All of the talk this morning in the papers is about our nippers playing tonight in the Champions League and one in particular – a certain Tom Cruise – has proved to be a headline writer’s dream. In the Mirror, it’s reported that AW will name his youngest ever line-up at Olympiacos with ten teenagers in the 18 man squad which has an average age of just 20.
But the paper says Wenger believes that some of Arsenal’s stars of the future can help save him a fortune in the January transfer window by proving they are good enough to step up to the first team.
AW believes that 17-year-old midfielder Jack Wilshere can prove he is ready to step up as he will get his big chance tonight alongside fit-again England winger Theo Walcott.
Wenger said: “I was determined not to go out on the market in January. If I do buy in January it will be because of the injuries, especially because of the van Persie injury. Van Persie may not be back until April or May which is very late for us. It is a risk and a gamble but I trust these players. I believe they are ready and they will be focused. Maybe this team will be more focused than the regular first team players because they have something to prove.”
The redtop says Wenger is ready to send England under-21 starlet Wilshere out on loan in January with Celtic keen to sign him while there is Premier League interest as well.
“Wilshere has qualities of a top level player but he’s still very young and needs to absorb things every week so if he can go out on loan then it might be good,” said Wenger. He is impatient, he wants to play, we’ve had a few enquiries. It’s always a sensitive subject for players to go out on loan because you must trust the managers at the clubs that take them. There has to be a real need there because if he goes out on loan and sits on the bench then he may as well stay with us and train with us.”
The Mirror reckons our ‘kindergarten line-up’ tonight may not please Standard Liege who can still qualify from Group H if they beat AZ Alkmaar and Olympiacos slip-up. Wenger added: “I respect the competition and Olympiacos need a point to qualify, but the most important thing is that we play well and are focused.”
The Sun points out that the hostile Greek crowd may get to our young ‘uns but AW tells the paper: “I don’t know if it’s going to affect them. I believe we will focus to play our game. We’re used to having a hot atmosphere in England. The best way to cool down an atmosphere is to play good football.”
It reminds us that we ran out 3-0 winners against the Greek champs at the Emirates in a game that Olympiacos spent camped inside their own half of the pitch. And Wenger added: “I would be happy to test the goalkeeper as much as we did at home.”
Mickael Silvestre will be the only experienced member of Wenger’s team. And the 32-year-old defender warned his teammates that it is their chance to prove they are good enough to play for the first team.
He said: “Playing alongside them already this season in the reserves and last week at City you can see they have the quality. Technically and physically they’re ready. After that they have to step up. It’s a good opportunity for them to test themselves in the Champions League. I expect them to give everything they have for 90 minutes because they have the energy. We have to take advantage of that.”
The Daily Mail says the inclusion of Cruise brought inevitable gags about star quality and quotes AW on our very own Top Gun thus: ‘If you’re in his boots you don’t think for a second at the start of the season that you’ll play in the Champions League. I believe he’s a very good footballer.’
It adds that AW will allow Wilshere to go out on loan in January on the proviso he is granted plenty of action. The manager said: ‘I’d prefer a team in the Premier League for him, but a top club in the Championship could be interesting.’
The Mail adds that AW will be hoping his side can erase the memory of their defeat to Manchester City in the Carling Cup last week, but he has hopes beyond that for the likes of Luke Ayling, Kerrea Gilbert, Francis Coquelin, Kyle Bartley and Gilles Sunu against Olympiakos.
‘It will be a good experience for them and a chance for them to show their talent,’ said the Frenchman. We have to show away from home with a young team that we can be solid defensively, and we will be judged on the result.’