The Arsenal u23s kicked off their pre-season with defeat to Bromley FC on Tuesday, but there were some encouraging signs.
The Arsenal u23s have had a delayed start to their pre-season fixtures, with a Covid disruption at London Colney forcing the postponement and cancellation of a number of fixtures.
As a result, they finally kicked things off with a friendly against Bromley FC on Tuesday night.
Jordi Osei-Tutu took on the captain’s armband for the match, returning from his loan injury, and he was joined by a number of other u23s making their first appearances of pre-season, as well as quite a few of the players to feature for the u18s already.
Henry Jeffcott, Charles Sagoe Jr, Mauro Bandeira, Khayon Edwards, Amani Richards, Taylor Foran, Bradley Ibrahim, Amario Cozier-Duberry, and Henry Timi Davis were all in the squad, having played some minutes for the u18s before Tuesday night.
But the majority of the starting lineup were playing their first game of pre-season, and it showed in the first half.
From the off, Bromley looked physically sharper than their opponents, having already played a few weeks of pre-season fixtures.
The hosts wasted an early chance to turn home a volley, hitting the side netting. But they made up for it minutes later, winning the ball off Omar Rekik before Michael Cheek looped in an impressive finish for 1-0.
Arsenal started to grow into the game, but they struggled to create any chances of note. Omari Hutchinson looked the most dangerous, and he had a rare shot at goal from a free-kick, but it was blocked.
Just before half-time, Bromley made it 2-0 with another unlikely finish. The angle looked too tight, but Jude Arthurs somehow managed to lift it over the goalkeeper at the near post.
There were a few Arsenal u23s watching on from the stands, including Jordan McEneff, Kido Taylor-Hart, and Tim Akinola, who presumably weren’t fit for the match. In Taylor-Hart’s case, he still hasn’t officially confirmed his new Arsenal contract.
There were a few changes at half-time, most notably the return of Zak Swanson from injury, replacing Jordi Osei-Tutu, and taking on the captain’s armband. Swanson hadn’t played a match since 2020.
Bradley Ibrahim, Amario Cozier-Duberry, and Henry Timi Davis came on for their non-competitive u23 debuts, and Hubert Graczyk came on in goal, replacing Charlie Patino, Charles Sagoe Jr, Amani Richards, and Ovie Ejeheri.
But just five minutes into the second half, Bromley effectively killed the game by scoring a third. The ball fell fortuitously to Cheek to score his second of the game after a tackle.
If anyone was going to get Arsenal back into the game after that, it was young Cozier-Duberry. The 16-year-old had the beating of the Bromley left-back, and right after their third goal he raced in behind to force a diving save.
A couple of minutes later, he had his goal. Picking up the ball on the edge of the box from a tackle assist by Davis, he fired a shot home into the bottom corner.
Arsenal’s rhythm was disrupted by further changes, with Ben Cottrell, Taylor Foran, Zane Monlouis, and Salah-Eddine Oulad M’Hand coming on for Omari Hutchinson, Omar Rekik, Alex Kirk, and Mauro Bandeira.
Amani Richards also came back on for Khayon Edwards, so Edwards wouldn’t have to play the full 90.
But the Gunners were on top for the rest of the second half. Oulad M’Hand beat the goalkeeper to force a goalline clearance, before setting Richards up from a corner to hit the post. Cottrell then forced a save after a clever dummy on the edge of the box.
Davis had another late chance, but couldn’t quite find the far post, nor Richards who was waiting for a tap-in. It finished 3-1.
Arsenal u23 Lineup vs Bromley FC
Ejeheri; Osei-Tutu, Kirk, Rekik, Jeffcott; Patino, Bandeira, Hutchinson; Sagoe Jr, Edwards, Richards
Graczyk, Swanson, Foran, Monlouis, Ogungbo, Ibrahim, Cottrell, Oulad M’Hand, Cozier-Duberry, Davis