Unai Emery has challenged Arsenal’s young players to fire Arsenal into the Champions League next season as the Gunners chase a top four finish for the first time since 2016. The Spaniard wants his stars to push their development to the point where they are genuine, and regular, contenders for the first team, despite a £152million spending spree in the summer.
Arsenal have lost just one game in all competitions so far this season but a return to the pinnacle of European football is a priority. Arsenal tickets continue to be top sellers in all competitions especially for games at the Emirates Stadium in the Premier League. Europa League tickets also continue to attract interest with deals on Carabao Cup matches also available.
The Gunners spent significantly in the summer as they aim to end their three-year Champions League exodus. They broke their club transfer record to bring in £72m Lille forward Nicolas Pepe; A £15m loan deal was agreed to bring in Real Madrid midfielder Dani Ceballos; £25m on Celtic left-back Kieran Tierney, plus a deadline day deal to bring David Luiz across London from Chelsea for £7m. The jury remains out on some of their new recruits but only time will tell if they will be a success in North London.
For now, it is likely Emery will maintain his policy of using Arsenal’s youngsters mainly in the Carabao Cup and Europa League, but they could well get their opportunities in the Premier League should the club’s senior players form dip or require a rest as the club battle on all domestic cup fronts.
Emery has given a host of the club’s emerging talent opportunities to shine this season and, by and large, they have done so. Matteo Guendouzi has cemented his spot in the middle of midfield this season ahead of other senior stats. Meanwhile, 18-year olds Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka have impressed with other graduates like Reiss Nelson, Joe Willock, Emile Smith and Konstantinos Mavropanos all receiving minutes and producing eye-catching displays.
In particular, hopes were always high for Martinelli in the long-term but few expected such an immediate impact from a player who at the start of this year was playing in the fourth tier of Brazilian football. Two starts have brought with them four goals in an Arsenal shirt. A hugely exciting talent. Meanwhile, Saka has started the last three Premier League games with a standout performance against Manchester United at Old Trafford a particular highlight.
Emery said: “We can be excited by the process with the young players but also we must be calm because the process is continuing. With Bukayo, Willock and others I want them to improve their progress in the squad.”
There is certainly reason to be optimistic in hope that the competition between the young trio can only push each of them to even greater heights as they look to take the heat off stars like Pierre Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette. Former boss, Arsene Wenger has also echoed the sentiment to give youth an opportunity and is pleased with the current prospects coming through the ranks.
Wenger said: “It's part of our DNA at Arsenal. It has always been part of it, to give a chance. I think when you are manager and you can give a chance to a young boy, it's always fantastic and when they can play at such a high level like Arsenal, it's even better.”
Meanwhile, the curious case of Mesut Ozil continues to rumble on with his involvement as limited as ever. The German has made only two appearances, culminating in 142 minutes of football for Arsenal this season with Emery claiming that other players were more deserving of a place in his squad. Not ideal for your highest paid player on £350,000-a-week.
“Every player is the same and I want them pushing to achieve a position in the squad” Emery said.
Fans can buy tickets to watch Arsenal play in three competitions before the end of October following the international break at Football Ticket Pad. A tricky trip to Bramall Lane is first up as the Gunners take on Sheffield United on Monday night before hosting Vitoria in the Europa League three days later in London. Arsenal remain on home soil as they return to Premier League duties to take on Crystal Palace at the Emirates Stadium before rounding off the month with a trip to Anfield in the last 16 of the Carabao Cup.