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Monday, 8 October 2012

Wilshere and Sagna make comebacks as Arsenal U21s ease past Reading

Arsenal's second string are back to winning ways after dispatching their Reading counterparts 2-0 at Underhill on Monday evening.

Despite an array of first team players in the starting line up, it was Serge Gnabry and Chuba Akpom who sealed the points for the Gunners.

Terry Burton's midfield comprised of first team stars such as Jack Wilshere, Emmanuel Frimpong and Francis Coquelin in what was a very strong side.

Hugely encouraging news for Gooners is that Bacary Sagna made his return to action, receiving an hour at right back as scheduled and leaving the pitch unscathed. It was the first step in what will be a gradual process towards match fitness.

His absence from the first team this season has been somewhat compensated for by the form of Carl Jenkinson, however the Frenchman's eventual return to first team football (fingers crossed) will provide a massive boost to the side.

Burton also had F1 racer turned football superstar Andre Santos at his disposal, deploying the Brazilian at left back. Despite featuring in the 3-1 defeat of West Ham on Saturday, replacing the injured Kieran Gibbs, Santos played the full 90 minutes tonight. Wenger obviously sees the need to maintain the 29 year old's fitness levels, and reserve team football is extremely beneficial in this respect.

Keown Junior...I wouldn't miss a penalty around him
Despite imposing centre half Niall Keown in the Reading side, son of Arsenal legend Martin, Arsenal took the lead three minutes before half time after some excellent link up play between Frimpong, Wilshere and Eisfeld. It was the latter who then slid the ball into Gnabry, who confidently chopped the ball inside and curled it home with his weaker left foot.

Gnabry, tipped as a "star of the future" by Wenger, impressed yet again, and could certainly be fast- tracked into first team football this year following his appearance in the League Cup against Coventry.

Arsenal centre back Sead Hajrovic almost gifted the visitors an equaliser just minutes into the second half, but Adam Le Fondre failed to capitalise on the Swiss's poor back pass. Hajrovic, hitherto criticised for a lack of concentration, will not have helped his cause with that.

Frimpong then should have scored after being put through by Coquelin, but he showed a real lack of composure and scuffed it wide.

Thankfully the points were sealed when Chuba Akpom nodded home from close range, anticipating Ignasi Miquel's flick on following a Wilshere corner. It was Akpom's last goal as a 16 year old, and the forward can expect a professional contract upon turn seventeen this week.

All in all a highly satisfactory evening for Arsenal in front of an onlooking Arsene Wenger, who will be hopeful of including Wilshere and Sagna in his plans for the coming months.

Click here to follow me on Twitter for more on Arsenal and youth football, or if you just want some TLC during the international break.

And click here for highlights of the Reading game.

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