Arsene Wenger believes Arsenal's young guns have come of age after their stunning 5-2 UEFA Champions League victory at Fenerbahce.
Wenger sent out a team with an average age of just 23 but they made a mockery of the Sukru Saracoglu Stadium's intimidating reputation to hand Fenerbahce their first home European defeat in nearly three years. Fifteen matches had passed Fenerbahce had last been beaten in front of their fiercely-passionate fans.
However, that didn't frighten Arsenal and Emmanuel Adebayor and Theo Walcott put Wenger's side in control with two goals in a minute early in the first half. Mikael Silvestre's own goal reduced the deficit, but Abou Diaby and Alexandre Song made 4-1. Daniel Guiza's late strike was no consolation for Fenerbahce as Aaron Ramsey completed the rout in stoppage time to secure Arsenal's biggest European away win for five years.
After a spluttering start to the season, Wenger see signs that his team of precocious talents are maturing into a formidable force. "I am very proud of the team. The average age was 23 and I am proud because we came in and tried to dictate the game in a very heated atmosphere," he said.
"It is very pleasing that they seemed to play with no fear. I am pleased to see it works. ."
Rarely have Fenerbahce been so embarrassed on home soil. The Turkish team were carved open time and again by Arsenal's rapid counter-attacks and could have conceded more. With William Gallas, Kolo Toure and Bacary Sagna missing from Wenger's defence, it wasn't surprising that Arsenal looked vulnerable at the back at times. But the manner of their attacking play that gave Wenger hope of greater things to come this season.
"Because the two teams were going forward it was a very open game and Fenerbahce are an attacking side and are very dangerous going forward," he said. "Both teams were going forward 100 per cent but the fact we scored an early goal forced Fenerbahce to come out and we caught them many times on the counter-attack. Our pace, movement and technique made the difference and allowed us to take advantage of it but it was not an easy game."
Wenger's decision to drop Robin van Persie and hand Abou Diaby his first appearance for three months paid dividends as the French midfielder combined with Cesc Fabregas to devastating effect. "He can do it. He can play nearly everywhere. From midfield going forward, he can play everywhere," Wenger said. "He has been out for nearly three months now. It was his first start and he had a very good game."