Wenger will handle young Arsenal gems with care
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger was delighted with the efforts of his young players in Wednesday's penalty shoot-out Capital One Cup victory at West Brom – but is keeping an open mind about selection for the home clash with Chelsea in the next round.
In a first XI for the Albion match featuring nine changes from the Barclays Premier League win over Stoke on Sunday, there were maiden Gunners starts for Thomas Eisfeld and Ryo Miyaichi, both 20, and a debut for Isaac Hayden, while fellow 18-year-old Serge Gnabry kept his place.
And after midfielder Eisfeld had slotted in the opening goal in the 61st minute and Saido Berahino headed an equaliser 10 minutes later, Wenger brought three more teenagers off the bench in Chuba Akpom, Kris Olsson and Hector Bellerin, the latter pair making their senior bows.
The score was still 1-1 after extra time – Baggies substitute Morgan Amalfitano hit the bar during the additional period – and penalties were required.
Gnabry saw his effort saved but Akpom and Olsson both converted theirs in a 4-3 triumph for the away side, sealed by Nacho Monreal's successful effort following Albion misses from Craig Dawson and Amalfitano.
Wenger spoke after the third-round tie of his pride at the youngsters' battling sprit and ability to cope under pressure, but asked about blooding such players again in round four, he said: "Honestly, I don't know yet. It depends on the injuries. I had no choice but to rotate because many senior players are out."
The manager added: "In our job we have all started when another player was injured. You have opportunities that you have to grab with young players. When there are players who are injured, they can show they have the quality."