By Richard Clarke

Arsène Wenger feels vindicated in his decision to stick with young players this season.

The Arsenal manager left himself wide open to criticism when he allowed established first-team players like Alex Hleb, Mathieu Flamini and Gilberto to go last summer while signing only Samir Nasri as a like-for-like replacement. Wenger’s plan was to rely on the younger players in his squad.

The media response was stinging after a number of defeats early on and long-term injuries to Cesc Fabregas, Eduardo and Tomas Rosicky did not help either. As a result, Wenger has leaned even more heavily on youth.

Gradually it has worked and Arsenal go into the last two months of the season looking increasingly safe in fourth place. They are also looking forward to a Champions League Quarter-Final and an FA Cup Semi-Final.

“I knew when I decided to go for a young team what would hit me,” he said. “I was prepared for that. I am pleased that I was not wrong but we have a long way to go and a lot to improve.”

Copyright 2014 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 25 Mar 2009