The Arsenal u23s came from behind to draw against Premier League 2 leaders on Friday, despite a number of absentees.

Marcelo Flores plays for the Arsenal u23s (Photo via Arsenal Academy on Twitter)
Marcelo Flores plays for the Arsenal u23s (Photo via Arsenal Academy on Twitter)

Thanks to their trip to Liverpool on Thursday, Mika Biereth, Salah-Eddine Oulad M’hand, Charlie Patino, and Omari Hutchinson were all unavailable to feature in Friday’s key Premier League 2 clash.

They were physically able to attend the game, and Oulad M’hand did so, but they’d had a demanding week already and only arrived back in London the morning before the West Ham clash. It made sense not to risk their fitness.

There were some positive consequences to that situation, one of which was that Marcelo Flores and Khayon Edwards got to start the game.

In Edwards’ case, it was his first-ever league start for the Arsenal u23s. For Flores it was only his second, having made his full debut against the same opponents in the final game of last season.

But with Arsenal’s midfield and attack dismantled, it was perhaps no surprise to see the visitors taking the lead early on. Keenan Appiah-Forson scored the goal after capitalising on a mistake playing out from the back.

What was encouraging to see was that the rotated Arsenal team managed to grab a first-half equaliser, despite West Ham having the best of the first 45.

Inevitably, it was Edwards who scored the goal – his 17th of the season across all academy teams. On this occasion, he poked home from close range after Flores and Reuell Walters combined to force the West Ham keeper into a save.

In a game of relatively few chances, Arsenal did grow into the game after the break, but neither side could find the crucial winner.

Arsenal gave another fringe youngster a chance from the bench in Charles Sagoe Jr., an u18 who has 10 goals and assists this season but was making his debut u23 appearance.

The debutant couldn’t add to his season tally on this occasion though, and the match ended in a well-earned 1-1 draw.

Arsenal u23 lineup vs West Ham United

Hein, Walters, Awe, Ogungbo, Norton-Cuffy, Akinola, Henry-Francis, Lopez, Flores, Edwards, Ideho

Substitutes

Ejeheri, Bandeira, Alebiosu (for Norton-Cuffy, 46), Sagoe Jr (for Ideho, 80), Kirk (for Awe, 90+4)

What’s next?

The Arsenal u23s don’t play again until the week after next, when they take on Derby County away from home on Monday, January 24th at 13:00.

The good news there is that the u23s don’t face any dilemma in terms of being involved in the rearranged fixture against Liverpool. If they’re needed on Thursday, they’re available.

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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.