The Arsenal u23s put qualification from the Premier League Cup group stages in their own hands with a big win over Bournemouth on Tuesday.

Jack Henry-Francis scores (Photo via Arsenal Academy on Twitter)
Jack Henry-Francis scores (Photo via Arsenal Academy on Twitter)

Kevin Betsy was able to name a strong u23 team on Tuesday night, albeit amid the absences of Charlie Patino and Salah-Eddine Oulad M’hand, who are presumably remaining with the first team in case they’re needed on Thursday.

Aside from those two, Betsy had Arthur Okonkwo in goal for the first time since November, Ben Cottrell making his first appearance post-August injury, and an exciting front three of Omari Hutchinson, Marcelo Flores, and Mika Biereth.

It didn’t take long for those three to get involved in a goal. With less than two minutes on the clock, Hutchinson’s free-kick wasn’t fully cleared, and Biereth headed it on to Flores, who finished calmly for 1-0.

Bournemouth did see a fair amount of the ball in those early stages, but they couldn’t create any good chances, and Arsenal still seemed to be the bigger goal threat.

Once again, the Arsenal front three were heavily involved in the next goal of the game, but this time they played their roles in the build-up.

Flores played the ball between the lines to Hutchinson, who disguised a reverse pass in behind for Biereth. Forced a little wide, Biereth laid it off to the overlapping Zak Swanson, whose deflected cutback fell to Jack Henry-Francis to score for 2-0.

Hutchinson continued to cause problems for Bournemouth, who had to resort to fouling to stop him, but Arsenal couldn’t add to their lead before the break.

Amario Cozier-Duberry scores (Photo via Arsenal Academy on Twitter)
Amario Cozier-Duberry scores (Photo via Arsenal Academy on Twitter)

Perhaps it was unsurprising to see Hutchinson then withdrawn early, given the uncertainty around Arsenal’s first-team squad. The young winger should now be available for the senior bench, just as he was last week.

Amario Cozier-Duberry was the replacement, and the 16-year-old quickly made his mark. With just under 70 minutes on the clock, Flores played the ball in behind to Biereth, whose low cross was turned home by Cozier-Duberry for 3-0.

For Biereth, that was his eighth assist of the season, the most of any u23 or u18 player for Arsenal this campaign. Add that to his 10 goals and he’s having a strong start to his Gunners career.

Biereth could well be on the bench on Thursday as well, coming off in the 73rd minute.

10 minutes later, Cozier-Duberry turned creator. With the help of a clever dummy from Nathan Butler-Oyedeji, Cozier-Duberry played in Flores to score his second of the game and kill any remaining hope of a comeback.


How does the group look?

Arsenal u23s' Premier League Cup group as it stands
Arsenal u23s’ Premier League Cup group as it stands

Arsenal are now in control of their own fate, knowing a win in their final game against West Brom will see them top the group. But if they can’t win their final game, they’re going to be at risk, particularly from Bournemouth.

Bournemouth have a game in hand and four points, so two wins against Southampton would take them to 10 points. If that’s how it pans out, a draw against West Brom wouldn’t be enough for Arsenal to progress.

Arsenal will therefore be watching on closely as Southampton play Bournemouth on January 27th.

Arsenal lineup vs Bournemouth

Okonkwo, Swanson, Kirk, Ogungbo, Awe, Lopez, Henry-Francis, Cottrell, Hutchinson, Flores, Biereth


Graczyk, Walters, Cozier-Duberry, Ideho, Butler-Oyedeji

What’s next?

It’s a quick turnaround for the u23s, with a Premier League 2 game on Friday away to Derby County at 19:00.

As for the conclusion of the Premier League Cup, that will be on February 11th, away to group leaders West Bromwich Albion.