Arsène Wenger has "complete confidence" in his Carling Cup kids now and feels many will put up a "serious battle" to many first-choice players for a starting berth. 

Before all the red cards and recriminations began, Arsenal's youngsters actually put in a sterling effort against a full strength Chelsea side in Sunday's Final at the Millennium Stadium. Having beaten Premiership level XIs from Everton and Tottenham in previous rounds plus a handy Liverpool team at Anfield, Wenger now feels many of his starlets can step up.

A smattering are likely to be on parade at Ewood Park tonight in the FA Cup Fifth Round replay against Blackburn. Don't be surprised if more figure in the Premiership and Champions League before the season is out.

"What these boys have done against Liverpool, Everton, Tottenham and Chelsea on Sunday is not a coincidence," said the Arsenal manager. "To repeat top level performances is never like that. That is why I have complete confidence in them after the Carling Cup run. For me they are now contenders and everybody who plays for the first team has a serious battle.

"Aliadiere has come back to challenge for the first team so has Walcott. Players like Denilson are serious contenders now. Also we have discovered Diaby again after a serious injury. He is a massive talent and can be a massive player for us. Some younger players like Traore have played as well so overall it is a very positive run.

"It is very sad that it finished like it did. But you cannot take away that this team produced some excellent football, some excellent entertainment and some excellent emotions even for people who are not Arsenal supporters. I would like to keep that as a very positive experience for the Club."

12/1 - Blackburn v Arsenal: Gilberto to score the first goal

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28 Feb 2007