Miguel Azeez was the star of the show for Arsenal on Tuesday night as they beat Crawley Town 2-1, their second win of the EFL Trophy group stage.
Steve Bould’s academy side faced Crawley Town on the back of four straight games without a win. Their last victory under the coach was in the same competition on the opening day of the season, before three defeats and a draw in the league.
Given the team were also missing a few players to injury, international call-ups, and late registration following transfers, it wasn’t going to be an easy game.
Arsenal started Kido Taylor-Hart (a winger) up front alongside Jordan McEneff (a midfielder), but the two surprisingly combined for the opening goal.
Miguel Azeez, the top performer on the night, played a through ball to Taylor-Hart, who rounded the goalkeeper before squaring for McEneff to tap in. Crawley bounced back to level before half-time, however, with Max Watters scoring on his debut.
After the break, Azeez gave Arsenal the lead again with his first goal at u21 level or above. It was one to remember, as he fired a shot into the bottom corner from outside the box.
🎥 Hoje Miguel Azeez (18) contribuiu diretamente com a vitória do Arsenal U21 pela Checkatrade Trophy:
🎩 1 pré-assistência;
⚽ 1 gol.pic.twitter.com/vQKOLlbBTM
— Gunners Brazil (@gunners_brazil) October 14, 2020
It ended up being enough on the night, and Arsenal picked up another three points. They’re now top of the group only needing a point to top it in the final game against Gillingham.
Could Azeez feature in the Europa League this season?
I’ve always been a bit wary of joining the hype train around Azeez. The majority of talk around him on social media comes from people who haven’t actually watched him play, but saw a couple of highlight videos and heard he was a good talent.
He certainly is, but he has his drawbacks too. He can take unnecessary risks in dangerous areas, and he still needs to develop defensively. I wouldn’t have thrown him into a first-team game before now, that’s for sure.
It can be damaging to a young player to just heap praise on them before they’ve even made their first-team debut. You create expectations they can’t possibly live up to, which inevitably leads to harsher criticism than they deserve later on.
However, the signs on Tuesday night – as well as against Ipswich in the previous game – were of a player fast improving. He played a key role in all three goals he was on the pitch for in those two games and combined excellently going forward on both occasions.
There’s no doubt the 18-year-old can be a first-team player someday if he develops in the right way. He’s creative, a dangerous shooter from distance and has an impressive touch.
A game or two in the latter stages of the Europa League group stage could be a good way to take that next step.
Again, I want to emphasise that would be for his own individual benefit. He’s not going to come in and transform the Arsenal midfield, but he could use the games for his development, particularly considering the Gunners’ group draw.
First things first, let’s win the opening games of the competition and make sure the later ones are dead rubbers.