Arsène Wenger says that young players need to take their chances when given first-team football for Arsenal, ahead of tonight’s Europa League meeting with BATE Borisov.
As in the matches against FC Köln and Doncaster Rovers, it’s widely expected that some youth prospects will feature against Borisov.
According to reports, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Reiss Nelson, Joe Willock, Eddie Nketiah, Josh Dasilva, Matt Macey, Chuba Akpom, Vlad Dragomir, Marcus McGuane and Charlie Gilmour have all travelled to Belarus.
10 players in total, and only seven places on the bench. Wenger says that those who do get to make an appearance need to prove themselves, reports the Daily Mail.
He said: “This is the kind of job you do not get 10 opportunities to play for Arsenal. When you get it, even if they only get 20 minutes, you have to convince people you have the qualities to do it and you have the courage to play and show your qualities.
“There is always an uncertainty. We know in training, you see in training that the player has the quality. Yes, he is here because he has the qualities. After, to show it during competition is something different. And in my experience you only discover that during the competition.
“I believe handling the pressure is part of it. When you play at Arsenal, at a young age, you have to.” There were a couple of shaky moments against Doncaster Rovers, with both Reiss Nelson and Maitland-Niles caught on the ball to allow Rovers a dangerous counter-attack.
Fortunately, Ainsley managed to recover the situation on both occasions. However, that won’t always be possible, so the youngsters need to handle the pressure to minimise their mistakes, whilst also showing what they can do.
Maitland-Niles summed up the balancing act for young players in a video on the official Arsenal YouTube channel, saying: “You have to show him (Arsène) something that no other player shows him in that position, and also look as if you’re a team player at the same time. So you have to almost be selfish but unselfish to stick in his mind.”
So, that’s the challenge for any young players given a start or substitute appearance tonight. Handle the pressure to show what you can do, but also keep in mind that a club like Arsenal want team players.