The Arsenal u21s opened their new Premier League 2 campaign with a win over Manchester United on Friday, with Marquinhos and Takehiro Tomiyasu featuring.
Ahead of the weekend, the Arsenal u21s had an early boost with the injury return of Khayon Edwards, as reported by Daily Cannon.
With fellow striker Billy Vigar out injured too, the alternative would have been to name a wide player up front. But Edwards’ injury absence turned out to be little more than a precaution, so he was straight into the starting lineup.
Joining Edwards in the front three was summer signing Marquinhos, getting a chance to impress as Mikel Arteta watched on from the stands.
Arteta would also have had an eye on Takehiro Tomiyasu, starting for the first time since his injury.
Other notable starters included Miguel Azeez, who has been linked with a loan but remains in the Arsenal u21s for the time being, and Hubert Graczyk, who acted as the first team’s third-choice goalkeeper on Friday night.
Marquinhos was bright from the off, winning a free-kick and a corner with his first two involvements, and Arsenal started to dominate proceedings.
Charles Sagoe Jr had a shot well saved from close range, and Zach Awe headed over from a good position.
Yet it was United who took the lead in the 14th minute, with Charlie Wellens scoring with pretty much their first chance of the match. The 19-year-old curled in an excellent free-kick for 1-0.
The goal brought Arsenal to life, and Sagoe Jr and Matt Smith both went close to an equaliser with shots in quick succession. Marquinhos then forced a save with a powerful effort, before Smith had another shot on target.
In the 41st minute, United’s stubborn defence was finally breached, with Marquinhos central to the move.
The winger cut onto his weaker right foot to make space and fired a shot on target. United goalkeeper Dermot Mee got down to make the save, but the rebound fell to Khayon Edwards to scramble the ball home for 1-1.
James Olayinka and Sagoe Jr had a couple more chances before the break, but the two teams went in level.
Tomiyasu had a strong first half, supporting Arsenal’s play well and doing the little defending he had to in confident fashion. The right-back came off at the break in a pre-planned change.
With James Sweet taking over from Tomiyasu, Arsenal picked up where they left off, and Marquinhos quickly broke the deadlock.
Cutting inside and shooting on his left foot, the Brazilian saw his shot unintentionally blocked by Edwards. But it fell back to the winger, who caressed the ball into the bottom corner for 2-1.
Marquinhos then turned creator just minutes later, with an audacious pass using the outside of his boot to set up Azeez for Arsenal’s third goal. It was a simple but clinical finish from the midfielder.
Marquinhos also made clear-cut opportunities for Olayinka and Sagoe Jr in the opening 10 minutes of the second half, but both failed to capitalise.
Edwards was Arsenal’s most threatening player for the remainder of the half, making a great chance for Olayinka with some unselfish play. His pressing then earned him another shot at goal after a United mistake, but he skewed wide with his weak foot.
In between those two chances, Arsenal keeper Graczyk had to make an excellent stop to keep his team two goals ahead after Charlie McNeill sent a shot goalbound on the turn.
United then hit the post with a shot from Isak Hansen-Aaroen, but the threat of a late comeback quickly faded.
Instead, Arsenal looked the more likely to add to their lead in the final 10 minutes.
Substitute Nathan Butler-Oyedeji forced a save with a strong effort from the edge of the box, and Marquinhos and Edwards both went close in the dying minutes.
But it ended 3-1, with Arsenal topping the Premier League 2 table for the time being.
For the first team, it was encouraging to see Tomiyasu completing a half of football, though it’s unlikely that will be followed up with a start next weekend against Leicester City. Perhaps it’s enough to see him returning to the bench, though.
The star of the show was undoubtedly Marquinhos, who simply looked too good for u21 football.
The Brazilian was involved in countless chances throughout the match, many of them deserving of a goal, and the three goals Arsenal scored were largely thanks to him.
The winger was strong on the ball and threatening whenever he had the chance to face up the defender, but he was also composed, laying it off when another player was in a better position. He’ll surely play some senior minutes this season.
As for the regular u21s, it was great to see Edwards immediately getting on the scoresheet, as he’ll be the main man up front for the side this season.
Azeez also did well in midfield, acting as the deepest of the three. He controlled the pace of the game well, particularly to see it out towards the end, and he took his goal calmly.
Mehmet Ali will be pleased with his team in their opening competitive fixture under his management, though he won’t always have the benefits of Marquinhos and Tomiyasu’s involvement in the side!
Arsenal u21 lineup vs Manchester United
Graczyk, Tomiyasu, Monlouis, Awe, Sousa, Azeez, Smith, Olayinka, Sagoe Jr, Marquinhos, Edwards
Sweet (for Tomiyasu, 46), Foran (for Monlouis, 76), Butler-Oyedeji (for Sagoe Jr, 76), Bandeira (for Smith, 88), Hillson
Note: The u21s are evidently permitted five substitutions (in three substitution breaks, plus half-time), as with the first team.
The Arsenal u21s travel away to West Ham United on Friday, August 12th at 19:00 BST, at the Rush Green Stadium.
The u18s will begin their competitive campaign the next day against Chelsea, at home at London Colney.