Arsene Wenger has stuck to his guns by playing his youngsters in the Caraboa Cup, and he proved that when he brought young Eddie Nketiah on the pitch against Norwich near the end of normal time in the match against Norwich last night. It proved to be a flash of genius as the youngster scored the crucial equalizer immediately and then nabbed the winner in extra time.
Wenger believed he was the best choice from a very inexperienced bench. Le Prof said after the game: “We lacked ideas, we lacked a little bit to create clear-cut chances. I was impressed by the defensive performance of Norwich and so you sit there on the bench and think ‘What can we do to be a bit more dangerous?’. It was the occasion where we had to take a big gamble because there was not much time to go and I know that Eddie can score a goal.
“I know that he has character and is not afraid. He smells the combination movements, he can give and go and once a player has that in his game, they have always a chance. The guys who can understand that if they give the ball somewhere and they can get it back and know where to get it back, the quality of reception is a very important quality. I would say the quality of the reception, he has that.”
He also admitted that he was glad that he didn’t have some more experienced strikers on the bench, or Eddie would never have got his chance to shine. Wenger was asked if, at the time, he was regretting not having some more seasoned scorers waiting to play? “No, I didn’t. The boy Eddie is a good example. I just said that if I had experienced players on the bench, strikers for example, I would certainly in the end have put them on and not Eddie. Here you have no chance to put an experienced player on, so you try to find a young player who can give you a chance. If we speak about Eddie, it is because there was no experienced striker on the bench.”
Well it came off, and Wenger is now a genius for having the cojones to stick with his principles of giving his youngsters experience of big games. And perhaps Arsenal now have a future star on their hands….