Arsenal have given their fans plenty of reasons for optimism over the past few weeks.
Mikel Arteta’s men are up to fourth in the Premier League having won their last three top-flight games. On Tuesday evening, the Gunners continued their strong run with an emphatic 5-1 victory over Sunderland in their Carabao Cup quarter-final tie.
Arteta made wholesale changes to his team for the encounter, with only Ben White and Martin Odegaard remaining from the side that took the field for Saturday’s 4-1 demolition of Leeds.
The club’s crop of young players took centre stage against Sunderland as the likes of Folarin Balogun, Emile Smith Rowe and Eddie Nketiah all featured from the start.
Nketiah took full advantage of his opportunity, continuing his fine form in this season’s competition by helping himself to a hat-trick at the Emirates.
A sparkling performance from the north London side was capped by a stoppage-time goal from 18-year-old debutant Charlie Patino, who came on as a late replacement for Smith Rowe.
Paul Merson feels Arsenal have a solid foundation in place for the future
A fine evening’s work for Arsenal left many feeling very positive about the club’s future, including Sky Sports pundit Paul Merson – himself a former playmaker for the Gunners.
Over the course of this season, boss Arteta hasn’t been afraid to give youth a chance. England winger Bukayo Saka and Brazilian forward Gabriel Martinelli have both been standout performers during Arsenal’s recent good run.
With it looking increasingly likely that former captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has played his last game in an Arsenal shirt and fellow frontman Alexandre Lacazette out of contract in the summer, it appears that the next generation will get plenty of experience in the months ahead.
“There are some good things happening at Arsenal with the young players,” insisted Merson following Tuesday’s victory.
“You imagine if Nketiah gets in the team and then all of a sudden you have got Smith Rowe on one side and Saka on the other
“Or they could have Martinelli on one side and Smith Rowe dropping back.
“Those four players, and the young lad, Charlie, they could be around for the next five, six or seven years at Arsenal. Who knows, it could be the next Man United,” he concluded.
Watch: Merson likens Arsenal’s crop of youngsters to those produced by the Manchester United academy down the years
United’s academy has produced a whole host of top players over the last three decades. Most famously, the ‘Class of 92’ contained the likes of David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt and Gary Neville, all of which Sir Alex Ferguson successfully moulded into one of the most successful teams in English football history.
Winning countless domestic honours, as well as the 1999 Champions League, it’s safe to say that Arsenal fans would happily accept a team even half as prolific.
The Red Devils have an excellent track record of developing young stars. To claim that Arsenal might match it, especially off the back of a cup victory over a League One side, is a bold statement. Time will tell whether it proves an inspired prediction.
Arsenal 5-1 Sunderland (Via The Football Terrace)
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