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Arshavin, Park And Benayoun Impress, As Do Youngsters In Reserve Victory

Park 6'
Arshavin 44'
Afobe 58'
Arshavin 65'
Benayoun 87'

Andrei Arshavin and Yossi Benayoun were the standout performers as Arsenal's second string crushed their Norwich counterparts. Neil Banfield named 8 players with some first team experience, with only Jernande Meade, Martin Angha and James Shea having never played for Arsenal.


1-Shea; 2-Jenkinson, 5-Angha, 6-Miquel (c), 3-Meade; 4-Yennaris, 8-Ozyakup; 7-Benayoun, 11-Arshavin, 9-Chamakh, 10-Park

Arsenal lined up in a lose 4-4-2/4-2-3-1, with Park, Arshavin and Benayoun all having free attacking roles, with Neil Banfield evidently being the Arsenal Reserves equivalent of Harry Redknapp, without the tax evasion charges links to the England job. Nico Yennaris, known at first team level for being a right back, played in a double pivot with Oguzhan Ozyakup, a deep-lying playmaker.

After just 5 minutes, Arsenal had their first sight of goal. Nico Yennaris played a wonderful long ball over the top of Norwich's defence for Arshavin to run onto. With the Norwich keeper, David Wooton, rushing out, the Russian tried to chip, but it just sailed over the bar. A minute later, though, Arsenal were ahead. The Norwich #10, Matt Ball, gave the ball away to Arshavin in the middle, who passed to Ozyakup coming through the middle, who then passed to Benayoun running down the left. Benayoun twisted past two, before firing off the near post. The shot rebounded to Park, who had no problems smashing his shot home.

A through ball saw James Shea rush out, but his clearance wasn't very good, and fell to Matt Ball, who attempted a shot from 35 yards. Reserves captain Ignasi Miquel, though, was back in the penalty area, and easily chested the shot down before clearing.

After 30 minutes, Marouane Chamakh came off after aggravating a toe injury, resulting in Benik Afobe making his return to competitive football. Afobe was soon involved, but first Ozyakup would shoot from range, with Wooton parrying the shot to Park, who's shot was deflected over the crossbar. It was another warning shot from the impressive Ozyakup, who was involved moments later, with his pass setting up Yennaris to play a Cesc-ual throughball for Arshavin, who held off the defender and was then felled as he rounded Wooton, to give Arsenal a penalty. Wooton was lucky to stay on, but then made a tremendous save from Afobe's penalty, stretching all the way to his left to push the shot around the post. It was unlucky from Afobe; most penalties struck that well and in that area aren't saved. Afobe would get revenge on the stroke of half time; collecting a wonderful Ignasi Miquel diagonal on the right hand side, he checked the ball back for Arshavin, who's supposed cross ended up dipping past Wooton and in off the far post to give Arsenal a well-deserved two goal lead. Lucky, perhaps, but a typical Arshavin goal.

At half time the impressive Yennaris went to right back as Carl Jenkinson was replaced by Kyle Ebicillio, who took up Yennaris' role. Ozyakup played a one-two with Arshavin, before slipping in Benayoun, who made a diagonal run from the left, but, having gone past the keeper, took the ball too far, and his shot was cleared off the line. Benayoun, though, would be involved for Arsenal's third goal; Theo Jones played a blind ball into the middle, which Afobe intercepted and headed to Benayoun, who returned a brilliant through ball for Afobe to calmly slot past Wooton.

Diagonal's were a feature of Arsenal's play, and Park played a great one from the right touchline in the midfield for Benayoun, who went past Jones to the byline, before shooting against Wooton. The rebound, however, fell to Arshavin at the edge of the area, who slotted into the right corner of the goal in Thierry Henry fashion to make it 4-0.

Norwich almost got a consolation goal when Josh Dawkin jinked his way past Angha, Miquel and Meade, but his shot went wide of James Shea's post.

The very impressive Ozyakup was again involved for Arsenal's 5th goal. He played a one two with Zak Ansah, who dropped deep, allowing Benayoun to make a diagonal run. The Israeli was found by Ozyakup's perfect through ball, and he duly chipped his shot over a diving Wooton, completing a very impressive reserves performance.

Afterwords, Banfield praised the senior players for their professionalism; hopefully, Arsene Wenger will have noticed and will consider playing one of Arshavin, Benayoun or even (whisper it) Park. For the younger players, both Ozyakup and Yennaris were very impressive, as was Afobe, who's finishing was very calm and accurate. Miquel and Angha were solid in the defence, and were heavily involved in Arsenal's build up play.