The Arsenal u21s won their Premier League Cup group on Sunday, with Ben Cottrell scoring on his return to the team after injury.
The Arsenal u21s faced Stoke City’s u21 side in the Premier League Cup over the weekend, knowing a draw or a win would be enough to top the group with a game to spare.
Yet the match didn’t initially go to plan, with Stoke taking a first-half lead through Douglas James-Taylor, heading in after a corner.
Chasing the game in the second half, Arsenal brought on Ben Cottrell.
Cottrell hadn’t featured in a competitive academy fixture since January, picking up an injury to miss the remainder of last season before suffering a setback over the summer in pre-season. He was first pictured back in training last week.
So perhaps it was meant to be that Cottrell was the player to draw Arsenal level, scoring in the 76th minute.
Joel Ideho came off the bench after that, and he helped to force a Joshua Roney own goal a few minutes later to put Arsenal 2-1 up.
But there was a further twist late on, as Emre Tezgel tapped in a cross in the 89th minute.
Fortunately, that didn’t change much for Arsenal, who had the point they needed to finish the group as winners. The Gunners still have one more group game in mid-January, but the focus now will start to shift to the knockout stages.
In the meantime, Cottrell’s return will be a big boost for the u21s, as he adds goal threat and creativity from midfield. Arsenal’s next match is away to Premier League 2 champions Manchester City, so they need all the help they can get.
Arsenal u21 lineup vs Stoke City
Graczyk, Bandeira, Foran, Awe, Ismail, M. Smith, Cirjan, Henry-Francis, Taylor-Hart, Sagoe Jr, Butler-Oyedeji
Cottrell (for Cirjan, 46), Ideho (for Henry-Francis, 76), Hillson, Heaven, Vigar
The Arsenal u18s play in the FA Youth Cup on Monday night against Millwall at Meadow Park, and it’s not impossible some of the players who would usually be in the u21s will feature in this match instead.
After that, it’s the winter break until Sunday, January 8th at 14:00 GMT, when u21 football returns with that trip away to Manchester City in the Premier League 2.