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Thursday 14 December 2017

Wenger urges young guns to take chance

Arsenal's Alexis Sanchez (centre) during the training session at London Colney.Pic: Yui Mok/PA Wire
Arsenal's Alexis Sanchez (centre) during the training session at London Colney.Pic: Yui Mok/PA Wire

Arsene Wenger has urged his young players to seize the opportunity presented by Arsenal's Europa League campaign as they await their opening away fixture at BATE Borisov in Belarus.

Wenger is understood to have travelled without Laurent Koscielny, Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez, Granit Xhaka, Alexandre Lacazette, Sead Kolasinac, Hector Bellerin and Nacho Monreal. Injuries to Alex Iwobi, Santi Cazorla, Francis Coquelin, Calum Chambers and Danny Welbeck have further limited his options.

In their absences the senior players include Per Mertesacker, Jack Wilshere, Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott, meaning the promising Ainsley Maitland-Niles (inset) is among those likely to feature, and the manager said: "This is the kind of job: you do not get 10 opportunities to play for Arsenal. Even if they only get 20 minutes, you have to convince people you have the qualities to do it and the courage to play and show your qualities. We see in training that the player has quality. He is here because he has the qualities. After, to show it during competition is something different, and you only discover that during the competition.

"I said on Monday night after the (2-0 defeat of West Brom) that I would play an experienced team with a young bench. We have a very tight schedule and it is an important game, and that's why there is only one or two young players who will start."

Discussing Maitland-Niles, 20, Wenger said: "His best position is defensive midfield. He has exceptional pace, a capacity to steal the ball from people, and I am convinced that he is ready to play."

Mertesacker is to retire at the season's end to become the club's academy manager, and he similarly recognises the importance of those younger players gaining first-team experience.

"We see a lot of young players training with us, a lot of young players they have a good future here, but you need to develop them in a lot of areas," said the 32-year-old.

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