The Arsenal u23s came from behind to win against Tottenham Hotspur on Friday, with Gabriel Magalhaes making his return to the pitch.
After a heavy defeat to West Ham on the opening day of the season, the Arsenal u23s bounced back against Crystal Palace to win and set them up for the youth North London derby this Friday.
The team had a couple of boosts ahead of the game, with the news that Gabriel Magalhaes would be using the match to build his fitness, and Karl Hein dropping down from his recent first-team involvement to start in goal.
But there was also a key absence in the form of Miguel Azeez, who is seemingly on the verge of a loan move.
The rest of the team was very similar to the Palace game. Kevin Betsy used the same front three of Omari Hutchinson, Mika Biereth, and Kido Taylor-Hart, with a back three and wing-backs either side of two central midfielders.
Though the opening 45 minutes didn’t bring any goals, it did present plenty of chances to both teams. Biereth probably went the closest for Arsenal with a couple of shots either narrowly wide or blocked, but Hutchinson and Taylor-Hart also had good opportunities.
Most of Arsenal’s chances came from positive pressing high up the pitch, and the game was certainly a committed one, with players from both teams not shying away from getting physical with their opponents.
One particularly heavy challenge from Spurs’ Marcel Lavinier on Biereth brought him a yellow card, but the good news is that Gabriel came through the 45 unscathed.
At the end of the half, Gabriel was smiling and high-fiving the coaches, before taking off his shirt to make it clear his day was done. Arsenal took him off in a pre-planned change, and he’ll now be looking forward to the next one.
As for how he played, the centre-back made a couple of good challenges and he was confident on the ball. So the signs are positive that he’s almost ready to make his first-team comeback.
Gabriel wrote afterwards: “Even though it’s only 45 minutes, I’m so happy to be back to doing what I love.”
With the scores somehow level at the break, it was unsurprising to see a goal go in so early in the second period, but it was disappointing to see it going Spurs’ way. Alfie Devine finished at the near post from a corner routine to put the hosts ahead in the 50th minute.
Fortunately, the Arsenal u23s’ recent star man Hutchinson stepped up to the mark with some excellent dribbling down the right-hand side, and after beating his defender in the 58th minute he squared for Taylor-Hart to equalise clinically.
A minute later, another Hutchinson run drew a free-kick, with Lavinier bringing him down on the edge of the box. Though the Spurs man escaped conceding a penalty, the foul brought him his second yellow of the match and put his team down to 10 men.
Arsenal started to up the pressure, and just over 10 minutes later the same combination of Hutchinson run, cutback, and Taylor-Hart finish put Betsy’s side in the lead.
A few minutes later, Hutchinson was denied a goal of his own by the crossbar, hitting the woodwork from a free-kick he’d won.
Spurs did have a couple of late chances of their own as they rallied late on, with Karl Hein called into action and the offside flag denying them another great chance. But Arsenal held firm and secured three derby day points at their rival’s ground.
Arsenal u23 lineup vs Tottenham Hotspur
Hein; Monlouis, Rekik, Gabriel; Swanson, Henry-Francis, Patino, Ogungbo; Hutchinson, Biereth, Taylor-Hart
S. Oulad M’Hand (for Taylor-Hart, 93), Cottrell, Graczyk, Ideho (for Swanson, 83), Kirk (for Gabriel, 45)
The u23s’ next game isn’t until Saturday, September 11th at 13:00, when they face Manchester United at Meadow Park. However, the same side will play as the u21s in the first game of their EFL Trophy campaign against Swindon Town on Tuesday, September 7th at 19:00 before that.