I was going to write “Which Arsenal youngsters” but we can hardly put Oxlade-Chamberlain, Giroud, Perez or Jenkinson in that bracket. Even Martinez and Elneny are 24 years old! So we can hardly say that we put out a youth team which we have done in previous years.
The Ox was certain to win the Man Of The Match after scoring in both halves, but what is your verdict on the rest of the team?
First of all let’s see Wenger’s opinion of the game. “It was a dynamic game between two teams who tried to play passing football and build up the game from the back.” Le Prof said. “For me, it was also good to see some young players who practise every day with a top team, and also give them a chance with the other players who needed competition. It was positive. It was an interesting game which we were able to win in a comfortable way in the second half.”
So which “youngsters” impressed him? “I felt that Rob Holding did well and also Ainsley Maitland-Niles, he did well. Jeff Reine-Adelaide did alright too.”
Carl Jenkinson returned from injury for his first start for Arsenal for two years. So what was Arsene’s verdict on his performance? “It’s fantastic to see him back. I don’t count him as a young player but he did well, he played 90 minutes and had no fitness problems at all. That means he’s prepared well physically. He’s played with the under-23s and we have had no problems with him physically at all.”
Although Alex Iwobi is a first team player, Wenger played him to see how he could operate in Ozil’s role, and Le Prof explained why. “You see, he is not a typical winger and I think he can play in that role. He turns the game forward, he passes the ball through the lines very well. He has a final ball in him. He is now a little bit, I think he has it all in the locker to pass and give the final ball. What you want from him now is the finishing, you know. That’s still a little part that is missing in his game. I think he is too nervous at the moment when he has the possibility to finish.”
So all in all it was a good performance by all. But the best thing was that we won well to give our reserves a little more confidence, and also to ensure that they will get another chance to do it again in the next round. Wenger just wants to keep everyone in the squad happy. “Look, if we stay in all the competitions, it’s not too difficult.” he concluded. “And that’s a positive of qualifying tonight. We have always targets and the players who, for example, we have three top class goalkeepers, because you see Emi Martinez as well. But as long as we are in this competition, he obviously gets his game so they have a focus, something to focus on.”
Although it was a convincing win, the player that impressed me the most was Martinez, who pulled off some brilliant saves when needed and kept us in the game.
Who impressed you the most?