When Arsenal fell into the Europa League last season, I saw it is an opportunity. It gave Arsene Wenger a chance to give Arsenal’s talented youngsters a first team run out beyond the League Cup.
This season we have seen a lot of youngsters get their chance in the competition; and it shows an exciting future for Arsenal.
Last night Buyako Saka was the star of the show.
Barely 17-years-old, the talented Englishman was Man of the Match against Qarabag. He showed pace, power, skill and excellent technical ability. He would have been disappointed not to score.
Qarabag resorted to fouling the youngster. He was unstoppable.
Saka was not the only youngster to impress.
Eddie Nketiah did a solid job out wide as he showed just why Arsenal were willing to lose Danny Welbeck on a free.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles continued his return from a broken leg and showed his versatility. Capable of playing at full back, central midfield and on the wings, he has a bright future for both Arsenal and England.
At 6 4, 18 year old Zech Medley has all the physical attributes to make it. A left footed ball playing centre back, we will be seeing a lot more of him in the future.
Finally Joe Willock continued his transition into a box to box midfielder. With Lucas Torreira, Granit Xhaka, Matteo Guendouzi and Maitland-Niles; Willock offers something different in the middle of the park. You can perhaps see a case for letting Mohamed Elneny leave in the summer, and promoting Willock to 5th choice central midfielder.
This season has seen Emery give a lot of game time to academy graduates.
Alongside the above, we have also seen Emile Smith Rowe, Charlie Gilmour & Julio Pleguezuelo get game time this season, alongside senior graduates Hector Bellerin, Alex Iwobi and Emiliano Martinez.
You can actually make an XI out of the academy graduates to have taken the field for Arsenal this season.
Bellerin Pleguezuelo Medley AMN
ESR Iwobi Saka
22 unbeaten and on to the next round…