Academy

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Interview

‘We were tremendous… I’m extremely proud’

Ljungberg

Our under-21s secured their qualification for the second round of the Checkatrade Trophy with a dominant 3-1 win over Forest Green Rovers.

Freddie Ljungberg’s side shipped six goals to Cheltenham Town in their previous outing of the competition last week - but on Wednesday night they delivered an organised defensive showing coupled with fluid attacking play to secure all three points.

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

on our dominant first-half performance…
We were tremendous. I’m extremely proud of the boys. In the last two games we played really well but made a number of individual mistakes and that cost us games. Today we talked about that part of the game and needing to put that aside and play our football - and that’s what we did. They were mature, created so many chances and I don’t know where to start, I’m very happy.

on starting strong after the restart…
We talked about that a lot. We wanted to play football and be the side that’s going forward, but sometimes you have to defend well and you have to be together. That’s part of football and we did that really well today. They’re great football players and we’re trying to give them the foundations of how we want to play and they’re using that all the time.

on our defence standing strong…
They were very solid and very good and that’s what we ask of them. Up front we created so many chances and after the game we spoke and said we had eight one on one’s against their goalkeeper, so he had a great game, but we created so much.

on Saka creating both of Willock’s goals…
He has a lot of pace and he’s very young, so we try to be careful with him. He can change games and he’s very modest. He does his job well, he listens and everyday he gets better, so he’s a pleasure to work with.

on Zelalem making his return from injury…
He’s had some problems and I wanted to get him on the pitch today, but he could only play 45 minutes. That was his maximum, so hopefully nothing happens to him after the game now - and of course if you haven’t played for a long time it can be hard to match the tempo, but he did really well for the circumstances that he’s in and hopefully he’ll kick on from there.

on the tactical changes that we made following back-to-back defeats…
Tactically we changed things and played with a back three and that created some difficulties for them and it also gave us some stability at the back. It sounds bad, but when we played against Chelsea and we lost we played offensively the best football that we’ve played all year and we created so many chances, but we made mistakes and that’s we talked about this week. I told the boys to keep on playing but we have to stop the mistakes, and they did that. It was tremendous.

Interview

Willock - Saka is brilliant, he can be unstoppable

Bukayo Saka

Joe Willock scored twice in a fine midfield performance during our 3-1 win over Forest Green Rovers on Wednesday night - but he was quick to praise his 17-year-old teammate Bukayo Saka afterwards.

The skilful winger won the penalty that allowed Willock to open the scoring, before assisting his second of the evening with an inch-perfect pass behind the Rovers defence.

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

on our first-half performance… 
I thought we had to be mature because we know that they’re older and more mature than us, so we had to turn them over a couple of times to earn the right to play and I thought we did that well. We stuck to the game plan.

on controlling the game in the second half… 
Obviously there’s still a lack of maturity in our team because we’re still very young, but if we cut that out then we can continue to be a brilliant side.

on Bukayo Saka setting up both of his goals…
He’s still young but he’s a brilliant player. We all know in the camp that he’s one of the most talented players we have in the team. He’s very fast and if you play to his strengths he’s unstoppable at times.

on how he helps Saka… 
Obviously I have to keep him grounded every day in training, but I just tell him to express himself and I try to protect him on the pitch because he gets a lot of kicks. He’s a very skilful player.

Joe Willock

on Ljungberg giving him freedom to push forward…
Freddie’s given me a lot of freedom this season and he’s told me to get in the box and score goals, but I’ve also got to get back! I’m just expressing myself, doing what he’s telling me and I’m loving it.

on what Ljungberg has taught him…
He’s taught me so much. He’s telling me about different positions to pick up in the game so that I can get on the ball, and he’s taught me more defensive work like rotations too. I’m really enjoying working under Freddie.

on what was different compared to our previous two showings…
We had a little dip after our unbeaten run, but we had to bounce back. We knew that before the game it was going to be a tough one and we knew that we had to be strong and not concede, even if we have to work for the goals, we knew that we can’t concede early, so we done that and we’re going to push on from here.  

Post-Match Report

U-21s: Forest Green 1-3 Arsenal - How it happened

WHAT HAPPENED

We secured our place in the second round of the Checkatrade Trophy on Wednesday night, as we ran out 3-1 winners over Forest Green.

The opening exchanges proved to be a tightly contested midfield battle, with Gedion Zelalem and Joe Willock making a number of crunching tackles in the middle of the park. 

Shortly after Tyreece John-Jules’ left-footed effort stung the gloves of James Montgomery, before Bukayo Saka beat his man and forced the Rovers keeper into a fine save from inside the six-yard box. 

John-Jules and Saka then came close once more from close range, before the latter produced a moment of sheer quality to open the scoring.

The 17-year-old winger carried the ball from just inside the Rovers half and stormed into their box, before forcing a foul from George Williams. Willock stepped up and made no mistake in finding the top  corner from 12 yards. 

With less than three minutes remaining before the break, Saka played an inch-perfect pass behind the hosts’ defence to pick out Willock, who found the back of the net for his second of the evening. 

We maintained our attacking intensity in the second half - and seconds after the restart, Saka and Trae Coyle were denied twice in quick succession by Montgomery.

But despite seemingly taking control of the game, the hosts pulled one back on the hour mark through substitute Dayle Grubb.

Coyle then fired a powerful effort at goal following a fluid passing move, but his first-time volley was turned behind by Montgomery.

We continued to trouble the Rovers defence on the counter as the hosts pushed for an equaliser - and in the 85th minute John-Jules grabbed his reward for an impressive performance. Cohen Bramall delivered a dangerous cross to the far post and the 17-year-old applied the finishing touch from inside the six-yard box.

WHAT IT MEANS

We’ve advanced to the second round of the Checkatrade Trophy

Checkatrade Trophy table

WHAT’S NEXT

Our under-23s are in action against Derby County in the Premier League 2 on Monday, November 26.

The game will take place at Loughborough University Stadium with kick-off at 7pm (UK time).