Young Gunners excite Wenger
Arsene Wenger feels his youngsters once again showed just why Arsenal are not desperate for new signings, with a mature display in beating Liverpool to reach the quarter-finals of the League Cup. The Gunners manager may have included experience in the shape of veteran defender Mikael Silvestre and French playmaker Samir Nasri, but it was teenager Fran Merida who fired the hosts ahead.
Nicklas Bendtner - himself only 21, but now a regular in the first team - produced a powerful finish after 50 minutes to put Arsenal into the last eight, after Emiliano Insua had equalised. Wenger believes the performances of the likes of Merida, Wales international Aaron Ramsey and Craig Eastmond shows just why he continues to believe in his youngsters.
"It is always difficult to convince people we do not need players, but when you see them tonight, you understand why," said the Frenchman. "We see them every day in training and have so much quality with our young players that we are not specially out on the market.
"Fran is 19, Ramsey and Eastmond still only 18. To play in a game at that level, they deserve a lot of credit."
Wenger hails Gibbs, Merida
Fullback Kieran Gibbs turned in a decent display in front of England coach Fabio Capello. And wenger believes the 20-year-old can force his way into the Italian's 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ squad.
"Gibbs will get games and he has already this season," said the Arsenal manager. "Personally, if Capello asks me my opinion, I will give him a very positive one. I believe he is ready to step up."
Wenger was more than happy with the way all of his team performed. "The experienced players played well, so did the young players, some of whom were making their debut," he said. "Liverpool came back to 1-1 and we still managed to win, that shows we have also mental resources."
Wenger believes Merida, just back from the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Egypt, has a bright future ahead of him with the Gunners. "Fran is a quality player," said Wenger, who decided against allowing the former Barcelona trainee to go out on loan to Levante. "He comes from a very good school.
"I kept him because I felt he had the quality to break through, but when you look at all the players who did not play, of course the competition for players is very difficult. Fran came to us at a very young age, but our school is in line with the way he was educated. He suits perfectly the way we want to play football."
Goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski made his first-team return last night, having recovered from knee surgery. With Vito Mannone and Manuel Almunia, who is fit again following a virus, both also available, Wenger has something of a selection poser ahead of Saturday's north-London derby with Tottenham Hotspur.
"Fabianski has done very well," he said. "Almunia is back to his normal level, and I would have no worries about playing him - but at the moment, I do not know what I will do on Saturday."