The Arsenal u21s exited the Premier League Cup at the quarter-final stage on Monday night, losing away to Brentford B.
After topping their Premier League Cup group and defeating Reading in extra time in the last-16, Arsenal travelled to the VBS Community Stadium to take on Brentford B in Monday’s quarter-final.
With Khayon Edwards still not yet back in action, Joel Ideho started up front for the young Gunners, with young Omari Benjamin on the bench.
But it was at the other end where Arsenal saw most of the action in the first half, as Brentford caused a lot of problems with their press.
An early slip from Zach Awe forced a save from Hubert Graczyk one-on-one, and that ended up being a sign of things to come.
Zane Monlouis, Awe, and Graczyk all made excellent blocks and saves to deny the hosts, but it was still Brentford having all the chances.
In all honesty, Arsenal were probably lucky not to be behind after the referee pulled back Brentford’s best chance of the half to give Brentford a free-kick – instead of playing advantage.
Despite the need for a response after the half-time break, the game continued in much the same manner. Again, Brentford were unlucky not to take the lead after a goal was disallowed for offside.
Arsenal finally changed the game with a triple substitution midway through the second half. Ben Cottrell, Omari Benjamin, and Myles Lewis-Skelly came on for Catalin Cirjan, Joel Ideho, and Monlouis, and the young Gunners finally got a hold on the contest.
Amario Cozier-Duberry won a free-kick in a dangerous area, with Mauro Bandeira forcing a fingertip save from the set piece.
Just minutes later, Cottrell won another free-kick, before putting it over the bar.
Cozier-Duberry and Cottrell then linked up for Arsenal’s best chance of the match, with Cozier-Duberry’s shot well saved from a tight angle.
Arsenal had completely taken control of the contest and looked like the only team likely to find a late winner, but there was a further twist.
Brentford raced up the other end in a rare attack of their own, and a clumsy challenge in the area awarded them an injury-time penalty, converted by Alexander Gilbert.
With just one minute left to equalise, Arsenal threw everyone forward, even sending the goalkeeper up for a last-second corner. But Graczyk couldn’t quite get his head on the cross, and the match finished 1-0.
Arsenal exit the Premier League Cup at the quarter-final stage, which is certainly a shame when the tournament was there to be won.
Brentford join Blackburn Rovers, Nottingham Forest, and Fulham in the semi-finals, whilst Arsenal have no choice but to focus on the Premier League 2 – having now exited the Premier League Cup, the Premier League International Cup, and the EFL Trophy.
The Gunners have undoubtedly suffered without the injured Khayon Edwards, having sent many of their other strikers on loan (Folarin Balogun, Nikolaj Moller, Mika Biereth, Tyreece John-Jules, Billy Vigar, and Nathan Butler-Oyedeji).
Yet there’s also an argument that Mehmet Ali should be utilising Omari Benjamin more in Edwards’ absence. An inexperienced centre-forward may have a better shot at success than a winger out of position.
The same goes for Myles Lewis-Skelly, who is young but clearly the most talented option in his position deep in midfield.
Ben Cottrell also needs to be starting as much as his fitness allows. He had a big impact on Monday’s game, as his strength at receiving passes in the middle and getting the team up the pitch was invaluable.
Arsenal are on a poor run of form and Ali needs to find a way to turn things around.
Arsenal u21 lineup vs Brentford B
Graczyk, Walters, Awe, Monlouis, Sousa, Smith, Cirjan, Bandeira, Cozier-Duberry, Sagoe Jr, Ideho
Lewis-Skelly (for Monlouis, 63), Benjamin (for Ideho, 63), Cottrell (for Cirjan, 63), Rojas, Jeffcott
The Arsenal u21s travel away to Crystal Palace on Friday, March 17th at 14:00 GMT.
The game will be live on Palace TV+ (a paid service with a £3.49 weekly pass option) for those that wish to stream it.