A heavily rotated Arsenal u23 side lost badly to West Bromwich Albion on Thursday, despite Khayon Edwards scoring once again.
Taking a break from the Premier League 2 action, the Arsenal u23s faced West Bromwich Albion in the Premier League Cup on Thursday.
Unfortunately, Arsenal couldn’t name anything close to their first-choice side. For a start, a lot of players were on international duty, including Folarin Balogun, Mika Biereth, Brooke Norton-Cuffy, Omari Hutchinson, and Reuell Walters.
Omar Rekik and Karl Hein should also have been on international duty, but they’re both injured. Charlie Patino and Mazeed Ogungbo are among other starters on the injury list right now, and Arthur Okonkwo wasn’t in the squad on Thursday either.
The one positive team news update was the return of Salah-Eddine Oulad M’hand from a recent injury, but there was heavy rotation throughout the rest of the side.
This caused Arsenal major problems at the back in the early stages, with Tom Fellows, Reyes Cleary, and Rayhaan Tulloch helping the visitors to race into a 3-0 lead in 20 minutes.
Arsenal’s makeshift defence was struggling to play out from the back, and every West Brom shot seemed to go in.
In fairness to the Arsenal side, they did respond well to that setback. They played some good football for the final 20 minutes of the half, and they should have had one or two goals of their own.
Having missed that opportunity, the game was finished off when Cleary got his second goal soon after the break for 4-0. Arsenal’s misery was compounded when James Olayinka was forced off with an injury.
Once again, Arsenal did at least keep trying to get back into the game, and Khayon Edwards’ efforts on the night were rewarded when he squeezed the ball under the goalkeeper for a consolation goal.
It was Edwards’ first competitive goal of the season for the u23s, having played almost all of his football with the u18s. He has 12 goals already at u18 level this campaign.
That was all Arsenal could manage, and they had to settle for a 4-1 defeat on the night.
There’s still plenty of time for Arsenal to turn things around in their Premier League Cup group.
Two teams qualify for the next round from each group, and Arsenal will only be a maximum of two points off second regardless of the Southampton-Bournemouth result in their game in hand.
Arsenal have three games remaining, and the other matches don’t take place during international breaks, so Kevin Betsy will hopefully have a stronger team available to him.
It also wasn’t all bad against West Brom. The defending was shambolic at times, but Zak Swanson stood out in a positive way with another good performance at right-back.
Young Amario Cozier-Duberry showed his quality when he got the chance, as did Salah-Eddine Oulad M’hand in the second half, and Khayon Edwards really did deserve his goal after a positive display.
But the terrible first 20 minutes meant none of that mattered much on the night.
Arsenal u23 lineup vs West Bromwich Albion
Mitchell, Swanson, Foran, Monlouis, Lopez, Olayinka, Cozier-Duberry, S. Oulad M’hand, Butler-Oyedeji, Ideho, Edwards
Kovacevic, Awe (for Olayinka, 70), Sweet (for Butler-Oyedeji, 80), Akinola, Sagoe Jr. (for Ideho, 64)
The u23s don’t play again until the Premier League 2 returns after the international break, when they face Blackburn Rovers away on Monday, November 22nd at 19:00 GMT.
In the meantime, one thing to watch out for is the EFL Trophy second round draw on Saturday. The Arsenal u21s (the same team as the u23s in all but name) are one of just three u21 teams to make it out of the group stage, along with Chelsea and Aston Villa.