it back for the finish. We were athletically, technically good and being mentally strong helps too. We had an all-round good performance and the subs that came on were very good as well. Mazeed Ogungbo, a 16-year-old at the back, played very, very well at the left side of centre half, and then we had quality in the top half of the pitch that can cause any team trouble at this level.

on some crucial tackles in the second half…
It was a real team effort. It’s not just the starting team either. We had some lads who are fit who weren’t in the team today that were disappointed not to play, but they were all in the dressing room together delighted to be part of it because it’s a big team effort from all the hard work we’ve done since the beginning of the season. They want to be part of this. They had a taste of it last year and they want to go on this year and keep going as far as we can in the competition.

on the atmosphere at Meadow Park…
I was just talking to Arthur who was getting a bit of stick from the Tottenham fans behind the goal, which was great for him, so it’s part of his learning experience playing in front of crowds and playing under lights against a good opposition. It’s all about making them better players so that they can hopefully go on to have a career here at Arsenal.

on Chelsea and Tottenham already being knocked out of the competition…
Every game you play is going to be tough in this competition. We’ve got West Brom in the next round I believe and they were a very difficult team to play against earlier this season. We just need to regroup, see how we are and hopefully get one or two injured players back because that will make us a little bit stronger. We just need to focus on the next game and see where we go from there.

on Bukayo Saka…
First of all he’s a very good human being. He’s a great person whether he’s playing with the first team, the under-23s or with the under-18s, and I’m sure that if you asked him to play for the under-16s he’d go and do it with a smile on his face! He’s a very good player and a great person with a top attitude. There were some very good performances out there, it was a real team performance and we’re all very, very proud of them. 

Post-Match Report

Youth Cup: Arsenal 5-2 Tottenham - How it happened

WHAT HAPPENED 

We twice came from behind to secure a dramatic 5-2 win over Tottenham Hotspur and book our place in the fifth round of the FA Youth Cup.

Strikes from Ben Cottrell and Bukayo Saka ensured that the tie went to extra time, before three goals inside 15 minutes guaranteed our progress.

Despite starting strong and instantly placing the visitors under pressure, it was Tottenham who opened the scoring.

Troy Parrot found space down the left wing and squared the ball to Armando Shashoua, who was left with the simple task of firing into an empty net - but their lead wouldn’t last long.

Following some slick passing on the edge of the box, Cottrell wriggled free of his marker and fired into the top corner for his third goal in as many matches.

Both sides continued to attack as the half-time whistle edged nearer, but once again, it was the visitors who took took the lead.

Paris Maghoma received the ball 15 yards from goal and picked out J’Neil Bennett, who fired past Arthur Okonkwo at the far post.

Xavier Amaechi then came close to an equaliser on the stroke of half-time, but his powerful left-footed effort was pushed away to safety.

Amaechi continued to threaten after the break and following a darting run into the area, the 18-year-old was brought down by Josh Oluwayemi. The referee was left with no other choice than to point to the spot - and Saka was there to convert from 12 yards. 

Shortly after Mark McGuinness made a stunning last-ditch tackle to deny the visitors a third, before Balogun’s powerful effort was saved.

It was end-to-end football in the closing stages, but with neither side able to carve open one last opportunity, the game went to extra time.

It was here when our attacking intensity and fitness paid off. Amaechi gave us the lead for the first time with a simple finish from close range, before Balogun doubled our advantage from six yards.

In the second half of extra time Saka scored the pick of the goals as he received the ball on the edge of the box and fired a stunning effort into the top corner from 20 yards.

WHAT’S NEXT 

Ken Gillard’s side are in U-18 Premier League action against Leicester City on Thursday, January 24.

The game will take place at Leicester’s training ground with kick-off at 7pm (UK time)

Interview

Ljungberg That was exactly how we want to play

Ljungberg

Freddie Ljungberg was a happy man on Monday night as we ran out 5-1 winners over Manchester City in the Premier League 2. 

Heading into this fixture we found ourselves without a win in seven, but it was the way we secured victory that pleased our head coach most. 

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

on our dominant first-half performance...
I’m so pleased. It was exactly what we worked on in the week and how we want to play football. We’re starting to get some boys back from injury and stuff, so that helps and we were playing against a very good City side, who play some very good football. Of course as a coach when you see a performance like this, you’re very happy.

on Nketiah bringing out the best in those around him…
Of course he does. He has experience and sometimes we play some really good football, but it goes up and down when we have some experience in the side. It helps to have someone that you can look up to a bit and see how they need to work. All 23 of our players work really hard and players like Eddie and Joe set the standard for everybody else. That’s the level you have to be at.

on our fluidity in attack…
It’s so nice. It’s similar to when we started the season and were showing how we want to play football. We had amazing rotations and amazing movement, and when we didn’t have the ball we were locking onto them and making life difficult for City, so as a coach you smile.

on conceding so soon after the break…
We spoke about this at half-time and of course we did it against Brighton, so we said don’t be silly when we start the second half, be solid and be tactical. We need to do that and I don’t care what the score is, I don’t want us to concede. But we reacted and went on to dominate in the second half.

on Mavropanos’ performance…
He’s been injured since the summer and he came through well I thought. He was very happy that he could play some football again after being out for six months, so we’re all happy for him. He had minutes on him that we agreed from the beginning, so there were no injuries or anything, we just took him off.

on whether he’s desperate for our next game to come…
Yes, of course it would be nice to play again, but that’s how the league works. There’s gaps and sometimes you play five games in 17 days, and then you have a gap for a few weeks, but the main thing for us is that you see progress, the way we want to play with energy and good rotations. I’m really, really happy.

Post-Match Report

U-23s: Arsenal 5-1 Man City: How it happened

Saka

WHAT HAPPENED

We returned to winning ways in the Premier League 2 on Monday night with a dominant 5-1 win over Manchester City.

Bukayo Saka, Eddie Nketiah and Xavier Amaechi formed a thrilling attack, while Dinos Mavropanos made his return from injury.

For the first time since November, Freddie Ljungberg had a full strength frontline to choose from - and it certainly showed on the night.

After receiving the ball on the left wing early on, Saka beat his marker and fired into the far corner for his sixth goal in all competitions this season.

City’s defence were struggling to handle our runs in behind, and shortly after we doubled our advantage.

Amaechi stormed into the box and forced Jayden Bruff into a late tackle, leaving the referee with no other choice than to point to the penalty spot. Robbie Burton stepped up and made no mistake with the finish. 

Amaechi then fired a curling free-kick narrowly wide, before Deyan Iliev was called into action for the first time on the half-hour mark. 

We dominated the first half from start to finish and with less than a minute remaining, Joe Willock made it three. Nketiah’s effort was saved and dropped ag the midfielder’s feet inside the box and he was left with the simple task of firing into an empty net.

However, it was the visitors who struck next after the restart through Luke Bolton, who converted from close range following two stunning saves from Iliev.

Less than five minutes later, we provided an instant response through Saka, who scored with a first-time finish from a loose ball inside the area.

City’s defence continued to face attack after attack, and in the 67th minute Amaechi grabbed his reward for a fine performance.

Nketiah beat his marker on the right wing and picked out Amaechi, who fired home from close range. The 18-year-old winger has now scored in his last two PL2 outings.

WHAT IT MEANS

PL2 table

WHAT’S NEXT

Our next PL2 fixture is against West Ham United on Monday, February 4.

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