1 of 3

Willock - I'm learning the defensive side now

Our under-23s have enjoyed a strong start to the season, with four wins in five games, and continued their fine form on Friday night against Leicester City. Speaking after the game with, Joe Willock told of how he's evolving his game.

on the performance...
It was a hard game, some games go like that, you have to just grind it out. I thought the boys did well. I did well in parts. It was a good game.

on taking a different approach against a physical Leicester side...
I just had to focus on the defensive side of the game more than I usually do. For set-pieces I had to be in the right position, but I’m learning to do it so, it’s good for me. 

on almost conceding near the end...
We had to just stay in there, we had our backs against the ropes in the late stages, but that’s how it goes sometimes. You just have to grind it out.

one the good start to the season...
It means a lot, I know it’s still early, but we mean to go on [like that] so we’re just going to carry on fighting and hopefully get something out of the season.

on the U-23s game v Everton next week...
We know it’s going to be another hard game. They like to go direct and we’re just going to have to prepare for it at the weekend and go again.

on the League Cup game v Doncaster...
I’m always ready to grab my chance with two hands, so if it comes on Wednesday I will play my best. I’m looking forward to the next game, the next under-23s game, but if that comes as well I’ll be grateful.

Post-Match Report

U-23s: Arsenal 1-0 Leicester City - Report


Our under-23s continued their strong start to the new Premier League 2 season with a narrow 1-0 win against Leicester on Friday. 

Eddie Nketiah had the first opportunity to score just a minute in, but saw his drilled strike tipped wide by Daniel Iversen for a corner.

Not long after, the Foxes soon created their own chance on goal, when George Thomas sent a low shot from the edge of the penalty area narrowly wide of the far post.

Although the visitors had enjoyed the opening exchanges of the game, it was Steve Gatting’s side who took the lead on the half-hour mark when Osei-Tutu broke free down the right channel and fired in a dangerous ball. With Chuba Akpom waiting, Darnell Johnson inadvertently put the ball into his own net.  

Soon after, we almost scored a second when Akpom sent a searching cross to the far post. Reiss Nelson made a run from deep to meet the ball and flung himself towards it, but wasn’t able to make contact.

The chances kept coming for us, as Nketiah sent a powerful shot from long range, only to see his effort tipped over the bar by Iversen.

Shortly after the interval Nketiah made sure to let the visitors know that there would be no let up when he fired a low shot that Iverson saved. 

It wasn’t until the 70th minute that the next good opportunity of the game arrived, with the chance this time falling to Akpom. The striker picked up the ball on the left hand-side and cut inside to shoot, but dragged his shot wide.

With full-time nearing, Leicester’s Keirnan Dewsbury-Hall came close to netting an equaliser, but was denied spectacularly by a diving Matt Macey.

In the dying minutes the visitors again almost found the goal they were searching for in a goal-mouth scramble, which resulted in Macey gratefully grasping on to the ball on his line.


Up next is an away trip to Everton on September 25. The third-placed side face Derby County on Monday night and will be hoping to keep up with the pace at the top of the table. 


The result means that Gatting’s side are joint top of PL 2 with Liverpool, who play West Ham away from home on Monday night.


U-23s: Manchester United 0-2 Arsenal


Premier League Player of the Month Reiss Nelson scored his sixth goal in four games to help our under-23s beat Manchester United.

The England youth international curled home a free-kick before Josh Dasilva scored from a similar set-piece as we we secured all three points at Leigh Sports Village.


Steve Gatting made just one change to our starting line-up for our visit to Manchester United, with Ryan Huddart returning to goal in the place of Hugo Keto, who impressed in our previous fixture against Liverpool.

Marcus McGuane, Julio Pleguezuelo and Ainsley Maitland-Niles lined up in defence, while Jordi Osei-Tutu and Dasilva filled in on the wings, with Joe Willock and Jeff Reine-Adelaide starting in the middle, in behind Nelson and Eddie Nketiah, who supported Chuba Akpom leading the line.


From kick-off we were keen to show our intentions and just moments into the tie, Nelson struck the post. The in-from forward made a great run from deep to meet Nketiah’s squared ball inside the penalty area and gave United an early warning with his effort, which fired off of the woodwork and out of play.

Encouraged by our impressive start to the tie, we attacked with confidence and once again came close to scoring, with Akpom this time almost giving us the lead. Nelson played a fine ball through to Maitland-Niles, who in turn squared the ball to Akpom in the middle. The striker, however, couldn’t quite get the contact he would have hoped for and United’s goalkeeper Keiran O’Hara was able to block smother the ball.

Shortly after the half-hour mark we opened the scoring through Nelson, who fired in a fantastic free-kick on the left corner of the penalty area. The 17-year-old curled the ball wonderfully into the top corner, leaving O’Hara with no chance, and in turn bagged his sixth goal in four games this season.

Just a few minutes later, we doubled our lead through another great free-kick, with Dasilva this time firing the ball in from the right corner of box. The 18-year-old sent a dipping shot up over United’s wall and just inside the near post to beat O’Hara  once again.


Following the interval United attacked with more menace as they searched for a route back into the tie. The hosts came close to doing just that through half-time substitute Zachary Dearnley, who Indy Boonan’s head-on at the far post, but could only poke the ball agonisingly wide of the post.

With the full-time whistle nearing, the final great chance of the match fell to United’s James Wilson, who received the ball with Pleguezuelo between himself and the goal, turned in one swift motion and dinked a shot at goal only for Huddart to rush out to deny him.