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Saturday, 25 August 2012

Arsenal U21s continue 100% start to the season with 3-0 win over Blackburn

Terry Burton's side made it two wins from two for the Gunners in the reformatted U21 league. With the first Next Gen match of the year on Wednesday in mind, he made several changes from the team that beat Bolton the previous week, and this time decided to take advantage of the three over-age players rule, with Craig Eastmond and Sanchez Watt starting. Martin Angha came in at right back, and had a very good game, while Daniel Boateng partnered Ignasi Miquel at centre back. Chuba Akpom retained his place up front, but Kris Olsson was dropped to the bench and Serge Gnabry was not involved at all.

In truth, Blackburn offered very little in this game, and James Shea in the Arsenal goal barely had a save to make. Arsenal took the lead inside fifteen minutes through Sanchez Watt's clinical finish, after being played in by a defence splitting reverse ball by 19 year old Chuks Aneke.

The hosts were playing some good football, and were clearly far superior to their Blackburn counterparts. The Gunners' lead was almost doubled five minutes from half time, when Eastmond capitalised on an awful pass by the opposition defender and played in Watt. The forward unleashed a rasping effort which the goalkeeper did well to palm away, only for the ball to fall at the feet of Aneke who, with the goal at his mercy, had his shot miraculously cleared off the line by Blackburn's Raheem Henley.

On the brink of half time, however, Arsenal did double their advantage. Conor Henderson played a lovely ball inside the opposition full back to the onrushing Angha, whose cross was dummied by Akpom and fell to Thomas Eisfeld, who dispatched confidently. The German clearly has a natural instinct of being in the right place at the right time, and continues his fine goalscoring form.

The torrential weather conditions certainly contributed to the lacklustre second half, and there was little to get excited about. The atmosphere became subdued as news of Robin van P€r$i€'s goal for Manchester United filtered through, but the 5,600 fans had something to cheer about after 70 minutes, when Henderson's long range shot deflected past Urwin in the Blackburn goal.

The fact that sixteen year old Chuba Akpom retained his position up front, forcing Sanchez Watt out wide, is a clear indication of how highly Burton rates him. The forward did well today, playing to his strengths. He held it up, brought others into the game and worked tirelessly, while also threatening with a couple shots. It's only a matter of time before he scores his first competitive reserve goal.

Thomas Eisfeld did well too, again deployed on the right side of midfield. In addition to his goal, the German contributed to most dangerous Arsenal moves, and was at times very difficult to defend against, with his clever bursts of movement. Goalscoring midfielders are revered at The Arsenal, and just as Freddie Ljungberg bows out of the game, we can have another one to look forward to.

Martin Angha was impressive at right back, despite having little to defend against. He acted as an auxiliary attacker to great effect, with several overlapping runs and crosses, including one that led to Arsenal's second.

There's not much else to report really. Henderson did well, and Ebecilio impressed again after coming on as a substitute. Arsenal's U18 side drew 2-2 away to Blackburn, with Jon Toral scoring again, while the U16s drew 1-1.

Next up for Burton's men teenagers is Marseille on Wednesday, in the first game of the new Next Gen series - a match these youngsters will relish.

'Till next time.

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Friday, 24 August 2012

The end of Project Youth? Non - just Wenger being pragmatic

There have been a few blogs written recently raising the question as to whether or not Arsene Wenger's 'Project Youth' has come to its end. It has not, in my opinion, and anyone who says it has is being shortsighted.

Indeed, there is an argument to suggest so; over the last two years, we have signed ten players over the age of 25. While this is a clear indication that Arsene is acknowledging the fact his side requires more experience to be successful, it does not signal the end of Project Youth per se.

In my view, this is just Wenger being pragmatic, for a change. He has realised his philosophy of developing academy players into a title-winning side has failed. That is why he has brought the likes of Mikel Arteta, Per Mertesacker and Lukas Podolski in. But this means he is just placing less reliance on his philosophy; not ending it. There is a difference.

I also think Wenger has realised he does not have enough time to carry on placing as much of an emphasis on his youth project. Fans are losing patience and demand success immediately. There is no long-term picture in the minds of so many supporters. And I think Wenger has adapted to the climate he is in and sought to almost appease his critics, whilst simultaneously improving the team - just not in the way he idealises.

So yes, ostensibly, there is reason to believe Wenger is ending his youth project. But my friends, this is incorrect. Had this been true, Barcelona starlets Jon Toral and Hector Bellerin would not have been brought in as part of the deal for Cesc Fabregas. Nor would teen sensations Kris Olsson and Kyle Ebecilio, or Gedion Zelalem and Serge Gnabry. Had this been true, the latter would not have been asked to join the first team training camp in Cologne. Why would we have bothered? Or what about 19 year old Thomas Eisfeld, signed last January from Dortmund; why would Wenger have signed him if he did not envisage a future for him at the club?

Let's put it this way: Kieran Gibbs, an academy graduate, would have been long gone had Wenger 'given up' on his youth ideology. He has been blighted with injuries and struggled to maintain any consistent level of performance. Now tell me, don't you think he'd have been replaced by a more experienced and, to put it bluntly, better player?

Wojceich Szczesny is another player who can support my argument. Here is a young man with natural leadership skills and maturity beyond his years. To give a 22 year old full responsibility as your club's number one 'keeper surely dispels the myth that Wenger no longer has faith in youth.  

Project Youth is a long term process. Indeed, it may have been temporarily suspended, due to the aforementioned reasons. But make no mistake, Wenger's legacy will continue and in years to come, our side will comprise of players such as Ryo Miyaichi, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Joel Campbell, Kris Olsson, Serge Gnabry, and so on.

While in the short-term, these players, barring Oxlade-Chamberlain, will face limited first team action, spending most of their time on loan or on the fringes, they will be there in the future, more or less, forming the nucleus of the next generation.

Look at Chelsea. They have an ageing side and have released some of their biggest names. But they didn't have any players to promote from within as replacements. Consequently they have spent astronomical sums of money again to rebuild their side, with players like Hazard and Oscar coming in.

Compare this to Arsenal. While I am no psychic and can't give a definitive answer as to how our current crop of young stars will develop, it is more than likely that in the future we will have a group of players who have come through the ranks and are ready to fill the gaps, with Oxlade-Chamberlain and Wilshere as the fulcrums in the side.

I do realise I am now somewhat speculating, but I'm doing so to prove my point; signing a group of experienced players does not end Wenger's youth project, his life and soul. It will remain with longevity, and players will continue to choose Arsenal for their faith in youth, as Cesc Fabregas did, as Aaron Ramsey did, and as Kris Olsson did.

Thank you for reading, follow me on Twitter and leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Arsenal's new coaching additions | EPPP info

Arsenal have confirmed that Pat Holland has replaced Steve Bould as manager of the U18 side. He is joined by former U16 manager Steve Gatting, who has been promoted to assistant professional development coach (essentially Holland's right hand man). 

Holland, a West Ham legend, has previous coaching experience with the youth teams of Tottenham (over 20 years ago) and also Leyton Orient. It was the latter who handed him his first managerial job in 1995, although it proved to be unsuccessful and he was sacked the following year. In recent times he has been employed as Chief Scout at Millwall and Milton Keynes Dons.

Former Arsenal player Kwame Ampadu was also introduced, being handed the role of youth development coach. Like Holland, Ampadu has a connection with Leyton Orient, having played for them between 1998-2000. His most recent job was U18 coach at Exeter City.

Arsenal's recent coaching additions are a consequence of the Premier League's new Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP), which ensures youth players receive the necessary time with coaches to maximise their potential in a footballing and academic sense. 

The FA realised too few clubs placed the appropriate emphasis on education for their youngsters, and have sought to rectify this (surprisingly proactive by their standards). Manchester City and indeed Arsenal were two of the best in this regard, but many other clubs were not of the same standard.

Not only does the EPPP aim to increase the number of homegrown players appearing for their side's first team, but also aid those who fail to make the grade.
"The Elite Player Performance Plan is a long-term strategy designed to take Premier League youth development to the next level", says Ged Roddy, Director of Youth at the Premier League.
"Widespread consultation has taken place across the game to address how a modernised youth system can be sustained which will provide the best platform to support the aspirations of our Home Grown Players to succeed in the biggest leagues", 
"The new system will create greater access to players so that they can receive more time to train and prepare effectively for a career in the Premier League". 
The old reserve league format has been completely revamped into a new U21 system, as many will know by now. Clubs are split into categories 1 to 4, with 1 hosting the elite. This is where Arsenal sit, in the same group as Bolton, Blackburn, Everton, West Brom, Reading, West Ham, and Norwich.

Three over-age players are allowed in each side, plus one over-age goalkeeper. This means first team players on their way back from injury can still gain match fitness in the second string, and also provides fringe players with an opportunity to impress.

So far, though, Terry Burton has opted to ignore this concession, leaving out players such as Sanchez Watt and Craig Eastmond for the likes of Serge Gnabry (17) and Chuba Akpom (16). Burton's faith in his younger players has been vindicated, with the latter pair shining despite still being eligible for Holland's U18 side.

"The new U21 Premier League addresses one of the most critical points - the transition from Academy football to the highest standards in the first team" 
- Richard Scudamore, Premier League Chief Executive 

It is difficult to judge how successful the change will be at this moment in time, but as the season progresses, assessments can start to be made.

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'Till next time

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Akpom's England U19 call up cements a terrific month for the youngster

Sixteen year old Arsenal forward Chuba Akpom has progressed from one level to the next in the past month.

After making his debut for Terry Burton's reserve side just four weeks ago, Akpom has now been called up to England's U19 squad, alongside players such as Nathan Redmond (Birmingham) and James Ward-Prowse (Southampton) - with the latter starting for The Saints against Premier League champions Manchester City last week.

England U19 manager Noel Blake is usually a good judge of talent, and his side will take on Germany in a friendly this September. It will be a stern test for Akpom, who has not ceased to impress so far and will be confident of continuing his fine form.

Playing for England's U19 side when just sixteen years old shouldn't be a problem for the striker, who first appeared for Arsenal U18s at fifteen. At this age he almost made the England U19 squad, but remained on standby.

Akpom's strengths are varied. At 6ft2, he has the physical attributes - especially when married with his excellent hold up play and awareness - to make an effective target man. He also has the vision and skill to excel on the left wing or indeed in the no.10 position, just behind the main striker.

Such a multi-faceted skillset is rare to find in a man so young, not to mention his high work rate and down-to-earth attitude.

I asked Chuba some questions:

On the last month..."Its been really good. I had a good pre-season, especially scoring on my debut for the reserves against Boreham Wood. My main focus is to keep this run of form going"

On his England call up..."I'm really honoured to be selected to play for England U19s at just 16 years of age. It will be a great experience, and highly beneficial for my development as a footballer" 

On familiar faces in the squad..."I'm good mates with Raheem Sterling, we play a lot of football together during the summer break. He is a great player, I'm glad we are in the same squad"

'Til next time, and remember to Follow me on Twitter.

You can follow Chuba here.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Report: Arsenal U21s 3-1 Bolton U21s

Terry Burton's U21 side played their first match in the reformatted reserve league against Bolton tonight.

After dominating much of the first half, Arsenal were dealt a major blow when goalkeeper Emi Martinez was deservedly shown a red card after bringing down Bolton's striker, who had just rounded him. The penalty was duly dispatched and the half finished 1-0 to the visitors.

Some Terry Burton words of wisdom must have done the trick at the interval, as his side came out almost rejuvenated in the second half, and didn't have to wait long for the equaliser.

Young German midfielder Thomas Eisfeld continued his impressive goalscoring record for the Gunners with a tap in after some tidy play between Serge Gnabry and Chuba Akpom - which resulted in the latter striking the woodwork.

Eisfeld seems to have a knack of being in the right place at the right time, as he showed tonight and also with his goals during the pre-season tour of Asia.

Conor Henderson then exhibited his expertise from dead ball situations, firstly with a superb free kick to make it 2-1, and then a thumping penalty to give the Gunners a two goal cushion.

The team showed tremendous character against a physical Bolton side, who had a man advantage for most of the game. Burton will be delighted with the response of his players after half time, and they obviously listened to what he had to say. Next up for the U21s is Blackburn on Saturday, which is also at The Emirates.

Player Focus (on most influential performers):

James Shea

The young goalkeeper was excellent after replacing Martinez in goal, at the expense of Kris Olsson. His first involvement was to pick the ball out the back of the net from a penalty but numerous impressive saves followed. Most notably, a double save Wojciech Szczsney would have been proud of. The ball was cut back to Bolton's striker and from no more than 10 yards out, shot straight at the keeper, who sprung to his feet instantly to block the rebound. First team goalkeeping coach Gerry Peyton will have been impressed.

Hector Bellerin

The Barca import played at right back today, and struggled defensively at times. He grew in confidence as the game progressed, however, offering more of an attacking threat. Having said that, he missed a glorious opportunity to give Arsenal the lead, after great work from Gnabry on the right. 

Nico Yennaris

Yennaris was deployed in central midfield, his natural position, and in my opinion was Arsenal's man of the match. Having performed for the first team on three occasions - including a match against Manchester United - Yennaris added real composure to the Arsenal midfield. 

He did the simple things excellently - which is easier said than done. He broke up play, distributed possession adroitly and made a couple bursting runs forward. For a man so small he is deceptively strong - particularly in his upper body, and was not afraid to put himself about. While most of the plaudits will be aimed at Conor Henderson and Serge Gnabry, I thought Yennaris delivered a stellar performance this evening. 

"He's so good to play with", says Chuba Akpom, "he works hard and plays simple football".

Conor Henderson

The fulcrum in the side, Henderson cemented his impressive performance with two goals from dead ball situations, most notably a curling free kick from 20 yards out. 

An excellent passer of the ball, my only criticism - which I have noted after watching him in all the reserves' pre season friendlies this year - is that he tries to force play too often, constantly searching for the killer ball. As the saying goes, "football is simple yet the hardest thing to do is playing simple football". Nonetheless, Henderson played well. 

Serge Gnabry

Another fine performance from the 17 year old German, whose bullish runs and deceptive trickery are becoming somewhat of a trademark. He displayed his dexterity as a winger with an excellent first time cross with his weaker left foot in the first half, followed by some great pieces of movement to spin in behind the opposing full back. 

The mouths of the 4,000+ Arsenal fans were watered after a scintillating piece of skill by Gnabry in the second half, where he rode a tackle and then, in the blink of an eye, turned magnificently past three defenders and delivered a dangerous cross. 

Thomas Eisfeld

Like his compatriot, Eisfeld impressed again, despite struggling to impose himself on the game in spells.  He demonstrated his tremendous technical ability on numerous occasions, for example a little burst of pace from midfield followed by a Fabregas-esq scooped through ball which almost created a goal for Akpom. 

Again, he tended to drift inside from his wide right position, suggesting he is most comfortable when operating centrally. He scored the equaliser and was one of Arsenal's most dangerous attackers, so will have impressed the onlooking Arsene Wenger. 

Chuba Akpom

As ever, 16 year old Akpom delivered an industrious performance, and deserved a goal. Despite several cynical fouls from behind, leaving his ankles "destroyed", the striker continued to hassle and harry, and displayed his willingness to run in behind.

In the opening stages, Akpom played a cute reverse ball into Gnabry and the German should have scored. But for a fine last ditch tackle from Bolton's Niall Maher, Akpom would have given Arsenal the lead, and was unlucky not to score later on after his shot hit the post - only for Eisfeld to convert the rebound.

Akpom played to his strengths and has made huge progress in the last couple months. Evidently, he is making a firm impression on Terry Burton.

Thanks for reading and feel free to Follow me on Twitter.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Which U18s can Arsenal fans expect to see in this year's Capital One Cup?

New reserve team boss Terry Burton has had a mixed start to his reign, winning twice, drawing once and losing on the solitary occasion. Despite this, pre-season for Arsenal's second string has provided the fans with some exciting glimpses of what is to come. I was present for all the reserves' pre-season fixtures, excluding Chesham, and hope to provide some insight as to who could make the step up to first team football this year. 

Chuba Akpom 

Akpom with Neymar

The 16 year old excelled in his reserve team debut a fortnight ago, in the 3-1 victory over non-league side Boreham Wood. The England U16 international is most effective as a centre forward, and possesses a balance between technical and physical prowess rare to find in a man so young. 

He confidently dispatched his penalty against the Hertfordshire side and impressed with his hold up play and work rate. The following week, in the 0-0 draw at Stevenage, Akpom struggled to impose himself on the game, exacerbated by the lack of service he received.  Despite this, he continued hassling and harrying and was ever willing to run in behind, so he should take encouragement from that performance. 

Akpom was rested for the midweek game against Dartford, but received a massive break the following day as he was asked to train with the first team. Chuba told me he 'fitted in well' alongside stars such as Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski, showing how far he has developed as a player in the last year or so.

Akpom entered the fray after an hour in the 6-2 thrashing of Chesham and impressed again, posing a constant threat to the opposition defence and scoring in the process. Two goals in his first three matches for the reserves will certainly please Burton and his coaching staff, and place the youngster in contention for Capital One Cup football this term.  

Kris Olsson

Like Akpom, Olsson made his debut for the reserves against Boreham Wood. He handled himself impressively from his central position, constantly seeking possession and trying to create. The 17 year old scored a delicate lob which epitomised his ability, vision, awareness, and confidence. The latter trait is emphasised by the fact he didn't feel nervous 'at all' when taking his penalty vs Southampton for the first team - which he scored with aplomb. 

His physical strength is arguably the only thing restricting him at the moment from featuring in the Capital One Cup. On the other hand, the coaching staff had enough confidence in the Swede's ability to select him for the Southampton friendly. 

Against Stevenage, Olsson struggled to influence proceedings in what was a dire match. He publicly stated how disappointed he was with his individual performance, although he was playing a solid team and shouldn't feel disheartened. 

He did not come off the bench against Dartford, but grabbed another 60 minutes at Chesham. I spoke to Chuba and he picked out Kris (and also 16 year old first year scholar Jack Jebb) as the star performers, as well as himself. 

The young Swede, touted 'the next Tomas Rosicky', is certainly one to keep a keen eye on.

Serge Gnabry

At 17 years of age, attacking midfielder Serge Gnabry is one of the most exciting prospects at Arsenal. With a physique comparable to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, the youngster would acclimatise to the physical demands of first team football better than others.
Gnabry was one of the stars of Steve Bould's U18 side last year, scoring seven goals in ten games - a phenomenal return for a midfielder. The then reserve team manager Neil Banfield gave Serge his chance in the second string where he continued to impress, scoring twice in six appearances. 
In the opening 45 minutes against Dartford last Wednesday, Gnabry was the most dangerous player on the pitch, wreaking havoc upon the opposition defence with his directness and trickery. 

In the 0-0 draw with Stevenage the previous week, the German provided some of Arsenal's only moments of quality, notably a jinking run resulting in a shot which hit the bar. 

Though still eligible for Arsenal's U18 side, Gnabry will feature more prominently in Burton's reserves this season, and the fact he has traveled to Cologne with the first team is a clear indication of Wenger's intention to use him in the Capital One Cup. 

Martin Angha

The Swiss defender was the most prominent figure in Neil Banfield's reserve side last season, with 22 appearances. Despite his preferred position of centre half, Angha is equally as adept at fullback, where he possesses enough technical ability to provide additional fire power to the attack. 

The defender, who turns nineteen in January, was deployed at centre back in the game against Boreham Wood, delivering a solid and composed performance.

Burton decided to utilise Angha at right back the following week against Stevenage. However in the opening stages the youngster was guilty of over playing in congested areas near his own goal. This is an observation worth noting, as he has previously been criticised for lapses in concentration. Although this will improve with experience, it could be a possible hindrance to his prospects of first team football this season. However, he grew in confidence and composure as the game progressed, and his side kept a clean sheet.  

Angha has trained with the first team on several occasions, and his versatility is certainly valued. He was also one of the select few who were chosen to train with the Brazil national side, showing he is regarded highly by his coaches.

Moreover, had it not been for a registration issue, Angha would have traveled to Olympiacos as part of the first team squad for their final Champions League group stage fixture last year.

Clearly, the youngster has talent, and if he is not sent out on loan this season, could well feature in the Cup.

Kyle Ebecilio

Ebecilio is also a versatile player, who is normally deployed in midfield. He can be effective in both central and wide positions, impressing with his passing ability, tackling and power. He also provides a useful source of goals from midfield. His idol, he has said, is Alex Song, and their styles are not too dissimilar. 

Having played football in Holland, graduating from the Feyenoord academy, it is no surprise to see such a rounded individual. An alternative training method used in Holland is to play youngsters out of position so they can develop other skills and become more complete footballers. You can read more about this subject here

The Dutchman's reputation was significantly enhanced after last year's U17 European Championships. Despite invariably playing as a defensive midfielder, Ebecilio was the tournament's highest goalscorer with three goals, and after his side's 5-2 demolition of Germany in the final, was awarded the 'Golden Player' prize, following in the footsteps of Cesc Fabregas and Wayne Rooney.

Despite his goalscoring excursions, Ebecilio, who finds the net almost once every six games for Arsenal's U18s, has been played predominantly at right back this year. Having been called up to the first team for the friendly against Southampton in this position, it is feasible that this is where he'll play if selected for the Cup, especially when you consider Arsenal's lack of depth in that area. 

However, despite impressing in an attacking sense, Ebecilio does not seem a natural defender, and Carl Jenkinson and Nico Yennaris are ahead of him as deputies to Bacary Sagna.

Ebecilio has over 20 appearances for Arsenal's second string and trained with the first team on several occasions. It is said that Arsene Wenger is contemplating including him in Cup football this season, so remember the name. 

'Til next time, and remember to Follow me on Twitter.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Arsenal squad announced for 2012/13 Next Gen Series

The provisional - and very long - Arsenal squad for the upcoming Next Gen series has been announced. A squad comprising of 18 of the players below will be chosen on each match day. The Gunners will face Olympiacos, Athletic Bilbao and Marseille in group six, and home fixtures will be played at Barnet's Underhill stadium.

I spoke to U18 star Kris Olsson not too long ago and asked him his thoughts on the tournament. This was his response:

To play against the best teams and players from your age group is always good and it develops you as a footballer. To get an experience to play in front of a crowd and maybe TV is also good, so I am really looking forward to it!

I am sure this is the general consensus around the whole group, and the tournament is a big step in the development of these young players. Here is the squad, as listed on the Next Gen website.


Reice Charles-Cook - 18

Josh Vickers - 16


Zach Fagan (CB) - 17

Elton Monteiro (CB) - 18

Sead Hajrovic (CB) - 19

Leander Siemann (CB) - 16

Martin Angha (CB) - 18

Arinse Uade (CB) - 16

Tom Dallison (CB) - 16

Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill (LB) - 16

Samir Bihmoutine (LB) - 18

Hector Bellerin (RB) - 17

Nico Yennaris (RB, DM) - 19

Kyle Ebecilio (RB, CM) - 18


Isaac Hayden (DM) - 17

Jordan Wynter (DM) -18

Kris Olsson (CM) - 17

Jon Toral (CM) - 17

Jack Jebb (CM) - 16

Josh Rees (RM) - 18

Thomas Eisfeld (AM) - 19

Serge Gnabry (AM) - 17

Chuks Aneke (AM) - 19


Phillip Roberts (ST) - 18

Nigel Neita (ST) - 18

Alfred Mugabo (RW) - 16

Tarum Dawkins (RW) - 16

Anthony Jeffrey (LW) - 17

Chuba Akpom (ST) - 16

Austin Lipman (ST) - 16

Zak Ansah (ST) - 18

Benik Afobe (ST) - 19

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Report: Dartford 2-1 Arsenal XI

Terry Burton's third match in charge of the reserves ended in disappointment, but there are positives to be taken. 

Firstly, Serge Gnabry, the 17 year old German who recently signed professional terms with the club, was outstanding in the first half. 

Deployed at left midfield, Gnabry was a constant threat to the Dartford defence with his pace, skill and directness. The youngster has only just returned from injury yet showed no signs of rustiness with his powerful runs and general tenacity. His ability to beat a man is aided by his robust physique - particularly in his upper body strength. 

From what I've seen, Gnabry has the necessary balance between physical and technical ability to warrant him a place on the bench for the Capital One Cup this season.

In the first half, the ball was passed to Gnabry out wide, and with his first touch, the youngster audaciously span it round the approaching defender, only to be tackled by a covering player. 

Several bullish runs into the box later, Gnabry picked the ball up in a central position and drove forward in typical fashion, leaving opposition players in his wake. He unleashed a dangerous shot which beat the keeper, but cannoned off the post. 

Unfortunately Gnabry failed to have a similar impact in the second half and was subbed for Jernade Meade after the hour mark. 

Thomas Eisfeld's performance is another reason to be positive. The German, back from touring Asia with the first team, was deployed on the right hand side of midfield. His footballing intelligence is evident when you watch him, with his subtle bursts of movement and clever reverse balls. He had a chance to score early on, when a cross from the impressive Samir Bihmoutine fell to him around 10 yards out, but his effort was blocked. 

The diminutive German's tendency to drift inside from the right is a strong indication that his natural position is a more central one. He is certainly one to look out for and is likely to feature in the Capital One Cup this season. 

Moreover, fullbacks Hector Bellerin and Samir Bihmoutine were impressive. The latter was excellent in complementing Gnabry's game, whose tendency to cut inside with his favoured right foot created space out wide. Thus, Bihmoutine would tirelessly overlap, providing a source of width for the side. He also delivered several dangerous crosses, while maintaining a solid game defensively. Similar can be said for Bellerin.

However, Sanchez Watt was again underwhelming. He scored a penalty, which he won himself after an excellent through ball by Conor Henderson, but overall showed a real lack of composure in his finishing.

Chuks Aneke, also back from the tour of Asia, lacked end product. On several occasions he received the ball on the edge of the box, but poor decision making let him down. However, the mental sharpness will come with more minutes, and he should take encouragement from the fact he is getting in positions where he can score or create goals.

A poor backpass by Swiss centre back Sead Hajrovic - hitherto criticised for a fragile concentration - handed Dartford the winner. A goalmouth scramble provided Arsenal with some hope of an equaliser late on, but the game finished 2-1, ending Burton's two-match unbeaten run as manager of the reserves. 

Arsenal XI dominated large parts of the first half but failed to capitalise on their opportunities. They faced a plucky Dartford side, who grabbed the win somewhat fortuitously. The second half was rather uneventful but Burton certainly has positives to take from the game, especially from the younger crop of players.

Next up is Chesham on Saturday, where hopefully the team can finish with a win before the new season commences. 

'Til then, and remember to Follow me Twitter.