Young Gunners could fire Arsenal to glory
Arsenal youngsters were hugely impressive in their 5-0 thrashing of Nottingham Forest – and could be instrumental this term.
Yes, we’ve seen it several times before at Arsenal – a side is picked in a cup competition which is heavily reliant on youth players yet emerges on the pitch and plays with a freedom and exuberance so associated with youth.
And after every one of those performances, fans and onlookers alike wax lyrical about the huge potential in the Gunners academy to produce Premier League quality.
Sadly, for all those fans so keen to see home grown talent, these matches have tended to be a false dawn.
For every Jack Wilshere, Kieran Gibbs and Aaron Ramsey, there’s been a Kerrea Gilbert, Mark Randall and Jay Simpson – players that promise so much in their cup cameos yet are ultimately never given a fair crack of the whip.
Last night’s 5-0 Carabao Cup thrashing of Nottingham Forest looked like a textbook set-up – the Gunners team had three academy graduates in the starting XI, while another came off the bench and another three players who, while not academy graduates have grown up with the team from a young age.
It also contained Gabriel Martinelli, the fresh-faced 18-year-old Brazilian who was signed from Ituano in Brazil this summer – a player who will aim to become a future superstar for the Gunners and avoid being the second coming of Carlos Vela.
A brace from him, and goals from the returning Rob Holding, and academy duo Joe Willock and Reiss Nelson capped off a near-perfect night for the Gunners.
And, there is evidence to suggest that unlike in the past, this could be more than just a flash in the pan.
In the Wenger days, he essentially got away with not using the youngsters because there was a big pool of talent to choose from, despite the fact they were underachieving.
Emery does not have the same depth, with those younger players making fleeting appearances in the Premier League so far this season.
There is also scope to say the current crop are better than what Wenger had – Willock’s powerful box-to-box style has been missing from Arsenal for a long time.
Nelson and Bukayo Saka are both direct, pacy and tricky wingers who can inject fear into their opposing full backs.
Injuries have hampered his recent development, but Emile Smith-Rowe proved in his Europa League outings last season that he is a classy operator. And Martinelli looks like a born finisher.
Even the more experienced but still young players, such as Holding, who was very well received upon his injury return after a ten month lay off, look like they are finally going to be given a proper shot.
With players such as Mesut Ozil, Sead Kolasinac and Shkodran Mustafi seemingly going through the motions knowing their days are numbered at the Emirates, more gaps could open up in Unai Emery’s squad.
If this crop of youngsters develop as expected, they will not have to look far to plug those gaps.