Goals from Reiss Nelson, Kaylen Hinds, Chris Willock and a Stephy Mavididi penalty were more than enough to sink an overwhelmed Sunderland side as Arsenal’s crop of u23 players returned to winning ways after a frustrating defeat away in Manchester on Monday.
It’s always encouraging to see a positive response to adversity, and in truth, it could’ve been a different game entirely if Steve Gatting had more of his experienced players available for selection.
This weekend though, the boss was afforded the luxury of his first-choice players and their impact was significant to say the least.
Operating in their usual 4-2-3-1 formation, the ever-improving defensive partnership between Krystian Bielik and Ben Sheaf did well to effectively shut out threats such as talented forward Joel Asoro throughout.
As the minutes ticked by, Arsenal got more comfortable with proceedings and Nelson became increasingly involved on the flanks. Given his wide range of qualities, it’s no surprise that the winger was a handful for Sunderland’s backline to isolate and after a quick one-two with Chris Willock, the latter was hauled down in the area.
Stephy Mavididi stepped up and made no mistake from twelve yards, cooly dispatching his spot-kick into the bottom left corner past Max Stryjek. The Black Cats responded well with a handful of chances before the break, but none resulted in the all-important equaliser they went in search of. George Honeyman flashed an effort wide, Elliot Embleton saw his free-kick swerve past the far post whilst George Brady had a headed effort denied by the sharp fingertips of Matt Macey.
Nelson doubled the lead at the end of a well-worked team move in midfield, where he really couldn’t miss from close-range and latched on perfectly to a low cross. Hinds scored his first goal of the campaign to make it a quick-fire double just three minutes later, making the most of an unfortunate parry from Stryjek in the Sunderland goal to tap goalwards from six yards after his initial strike was saved.
The visitors themselves had a goal disallowed for offside, when Honeyman’s probing pass fed the run of Asoro in the final third and the Swede’s chipped effort floated over Macey.
However it was the hosts who’d have the last laugh of the evening, with Willock adding icing on the cake to make it 4-0 after an incisive finish rendered Stryjek’s earlier stop ineffective. Vlad Dragomir and Edward Nketiah both came on in the final fifteen minutes plus stoppages, whilst Josh DaSilva was afforded a short cameo before the final whistle as the Young Guns held firm to enjoy a resounding 4-0 victory.
The win pushes them up a place into 8th, above Reading who lost 3-2 away against Leicester City. After the UEFA Youth League tie against Ludogorets on Tuesday, there’s a two week interval for most youngsters – either on international duty with their respective countries or training at London Colney.
Tottenham (away, Friday 18 Nov) and Leicester (home, Monday 28 Nov) are the two upcoming fixtures for players in this age-group, and there’s no reason why Steve Gatting’s side cannot take six points from a possible six here.