Last night GiE and I, both based in Norwich, had the pleasure of watching a strong and keen Arsenal Reserves side take on a young and significantly less experienced Norwich City Reserves side, at Carrow Road last night.
Arsenal line-up was a welcome surprise: it was a mixture of young and promising talent with experienced players who were in need of a game. James Shea was in goal and Miquel (Captain) and Angha were our CB’s, with Jenkinson and Meade our FB’s. In midfield we played Yennaris, Benayoun and Ozyakup and upfront we played Arshavin, Chamakh and Park. Chamakh came off after 30 minutes, straight after a strong challenge on him, and he was replaced by Benik Afobe (who again was later replaced by Ansah).
Arsenal meant business from the start as all 11 players played with verve and focus.
This team had no difficulties in finding each other and neat interplay was regularly mixed with long diagonal balls and clever passes right through the middle of the Norwich defence by the very impressive Ozyakup, my ‘man of the match’ Benayoun, and a very energetic, yet very smart playing Yennaris. Arshavin had a very energetic game too; in fact, I have never seen him work harder than in last night’s game, and together with Benayoun they led this Arsenal reserves side to a well-deserved victory.
We have seen Yennaris play at RB but he was very comfortable in midfield last night, with a fine first touch, great ability to pass the ball round and with enormous tenacity. Together with Ozyakup he formed a wall in midfield that Norwich was seldom able to penetrate. As a result, Bennayoun and Arshavin were able to control the attacking play in front of the Norwich 18 yard box with ease, very much helped by the desire of Park and Chamakh to make runs and play link-up football.
It was great to see us own the midfield last night; boss the entire area in front of the Norwich defence and play our great brand of football. Norwich City had no answer to it, as there was a massive gap in quality and experience between the sides on the night.
Arshavin almost scored after a great ball over the top through the middle by Yennaris in the fifth minute: he tried to lob the keeper his effort went just over the bar. A minute later Arsenal was in front: a mazy run by Benayoun leads to a shot against the post and Park is there to calmly slot-in the rebound: 1-0. In the 20th minute, Park takes a ferocious free-kick that just misses the target: a very impressive effort.
After a uncomfortable fall, Chamakh was replaced by Afobe.
Another impressive, mazy run by Arshavin in the 40th minute leaves the Norwich goalkeeper no other option than to foul him: Afobe steps up to take the penalty but Wooton makes a great save to his left.
Two minutes later Arshavin seems to want to cross the ball to Park; the Russian’s effort is off-target but somehow floats into the top-corner to the surprise of Wooton and anybody else at Carrow Road: 2-0.
After the break
Jenkinson was replaced by Ebecilio who played in the deeper centre midfield role and freeing Ozyakup to play further up the pitch, Yennaris moved to right back.
Arsenal continue as before: pressuring Norwich in their own half with good ball circulation, high levels of possession, but also with real penetration and attacking creativity. In the 58th minute, Benayoun feeds a clever ball through the middle form just outside the 18 yard box to find the clever run of Afobe. The latter controls the ball well and scores the third goal with real composure: 3-0.
Seven minutes later, Benayoun creates some space for himself to take a shot from the left inside the box, and although his shot is saved by Wooton, the rebound ends up with Arshavin who then scores the fourth goal, his second on the night, with composure: 4-0. Benayoun finally gets his well-deserved goal in the 87th minute: Ozyakup, who played a bit further up the pitch in the second half, plays a fine through-ball to Benny who then scores with a well-timed chip over the keeper: 5-0.
Norwich had a few half-decent opportunities, and maybe could have had a goal, but Arsenal was a class apart last night. Shea had not much to do, but he was a safe pair of hands when it mattered. We could hear him talking to the players and he oozed confidence throughout the game. Miquel was very calm and professional – a real class act, and together with the also impressive Angha, who tends to operate a bit more in the background compared to the young Spaniard, he controlled the defence on the night. Meade, our LB, also had a good game: he is tenacious, has a good first touch, protects and passes the ball well and was always willing to make runs. It was also great to see Jenkinson again, who made some good runs and had a relatively easy night (he only played the first half).
All our midfielders were great on the night, but we both thought that Ozyakup was excellent throughout the game. This is the first time I have seen him play, and we should take into account that the Norwich Reserves team was not much of opposition last night, but Ozyakup was imperious at times: always calm on the ball, superb awareness of the game, great passes and through-balls, strong physical presence, and very energetic. Another great prospect and he is Dutch as well!!
I also really liked Yennaris, especially in the first half when he played in midfield next to Ozyakup. In the second half he was restored to the RB position (replacing Jenkinson) and he was skinned a couple of times by Norwich players which led to dangerous situations in our box, but he still had a decent game.
Arshavin really worked hard tonight and thoroughly deserved his brace. Benayoun was superb: he played with so much energy and joy and that really got the team going. Park had a good game too: in the second half he often was away from goal linking up with the midfielders and setting players up for an attack with clever passes. Afobe really impressed me on the night, but he did not last that long, as he only played 45 minutes (he only just recovered from a long injury). Afobe was replaced by Zak Ansah, but I did not see enough of him to pass judgement. Chamakh started ok, but went off after 30 minutes, so hard to judge his performance as well.
All in all, a great night of football, on a relatively mild winter’s night in February: a very welcome diversion from the shenanigans on and off the pitch of our first team at the moment. On the evidence of the night, there a few players coming through the reserves who are ready to join the first team rather sooner than later.
Written by Total Arsenal
TA has not left me with much to write about as he has given a very full report of the game. However there are a few observations that I made during the game, which I will briefly outline.
- The most rigid part of our formation was the back three: Miquel, Angha, and Ozyakup (who played the quarterback role in midfield) gave Arsenal a very solid base to build from, whenever Miquel won a header under pressure he tried and mainly succeeded to find the feet of Ozyakup.
- It was hard to predict who would play where upfront: The five most advanced players were Yossi, AA23, Yennaris, Park and Chamakh (replaced by Afobe). They rotated through the advance positions constantly, a fluidity that we are currently missing in the first team which seems far more rigid.
- Most width was provided by the full backs: Whoever was most advanced on the wing at the time was making runs infield with the ball giving the full backs space to come round, they didn’t go early or play on top of the winger they waited for space and exploited it, was particularly impressed by young Meade at Left Back.
- Long diagonal balls: As TA says in the match report neither Oyzakup, Miquel or Angha were frightened of looking for long diagonal balls, even AA23 got into the act when he had dropped deeper into midfield making himself a yard and delivering a fantastic ball into the feet of Jenkinson.
- We have someone shorter than Arshavin: Look between Chamakh and Angha and you will see Jermaine Meade. I came up with a song (he played left back). “He’s five foot three, He’s five foot three, who needs Gael Clichy, we’ve got the Meade”