On a day spent reflecting on Arsene Wenger’s tenure at Arsenal and sharing memories from years past, the future of the club shined bright. The Arsenal U-23 team beat the West Ham United U-23’s 3-1 to clinch their first Premier League 2 title. Familiar faces Reiss Nelson and Eddie Nketiah (2) scored for the Gunners, and both finished the season in the top 10 scorers in the competition. Here’s a look at Nelson’s goal:
#AFCU23 are just 45 minutes away from becoming @PremierLeague 2 champions— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) April 20, 2018
Goals from @ReissNelson9 and @EddieNketiah9 have put us 2-0 ahead at the break against West Ham - and here's how Reiss gave us the lead pic.twitter.com/MTZyJoKFQR
The U-23’s were frequently among the goals in Premier League 2 - the lads led the competition in goals scored. They finished the season on a four game winning streak and have a shot at a double next month. Their last match of the season is the final of the Premier League International Cup against Porto B on May 8th.
Obviously, the success of the youth side is a good omen for Arsenal’s future, especially because the club has experienced some lean years in terms of graduating reserve players to the senior side. Alex Iwobi, Héctor Bellerín, and Jack Wilshere are the only players who spent significant time in the Arsenal youth system still with the big club, and they became regulars 3, 4, and 8 years ago respectively.
Today’s side featured four players who have already debuted for the senior club - Reiss Nelson, Eddie Nketiah, Josh Dasilva, and Joe Willock. Xavier Amaechi, who has made the bench but not yet debuted, also played. For those of you who don’t remember, Eddie Nketiah’s debut for the senior side was particularly memorable - he scored a late brace as a substitute to lift Arsenal to victory.
There’s just something special about watching young talent at your club. You think about all the great seasons they’ll spend in your kit. You imagine that young striker becoming the next Thierry Henry. You proudly sing “he’s one of our own” when they take the pitch.
In his press conference today, Ivan Gazidis talked about how important youth development is to the fabric of the club, and it’s role in making Arsenal, well, Arsenal. He believes the current crop of young players are going to make a big impact in the next few years. If today’s performance and this year’s Premier League 2 is any indication, he's right.