Gillingham coach Paul Raynor was left aghast by the “fantastic individual” quality in Arsenal’s reserve squad while revealing a “nice” Steve Bould message after Tuesday’s EFL Trophy clash at Priestfield, speaking to the Gills’ official website.
While Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli and co are established members of Mikel Arteta’s first team these days, there’s no shortage of talent available to Bould at U21 level.
The supremely gifted Catalin Cirjan scored Arsenal’s only goal of the game during a 1-1 draw last night before doing what Ademola Lookman couldn’t with a gorgeous clipped penalty in the resulting shoot-out – one the Gunners won 4-2.
The £8 million-rated striker Folarin Balogun started at Priestfield, as did £27 million defender William Saliba and highly rated newcomer Nikolaj Moller.
There was also an opportunity for Emery favourite Emile Smith-Rowe while left-back Joel Lopez Salguero, a 2018 signing from Barcelona, caught the eye with his impressive crossing ability at Priestfield.
“An excellent Arsenal team. They have got some fantastic individual players,” Raynor said while praising Gillingham’s ability to match a group of fresh-faced starlets on their own soil.
“I felt we were always in the game. We created opportunities. I thought we controlled their possession. For 90 minutes, I thought we were the better team.”
Interestingly, there were also two Arsenal youngsters in Gillingham’s team last night.
Forward Trae Coyle and defender Zech Medley were given permission to play against their parent club. Coyle even scored the Gills’ equaliser with a well-taken volley.
“We are delighted with both of them. They are obviously good young players and Arsenal have many of them,” Raynor adds.
“We identified these two guys as players that would develop here. Zech has slotted in at centre-back and left-back.
“Steve Bould said some nice things about them and their development under us. They will keep learning and they’ll really benefit from this period with us.”