Eddie Nketiah and Reiss Nelson both played for the Arsenal u23s on Friday, in a defeat to Blackburn Rovers at Meadow Park.

Eddie Nketiah and Folarin Balogun ahead of a game for the Arsenal u23s (Photo via Arsenal Academy on Twitter)
Eddie Nketiah and Folarin Balogun ahead of a game for the Arsenal u23s (Photo via Arsenal Academy on Twitter)

Steve Bould named a rather bizarre lineup to face Blackburn Rovers on Friday, picking three strikers and two wingers in the same side.

Two of the strikers (Folarin Balogun and Nikolaj Moller) were shifted out wide for Eddie Nketiah to play centrally, whilst wingers Reiss Nelson and Kido Taylor-Hart dropped back into midfield, ahead of Miguel Azeez.

This led to a very unbalanced first half. More than just the strange set-up, there were also a few very poor individual performances, and Blackburn raced into a 3-0 lead. Azeez and perhaps Joel Lopez were the only players to come out of the first half with any credit.

Nelson was arguably one of the worst performers, with an uncharacteristic 45-minute display capped off as he conceded possession for a Blackburn goal. However, he very much improved in the second half and became the team’s biggest threat.

The team in general did a lot better in the second 45 minutes and had a few chances to get back into the game. But they couldn’t take any of them, partly thanks to a strong opposition goalkeeping performance, and it ended 3-0.

In Nketiah’s case, this game was less about the result and more about finally getting back out onto the pitch again. There were six weeks between his last first-team appearance and his u23 start on Friday.

The striker certainly seemed to need to grow into the game and shake off the rustiness, though he had one of Arsenal’s best chances after Azeez put him through on goal. The goalkeeper only just got out to smother his shot.

As for Azeez, he did a very solid job in the circumstances. He was involved in a number of nice moves and probably went the closest to scoring with a couple of shots towards the top corner from distance. The goalkeeper tipped both just over the bar.

Steve Bould coaching the Arsenal u23s in a match against Derby County (Photo via Twitter / ArsenalAcademy)

Arsenal remain at risk of relegation, with the two teams directly below them able to catch up on points if they win their games in hand. If they both overtake the Gunners, Bould’s side slip into the relegation zone.

In fairness, that would require a goal difference swing of eight in Leicester City’s game in hand. But there’s still plenty of time left in the campaign and Arsenal aren’t picking up any points right now. Next up, they face Everton u23s away on Sunday, March 21st.