Who is the best out of the next generation of young Gunners? Wenger provided a potential glimpse into the future last night as he selected teenage talent.
England's tertiary club competition, the League Cup, has, traditionally, been a time for Arsenal fans to witness the next generation of Gunners and, while Arsene Wenger fielded much experience during the club's penalty-shootout victory over West Bromwich Albion, he still entrusted youth players such as Ryo Miyaichi, Serge Gnabry, Isaac Hayden, Thomas Eisfeld, Kris Olsson and Hector Bellerin.
Not all, not many, will progress into the senior squad. Ryan Smith has performed admirably in this competition before for the Gunners but the 26-year-old winger now plays for Skoda Xanthi in the Greek Super League. So too did imposing forward Jay Emmanuel-Thomas, now of Bristol City, Fran Merida (Athletico Paranaense) and Jay Simpson, who has been a free agent since May.
'I am proud,' said Wenger, as reported by Standard when reflecting on the pressure-filled knockout trumping over the Baggies. 'We played with many young players and they showed they are not only good footballers but that they can fight as well.'
Arsenal went ahead through Eisfeld on the hour mark but West Brom equalised ten minutes later. Parity ensued all the way through extra-time but it was the home side, Brom, who drew first blood at the penalty death as 'keeper Luke Daniels saved Serge Gnabry's attempt.
The Gunners, though, converted their remaining spot kicks and booked a fourth round home game against London rivals Chelsea.
'I decided to go for young players with the penalties and they coped well with the pressure. Of course, penalties are a bit of a lottery, but overall I think the most important thing is that we played well in the game and that the young players came out and showed that they can play the way we want to.
'It is always good to know that you can win even when you thought you were dead and tired. If you dig deep and in the end you are rewarded, that is a very important lesson for a young player,' Wenger finished.
Arsenal supporters have since taken to Twitter in order to either laud or chastise their young guns, with Chuba Akpom, Eisfeld and Hayden all receiving exemplary commendation while Gnabry and particularly Miyaichi attracted criticism.
Akpom was outstanding to me!!!, very. Perfect backup 2 Giroud. Bendtner 3rd choice in my opinion— MANSA MUSA (@lieutenantx7) September 26, 2013
Akpom and Zelalem are the guys for me who will make it— Clock End Gooner (@ClockEnd1995) September 26, 2013
Great finish from Thomas Eisfeld, but an assist from Bendtner? What's the world coming to? #AFC— Matt Stevens (@MJAStevens) September 26, 2013
There's something about Isaac Hayden's movement & balance on the ball ytdy that I kinda like. That young lad moves like Patrick Viera. Hmm— Stockport GooneR (@petitmoore) September 26, 2013
Bellerin is naturally a right back but played absolutely amazing in CAM and Isaac Hayden was just a funking BEAST— LATEST AFC NEWS (@GOONER_TALK_) September 25, 2013
Gnabry and miyaichi aren't good enough in my opinion. Need to up their game if they want to make it on the big bit stage— Tone The Gooner (@ToneTheGooner) September 26, 2013
Gnabry looked tired from Sunday & midfield were a bit sluggish at times. Ryo well off the pace which was surprising. Bendtner was average.— Ben (@clockendben) September 26, 2013
So pleased to see TV5 play a full game and metersacker and jenko was brilliant last night was impressed with Bellerin and Olsson. #COYG— J.D the Gooner (@Jcts5) September 26, 2013
Happy for other debutants like Hayden, Bellerin and Olsson. One of the brightest players in Academy rightnow. Great experience for them.— Pröpösitiön D (@DmitryMD) September 26, 2013
Olsson and Zelalem will be able to unlock virtually any defense for the u21's.— Will (@InsideWinger) September 26, 2013
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