Arsenal U21s stormed to a 5-0 win against Exeter City, securing a place in the EFL Trophy knockout stages.

The young Gunners manager Mehmet Ali was “truly proud” of their performance after the final whistle.

NORTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 18: Arsenal U21 assistant manager Max Porter makes notes as manager Mehmet Ali gives instructions during the Papa John's Trophy match between Northampton Town and Arsenal U21 at Sixfields on October 18, 2022 in Northampton, England. (Photo by Pete Norton/Getty Images)
Arsenal U21 assistant manager Max Porter makes notes as manager Mehmet Ali gives instructions. (Photo by Pete Norton/Getty Images)

A series of missed opportunities marked the first half, including a crossbar hit from Bradley Ibrahim and a ruled-offside goal from Exeter’s James Scott.

However, the game’s complexion changed dramatically in the second half.

Charles Sagoe Jr started the scoring spree, thanks to an excellent team move involving Jack Henry-Francis.

Sagoe Jr later assisted Seb Ferdinand in doubling the Arsenal lead.

Goals from Khayon Edwards, Henry-Francis, and a second from Ferdinand sealed a resounding victory for Arsenal.

Mehmet Ali, the U21 manager, couldn’t hide his delight post-match. “We, as a group of staff, are truly proud of our team’s performance today,” he said. “The level of play we sustained for the entire 90 minutes was truly excellent.

“Exeter City fielded a strong lineup, with a few youngsters but they had a fair few established League One footballers.

“While we faced challenges at times, our defensive resilience, compactness, and organisation prevented them from getting a single shot on target against our goal.”

Ali elaborated on the team’s tactical adaptability and their “relentless desire to win.”

He highlighted a second-half formation change to 4-3-3 and a “ruthless efficiency in front of goal” as pivotal factors. He also commended the Arsenal fans for their support, which provided an energy boost to the players.

“In the second half, we made some tactical adjustments, shifting towards wingers and reverting to our usual 4-3-3 formation,” he explained. “This tactical shift posed problems for the opposition.

“However, I believe it was more about our relentless desire to win in the second half and to capitalise on our opportunities. We displayed ruthless efficiency in front of goal, converting five goals from just six attempts which I’m immensely pleased with.”

Arsenal U21s now have five points in the EFL Trophy, trailing by just one point behind Reading.

The final match against Reading on November 14 will determine the group’s top spot.

The team’s next game is in Premier League 2 against Brighton, following the international break.