Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger prides himself on nurturing young talent and has a proven track record when it comes to blooding teenagers at the right time, which makes his decision to throw Hector Bellerin against Stoke City yesterday all the more baffling.
Bellerin made only his third start for the Gunners at the Britannia Stadium and was quite frankly out of his depth, exposed for the opening goal and given the run-around by Bojan and Mame Diouf during a torrid first 45 minutes.
The 19-year-old was by no means the worst Arsenal player on the pitch but was rightly brought off at half-time, a decision which is just about the only one Wenger's got right when it comes to the Spanish youth international's development over the last few months.
Dortmund and Stoke a needless baptism of fire
Wenger clearly believes in Bellerin and given his exciting mix of pace and technical qualities its easy to see why, with his endeavour to create a golden opportunity for Olivier Giroud while yesterday's match was only 1-0 to Stoke a sign of his potential.
You have to wonder if he's ready to play regularly at this level though, particularly in a position where he can targeted and isolated in dangerous one-on-one situations by clever players like Bojan. Wenger couldn't have legislated for summer Mathieu Debuchy breaking his ankle, but the decision to let Carl Jenkinson join West Ham United on loan was frankly a poor one.
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Bellerin should still be out on loan
Wenger is effectively asking Bellerin to learn on the job against very testing opposition. Two of his three games for the club have been against Borussia Dortmund and Stoke away, far too big an ask of a youngster who is not even a natural right-back by any means.
You would think given the face Wenger's now made nine trips to the Britannia Stadium he would know exactly what's required to get a result against Stoke, focus and commitment defensively to build the foundation for quality to shine through in the final third.
Unfortunately for Arsenal fans the Frenchman still hasn't found the right formula to take three points away from Stoke though and yesterday was further painful proof of that fact.
Bellerin's inclusion and subsequent substitution was further evidence that Wenger is simply not learning from his mistakes, even when it comes to team selection.
Will the setback hurt Bellerin's development?
Wenger's failure to buy adequate defensive cover has thrust Bellerin and perhaps Calum Chambers into the spotlight too early, and it's not a new problem for Arsenal.
Two years ago Wenger played another young Spaniard in Ignasi Miquel against Swansea City and he was quite frankly torn apart by Scott Sinclair. Fast forward to 2014 and Chambers got pretty much the same treatment at the Liberty Stadium from Jefferson Montero, which was clearly a situation Wenger was trying to avoid against Stoke.
In moving Chambers to centre-back because Laurent Koscielny couldn't be risked Wenger has allowed the confidence of yet another one of his promising youngsters to take a needless battering.
Wenger has been so good at judging when players are ready to make the step up to Premier League and Champions League football for the majority of his fine managerial career, on the evidence of yesterday's farce at the Britannia dare I say he may be losing his touch.
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