|Dan Crowley runs at the Sutton defence|
First of all, I'm back! Exams and other commitments forced me into a temporary blogging halt, but I can safely say that these are now over. Anyway, onto the game...
After around two months of no Arsenal, football junkies of the red and white variety were eagerly anticipating this fixture, desperate for our Arsenal fix.
The first of our pre-season campaign will be remembered for Daniel Crowley's debut performance at the club. The new acquisition from Aston Villa started the game in the number 10 role, operating behind industrious striker Austin Lipman.
Arsenal took the lead inside ten minutes, after a superb curling pass by skipper Isaac Hayden - unlucky not to be included in the first team's tour of Asia - found Lipman, who outpaced the Sutton defence before driving into the box and finding Anthony Jeffrey to tap in.
It was soon 2-0 after Crowley, having just nut-megged a Sutton player, was brought down. Jebb, who has a penchant for scoring spectacular free kicks, stepped up from 25 yards and nonchalantly curled the ball into the top corner. A superb goal by the young midfielder, who will hope to establish himself as a regular in the U21 set-up after being confined to U18 football last season.
Sutton almost scored when Arsenal centre back Tom Dallison, making his debut for the reserves, sliced a clearance onto his crossbar, before Dejan Iliev spread himself and blocked the rebound. A fine piece of goalkeeping.
It was 3-0 after 20 minutes when the impressive Hayden waltzed into the box, took his time and struck home with a left footed effort, after some abject defending.
Gooners behind the goal were singing, "we can't afford Asia, so we've come here instead!"
Despite being substituted at half time, along with 8 teammates, Crowley mesmerised the opposition with his close control and elusive dribbling skills. Within just 5 minutes, the diminutive midfielder wet the mouths of the onlooking Arsenal fans with a magnificent run, where he showed tight control inside the box, turned sharply (leaving the Sutton defender on his arse in the process), before dinking in an inviting cross. Certainly an impressive way for a 15 year old to introduce himself.
Although at times caught in possession, either by being brushed off the ball or by trying to be a little too intricate, Crowley was the star of the show. You can just tell, he has *it*; that something you can't describe, but know when you see.
His part in Jack Jebb's second goal of the game, to make it 4-1 before the break, was particularly impressive. In a seemingly tight area on the far right of midfield, Crowley and Ainsley Maitland-Niles, the highly rated winger who featured in last season's commendable NextGen campaign, eluded the surrounding defenders with a passage of pass and move football that would have greatly pleased the onlooking coaches Terry Burton and Steve Gatting. After taking three defenders out of the game with his shrewd movement, Crowley ran towards the byline, showed his composure and cut it back to Jebb, who coolly slotted the ball away with a first time finish on his weaker foot. 4-1 to The Arsenal in what had been a really fluid attacking performance.
The second half was poor, with Hayden and left back Arinse Uade the only players not to be subbed at half time. This led to a very disjointed performance with no real moments of quality to note. Debutant and recent Swedish acquisition Jamal Raage looked lively on the right wing, and almost scored with a low, hard shot after cutting inside onto his powerful left foot. Wellington Silva was on the left wing and showed his quick feet but lacked an end product. All conceded goals came from crosses into unmarked players in the box. Same old Arsenal, I guess.
I asked Arsenal's U21 captain Isaac Hayden some questions after the game:
Thoughts on today?
IH: It was a good performance in the first half. All the goals were of high quality. The second half was a little difficult because of the changes (9 substitutions), but a lot of the younger players today showed they can cope!
What are your first impressions of Danny Crowley?
IH: One word: class.Some praise from your captain after just 45 minutes game time - shows just how good he was and the impact he's had in training!
What are your hopes for this season?
IH: Just work hard and perform to the best of my ability consistently and see where it gets me; that's all I can do!Thanks for reading and follow me on twitter. UTA