It was a hard-fought goalless draw for Arsenal’s u23 side as they were effectively stifled by a high-quality Southampton team at Meadow Park.

The majority of the pre-match build-up was centred around Carl Jenkinson, making his first Arsenal appearance in over two years after loan spells and a long-term injury hurt the full-back’s development.

Now 24, the Harlow-born defender will be eyeing competition with Hector Bellerín for the right-back spot in the senior side on a consistent basis and played just under 70 minutes as he continues to build up his match sharpness.

With the likes of Alex McCarthy and Florin Gardos in the Saints’ side, it was always going to be a tough battle for the Arsenal team.

Evident from the early exchanges, Ainsley Maitland-Niles was denied an opportunity on the edge of the six-yard box by the aforementioned Gardos, who made a crucial block to deny the Englishman.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles (centre) was tidy in possession and overall impressive. (Photo: David Price / Getty Images)
Ainsley Maitland-Niles (centre) was tidy in possession and overall impressive. (Photo: David Price / Getty Images)

Alarm bells began to ring after Thomas O’Connor’s well-struck free-kick fizzed inches wide of the far post from 20 yards out, but Stephy Mavididi and Gedion Zelalem both came with efforts of their own. Mavididi dragged his shot wide from range, whilst Zelalem could only watch his strike hit the woodwork.

Stephy Mavididi (right) in action against Southampton's u23 side. (Photo by David Price / Getty Images)
Stephy Mavididi (right) in action against Southampton’s u23 side. (Photo by David Price / Getty Images)

Edward Nketiah looked encouraging throughout and deserved a goal for his efforts after a combination of excellent link-up play and attacking impetus in the final third. Both he and Ismael Bennacer were denied by good stops from Alex McCarthy in the second-half, whilst Southampton themselves fashioned a few chances late on in an attempt to snatch all three points.

Eddie Nketiah shoots under pressure from Alfie Jones of Southampton during the match between Arsenal and Southampton at Meadow Park on October 14, 2016 in Borehamwood, England. (Photo by David Price / Getty Images)
Eddie Nketiah shoots under pressure from Alfie Jones of Southampton during the match between Arsenal and Southampton at Meadow Park on October 14, 2016 in Borehamwood, England. (Photo by David Price / Getty Images)

Tyreke Johnson had a great one-on-one opportunity, lobbed Matt Macey in the Arsenal goal but watched on as his effort floated away from the far post into the advertising hoardings. Then, he was given another chance – but his first-time effort was denied by Macey, who was focused in key moments and did well to earn a clean sheet.

Our first draw of the new campaign at this level, Friday’s result leaves us in 9th place with Manchester United and Sunderland next on the horizon, as well as a UEFA Youth League home tie against Ludogorets in midweek for the crop of u19 players – some of which, featured in some capacity in this fixture.

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