By Chris Harris
Arsène Wenger has pinpointed the moment when his young squad 'grew up' this season.
The Frenchman put his faith in youth for the current campaign but his policy was criticised after five defeats in Arsenal's first 14 Premier League fixtures. However, Wenger's team have rallied since their slow start, are unbeaten in 18 top-flight games and have a live chance of glory in the Champions League and FA Cup.
Another precocious performance will be required when Arsenal host Villarreal in the second leg of their Champions League Quarter-Final at Emirates Stadium on Wednesday evening. Fortunately, Wenger has seen plenty of evidence that his 'boys' can do the job of men.
"When did they grow up? There are different moments," said the manager.
"After our defeat at Manchester City we went to Chelsea and won. We played 2-2, 0-0 at home and still got a lot of negative publicity but still kept going.
"There was another decisive factor in Rome; when you miss your first penalty and come up against Totti, Baptista, Montella and Vucinic still to take a penalty with Pizarro. You know, you are away from home against penalty specialists.
"You have only kids really to take your penalties but you still manage to win. You need some mental strength and I believe it was a turning point in the belief of the team."Copyright 2013 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 13 Apr 2009