Arsenal u21s started brightly before falling away in a damaging defeat to Peterborough United in the EFL Trophy on Tuesday.
With the Europa League coming up on Thursday and a number of injuries in the u23/u21 squad, Arsenal named a relatively inexperienced lineup against Peterborough in their second group game this week.
Star striker Folarin Balogun had been held back for the Europa League, Trae Coyle, James Olayinka and Tyreece John-Jules were all injured and Hector Bellerin and Kieran Tierney are finally back in contention for senior matches.
17-year-old Ben Cottrell made his first start of the season above u18 level, as did Sam Greenwood, but the young team actually started pretty well.
Right-back Zak Swanson forced a good save out of the Peterborough keeper before Nathan Tormey narrowly failed to turn in the rebound from the tightest of angles. Arsenal put together some nice passing moves, but their early enthusiasm quickly evaporated.
The hosts came back into the game and dominated the chances for most of the rest of the match. Even though Arsenal had a fair bit of possession with their centre-backs, they just couldn’t get the ball out of their defensive third without hopeful long passes.
When Peterborough’s only goal eventually came, it was with a huge slice of luck on their part. Joe Ward took a shot on from a long way out and a difficult angle, but as it flew towards Matt Macey’s gloves it took a deflection off Zech Medley and ended up in the net.
Macey had made a few good saves throughout the rest of the match, so he’ll be particularly disappointed to concede in that manner.
After a draw in their first match against Northampton, Arsenal’s chances of qualification are now out of their hands.
In this competition, a point is awarded for winning on penalties after a draw, so Northampton are currently one ahead having defeated the Gunners in a shootout.
It’s still possible for the team to make it to the next round in second place, but they need Peterborough to beat Cambridge United, Arsenal to beat Cambridge as well, and the third match between Cambridge and Northampton to end in a draw or a win for Cambridge.
There are other permutations, such as Arsenal and Northampton both drawing with Cambridge, Arsenal winning on penalties whilst Northampton lose and then going through on goal difference after Peterborough beat Cambridge. That’s all pretty unlikely though.
To keep things simple, Arsenal need to just go out and try to win their final game.