Arsenal U21's secured promotion to Division 1 of the U21 Premier League after a 3-1 victory over the Aston Villa reserves in the playoff finals at the Emirates Stadium on Tuesday (10 May). They will now join the likes of Chelsea, Liverpool and both the Manchester clubs in the elite group next season.
The Gunners named an experienced lineup with first-team stars Santi Cazorla, Joel Campbell, Francis Coquelin and Calum Chambers in the second string, while the Villans named a youthful looking side. The visitors were sharper at the start of the game and put the more experienced Arsenal under pressure right from kickoff.
The west Midlands team were rewarded for their bright start as a mistake by goalkeeper Matt Macey handed them a chance to take the lead in the 10th minute through Rushian Hepburn-Murphy. A heavy back pass by Chambers put the 'keeper under pressure and his clearance fell straight to Andre Green, whose chipped cross was met with a bullet header from close range by Hepburn-Murphy.
The goal by the visitors kickstarted the Gunners and in the end were well worthy of the win with Chris Willock the star of the show. The England U18 international, who scored both the goals during their win over Blackburn Rovers in the playoff semi-finals, levelled the scores in the 36th minute and then set up both Stephy Mavididi's goals in the second-half to complete the comeback.
Cazorla, Campbell and Coquelin played key roles as they showed the gulf in class during the game – much to the annoyance of the Villa fans at the stadium, who chanted 'He's 31! He's 31!' in reference to the Spaniard's age. Arsenal, however, did not break any rules as all teams are allowed to feature three outfield players and a goalkeeper above the age of 21.
The Spain international played 82 minutes of the game as he continues his comeback from a long-term knee injury and after making the bench for the first-team's clashes against Norwich City and Manchester City, he could feature when the Gunners take on relegated Villa in their final Premier League clash on Sunday (15 May).