The Carling Cup is becoming Arsène Wenger's crystal ball.

For a number of years the Arsenal manager has put out a youthful side in the competition with some success. However this season they have surpassed themselves; reaching the Final and putting out three Premiership teams en route.

Youngsters like Denilson and Armand Traore have hit the headlines this year. In previous seasons Cesc Fabregas, Philippe Senderos, Gael Clichy, Emmanuel Eboue and Johan Djourou have emerged in this competition. It means that Wenger can limit his transfer outlay to those truly exceptional - and highly costly - players.

"The Carling Cup is almost like looking into the future," said Wenger. "That's what I use it for.

"I look at the Carling Cup team to see where we are going as a Club. Do we have enough to fight for the Premiership and Champions League? Or do we have to buy because they aren't good enough? This year they have shown me they are good enough.

"To work well in the future, a club like ours should only have to buy the exceptional players. We should have a good enough squad to fight for the rest.

"I didn't buy anybody in the transfer window because there's no point bringing average players in."

However, according to Wenger, such a policy does require strength from the Club's manager and its directors.

"The problem is you have to combine two things," he said. "You have to install enough in the club to go with that policy. If it's done in the short term and the manager changes every two years then why should he go for a policy of five years?

"Secondly, you have to be strong enough to play the young players when there's a big demand. You have to stick to it. If you want to know how good your players are then you have to play them."

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2 Feb 2007