By Rob Kelly
Neil Banfield says increased competition from the cream of the Under-18s squad will prove beneficial for his reserve team.
Serge Gnabry is set to start for the Gunners’ second string at Fulham on Tuesday night and the German teenager is just one of a number of rising stars in the academy who are pushing to make the step up.
Spanish midfielder Jon Toral made an accomplished Reserves debut in the 1-1 draw against Aston Villa two weeks ago, and Banfield says he expects more youngsters to make the breakthrough soon.
“There’s a good crop of lads in the Under-18s that we have been working with for a while. I saw them win [5-0] against Portsmouth on Saturday and they were in good form, so hopefully some of them will come through to the Reserves soon,” he told Arsenal.com.
“We always say to the guys, ‘You have to put every lad in your position under pressure. He may be your mate, but you are working for yourself’ – that’s what football is all about. They all need to strive for the next level and hopefully one day they will get into the first-team group.”
One player who has recently made the step up to Arsene Wenger’s squad is Nico Yennaris, who made his Premier League debut against Manchester United on Sunday.
“Nico acquitted himself very well and hopefully the manager will use him again. He has done himself no harm, and I’m sure he will be ready if he gets another opportunity,” Banfield said.
“It’s a big test to face someone like Nani, but that is what we try to get them ready for here. It’s no good [worrying] about playing someone, the manager picks them because he thinks they can do a job. They have to be ready for it.”
Banfield will be without both Sead Hajrovic and Daniel Boateng for the game against Fulham after both went out on loan last week – to Barnet and Swindon respectively – but Sanchez Watt returns from his spell at Sheffield Wednesday.
“Obviously we want to get back on the winning trail, and we need our performance to warrant that. Fulham is always a tough game, they are well organised and strong, so it will be a good game,” he said.
“It will be interesting to see Sead and Danny go out on loan. It’s about playing week in, week out and the mental preparation they need. They are playing for points now, and that’s a step up for them.
“We have Sanchez back and he enjoyed his time out on loan. It’s always nice to have someone of his quality in and around the team, especially for the younger boys who are just becoming involved as they can see the level they need to aim for.”
Lukasz Fabianski is expected to continue his rehabilitation from injury by starting against Fulham, while Ryo is once again likely to feature on the left flank.
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