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Francis Coquelin

Banjaku leaves + Knocked out of the Youth Cup

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FA Youth Cup 3rd Round

Arsenal 0 Derby 1 (a.e.t.)

For followers of the Arsenal youth system, this day will not be looked upon with much fondness.

Not only did the Gunners exit the FA Youth Cup prematurely for the third season in succession, but Alban Bunjaku, the precocious young talent who was reportedly at odds with the coaching staff, has left the club, after not being provided with assurances regarding a professional contract.

Bunjaku’s departure will be discussed at length in the coming days, but with regards to tonight’s match at Underhill, Arsenal will look back and rue the chances that they squandered as they dominated the first-half before being taken all the way to extra-time by a spirited Derby County side, who included the much-vaunted Mason Bennett in the line-up, before the Rams struck the decisive blow to send Steve Bould’s side crashing out.

If Bunjaku’s omission from the side was somewhat telling, then it remains to be seen what is to be made of Ben Glasgow, James Campbell and Jeffrey Monakana, who are also in the second year of their scholarships, also missing out on the side. Schoolboy Chuba Akpom made the bench, whilst Hector Bellerin, Jon Toral and Serge Gnabry were all thrust into the starting line-up.

Charles Cook





subs: Vickers, Hayden, Olsson, Roberts, Akpom.

Despite Reice Charles-Cook, who would go on to have an excellent evening in goal, having to come to claim a cross early on and then having to be alert to deny Bennett, who has already, at just 15, featured for the Derby first-team after Bellerin squandered possession, Arsenal dominated the majority of the opening period.

Josh Rees sent in a dangerous cross from the right flank which was met by Gnabry, but the German saw his shot parried for a corner. Left-back Samir Bihmoutine then made a bursting run from deep and shot over, before Rees and Toral exchanged intricate passes, with the latter eventually seeing his effort blocked.

Toral then delivered an excellent curling free-kick, but captain Elton Monteiro nodded harmlessly wide when well placed. Bellerin saw a teasing cross well caught by the Rams goalkeeper, then, when Kyle Ebecilio had a shot blocked, Zak Ansah reacted quickest but saw his effort turned over the crossbar.

Derby were always a threat on the counter-attack, but Arsenal continued to churn out the chances. Ansah had another strike turned wide after being teed up by a subtle flick from Gnabry, then, from Bellerin’s incisive ball, Ebecilio’s ensuing effort caused all manner of havoc in the Derby penalty area but somehow, via a hashed clearance off the line, it stayed out.

Ansah then dragged an effort wide following a multi-pass move, whilst, at the other end, Monteiro did well to shepherd the ball to safety with Bennett bearing down on him.

The second-half commenced with another Arsenal chance, Gnabry seeing his diving header go just wide, before Charles-Cook was forced into a stunning reaction save to tip the ball over his crossbar following a looping effort.

Gnabry found Ebecilio who saw a snapshot saved, then Monteiro made another crucial intervention with Bennett in close proximity once more.

Charles-Cook made another superb save to tip away a fierce strike from distance, but Arsenal still continued to plough forward and Ebecilio perhaps should have done better than hitting a shot over after Bellerin saw two shots blocked.

Monteiro had to make a last-ditch clearance off the line under pressure from the menacing Bennett, with the latter then having a free-kick palmed away by Charles-Cook.

If there was a clock inside Underhill it would have been ticking towards full-time when Ebecilio squandered yet another opportunity. Bihmoutine’s cross then almost spun in for an unlikely goal, then, in a frantic last few moments, Derby had a penalty claim turned down for an alleged handball against Monteiro, and Charles-Cook claimed yet another cross.

Into extra-time we went, and, Akpom and Philip Roberts were introduced early on. The decisive moment would come, though, when Monteiro, who had enjoyed a stellar game up until that point, squandered possession, Kane Richards stole the ball and finished past Charles-Cook from an acute angle.

No matter how hard they tried, a combination of fatigue, resolute defending and time-wasting meant that Arsenal would not come back from that. Ansah lashed an effort into the side-netting and Roberts and Angha headed wide, but it was Derby, in front of the watching Nigel Clough who prevailed.

Maybe it was stretching the point a little to suggest that Bunjaku could have made the difference this evening, but Arsenal were evidently lacking coherency in their play and would come to regret the many chances they missed.

Positives can be taken from the performances of Charles-Cook and, until his late, costly mishap, Monteiro, but there will be no Emirates date this year for Bould’s boys.

Player ratings:

Reice Charles-Cook- 8- Made some phenomenal saves, and was unfortunate to be on the losing side.

Hector Bellerin-7-Did little to dispel the suggestion that he is far more comfortable going forward than defending. Made several telling crosses, but struggled a little when on the back foot.

Elton Monteiro-7- Widely criticised, admittedly in these pages as well, but turned in an imperious display, making several crucial interventions before his costly late error.

Martin Angha-6- Worked well with Monteiro and keen to bring the ball out from the back.

Samir Bihmoutine-6-Restricted in his forward movements early on, but got more space as Derby tired.

Jordan Wynter-6-Unlucky to be substituted, he did not do himself a disservice but looked a little weary.

Jon Toral-5-So comfortable on the ball, but passing range was awry tonight.

Josh Rees-6-Bright spark on the right flank before being withdrawn.

Kyle Ebecilio-5- Doesn’t seem to suit attacking midfield role, more comfortable from deep but squandered several inviting chances.

Serge Gnabry-6-Largely anonymous in first half, he was more lively in second period before being withdrawn.

Zak Ansah-5-Through no fault of his own was largely isolated up front, but still managed to fashion a couple of opportunities.

Subs: Kris Olsson (for Wynter, 79), Misplaced his first pass, but calm in possession thereafter.

Chuba Akpom (for Gnabry, 92), Has done so well just to get to this level, but couldn’t make an impact on this occasion.

Philip Roberts (for Rees, 92), Missed late opportunity but his determination to succeed was there for all to see.


Didn't see that coming.


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The ever intriguing saga surrounding Alban Bunjaku has taken another twist, with the creative midfielder preparing for trials at further clubs after a move to West Ham United failed to materialise.

The 17 year old is still contracted to Arsenal despite having been told that his future lies away from the club following a disagreement with coaching staff concerning a lack of opportunities in the Reserve side.

Bunjaku recently spent time on trial at West Ham, turning out for their under-18 and second string sides, but, despite the Hammers being interested in signing him, they were unable to match Arsenal’s demands for a fee and he has subsequently returned to London Colney on a temporary basis.

There have been suggestions that Nottingham Forest are also interested in securing Bunjaku’s services, although his next destination could be Scotland, with both Rangers and Celtic prepared to offer him trials.

Bunjaku’s final destination remains uncertain, although a future at Arsenal seems increasingly unlikely.

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Why does he want to go west ham?

He's from Romford. So tbh West Ham would have been good for him.

So I take it he couldnt really be all that good then

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Well people that watch the under 18s think he is good enough, and have been calling his name for 2 years.

However while other sheg players have gone on to feature for the reserves regularly and get a pro contract, he hasn't.

Some say its attitude but after some of the sh*t some of them youth players do I dunno how he can be any worse, then some say its he doesn't listen and pass to others, maybe he'd pass if he rated the other players... Maybe he think he's Taarabt I dunno but I am amazed that Wenger hasn't salvaged the situation tbh.

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those who knw say its his attitude, parents demands and he holds onto the ball for too long

Him, Toral & Jebb suppose 2be sick

Ansah the manc fan (closet arsenal hater) is spose 2be good

Hows Aneke doing on loan??

Havent seen enough of Afobe to make a proper assessment but doesnt look too promising.. Freeman just left for mighty stevenage

Sanchez Watt cant get a game at Sheff Weds & JET is in and out of the Ipswich side, think hes scored 2 goals so far since his £1m summer move

Lol at our academy staff, the talent is there but they dont know how to discipline these lads n get the best outta them.. we should get them back to cleaning boots and sweeping up the stadium

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Think Aneke back after getting sent off, when I did check a couple boards before Christmas I did see people say he is a carbon copy of JET.

I like Afobe, but the injury hasnt helped him at all.

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