In a top-of-the-table Premier League 2 clash on Saturday, Arsenal and Manchester City had to settle for sharing the points in Manchester.

Joel Lopez playing for the Arsenal u23s (Photo via Lopez on Instagram)
Joel Lopez playing for the Arsenal u23s (Photo via Lopez on Instagram)

Going into Saturday’s game against last season’s Premier League 2 champions Manchester City, Kevin Betsy’s Arsenal side knew that a win would be enough to send them to the top of the table.

It was also important to avoid defeat and remain at most one point behind City, rather than dropping to four behind. Particularly as this was the away fixture, and Arsenal will get the chance to host the league leaders later in the campaign.

Perhaps understandably, it was City putting the pressure on for the first 40 minutes of the match. They saw a number of chances well saved and punched away by Arsenal goalkeeper Arthur Okonkwo, before finally finding the breakthrough in the 39th minute through Oscar Bobb.

Rather than causing Arsenal heads to drop, Betsy’s side responded in the best way possible, scoring an equaliser just before half-time.

Salah-Eddine Oulad M’hand was the scorer, firing a shot into the top corner from distance. There was some debate over whether he should have been awarded the sixth goal in Arsenal’s win over Chelsea last weekend, but no one was taking this one away from him.

Joel Lopez set up the goal with an intercepting header before Oulad M’hand curled it in.

Right after the break, Arsenal had a surprise lead. Lopez was the scorer this time, set up by his opposite wing-back Ryan Alebiosu to finish off the inside of the post.

It was City’s turn to bounce back, and they did so as Liam Delap cut the ball back for Nico O’Reilly to score in the 51st minute.

The chances kept coming for both sides, and Cieran Slicker had to make a couple of great stops to keep out Folarin Balogun and Tim Akinola. But it finished 2-2, keeping each of the two teams moving forward in the early title race.

Final thoughts

Okonkwo is facing strong competition from Karl Hein at the moment, with Hein often getting the nod for first-team games ahead of his youth goalkeeping rival. But another good performance from Okonkwo on Saturday will keep putting the pressure on.

It was interesting to see young Reuell Walters starting at centre-back in a three, as he has primarily featured as a right-back for Arsenal so far. We’ll see if Betsy sticks with that moving forward.

Oulad M’hand continues to go from strength to strength since returning from his long injury absence last season, and the u23s are certainly reaping the rewards of that. He’s one of the form players in the team right now.

In terms of those not involved, Betsy does need to find a way to get Cottrell, Hutchinson, and Taylor-Hart on the pitch. The trio were three of the top academy performers last season, but they’re having to settle for substitute roles in the new formation.

Arsenal u23 lineup vs Manchester City

Okonkwo; Walters, Monlouis, Ogungbo; Alebiosu, Akinola, Oulad M’hand, Patino, Lopez; Biereth, Balogun

Substitutes

Cottrell, Hutchinson (for Patino, 45), Taylor-Hart (for Akinola, 88), Olayinka (for Alebiosu, 67), Ejeheri

Next up

Another clash near the top of the table, as Arsenal take on Brighton at the Emirates Stadium on Friday, October 1st at 19:00 BST.

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Arsenal fan since a young age, now a season ticket holder who enjoys writing, tweeting and making videos about the Gunners.