Arsenal manager Unai Emery has always maintained his stance on blooding youngsters – and for budding starlets under the guidance of the Gunners coach that has always been a hugely positive position.
Emery says that as and when he can he will not hesitate to hand emerging talent the chance to shine on the biggest stage and there were several examples of that last season, although, ultimately, it didn’t do the Spanish coach or Arsenal much good.
The Emirates Stadium outfit fell at the last hurdle in the Europa League – losing 4-1 to Chelsea in the final in Baku – and also failing to secure a place in the upcoming Champions League campaign. But there was a nod to the strategy of fielding youngsters in that final when relatively unknown midfielder Joe Willock came on late on the game.
But whether or not Emery hands youngsters the chance through a policy of ‘if they are good enough, they are old enough’ or simply because he doesn’t have the budget to reinforce his squad with established players remains to be seen. One way or another it was one of those crop of Arsenal players from the youth ranks who caught the eye as the Gunners saw off Bayern Munich 2-1 in an International Champions Cup encounter in Los Angeles.
Step forward Eddie Nketiah, who had a rather impactful nine-minute spell as a sub against the Germans; he came off the bench with nine minutes to go and managed to bag the winner, one of three shots he got off, as well as nabbing the award for man of the match! Nketiah, who joined the Gunners after being rejected by Chelsea, joined the aforementioned Willock and Reiss Nelson in impressing in the match – the second victory on the tour of the United States with the first coming with a 3-0 win over Colorado Rapids. An own goal from Louis Poznanski gave the Londoners the lead on 49 minutes but lethal marksman Robert Lewandowski drew the Germans level after 71 minutes before Nketiah sealed the deal with two minutes of normal time remaining.
Emery was quick to reiterate his stance on giving youngsters their chance to shine when he was quizzed on the performance and result in the post-match press conference. He said:
“We have the responsibility with the young plyers to give them chances and we want also to use different young players to help us. They are going to be with us in the pre-season and some players are also going to be with us in the season. Each match, each minute they can show their performance like this one. It’s important because against the big players, for example Nketiah against Sule, is to show how we can respond with different situations and I thought this was very positive.”