Press conference

Arteta: "We need to get the machine going"

Lino Sousa, Reuell Walters and Ethan Nwaneri board the flight to Eindhoven

With qualification – and top spot in the group – already assured, Tuesday night’s meeting with PSV Eindhoven may well be an opportunity for Mikel to use some of the younger players at his disposal.

Defender Reuell Walters – who turns 19 on Saturday – is named in the squad, as is 18-year-left back Lino Sousa, and forward Ethan Nwaneri (17). If Walters or Sousa feature, they will make their first-team debut, while Nwaneri would become our youngest European player should he play. 

“They are three big prospects,” Arteta said during his pre-match press conference. “We want to bring a lot of players from a system and they deserve to be here. The circumstances have got them into this position. They’re still really, really young but we want to get them the experience because they have the talent hopefully to be very close to us. We’ll try to give them the opportunity if we can in the right moment.

“We need to get the machine going because we want more of those [young players] and we have to produce more of those. There’s a lot of work going into the academy and that’s big credit to all of them every single day for the amount of work that they’re putting in. They do a lot, they’ve planted the seeds and now we need to bring them up.”

The manager praised the ‘enthusiasm and energy’ of his young charges, and is determined to help them fulfil their undoubted potential. 

“There is something about them,” he smiled. “When you work in a meeting, or you talk to them, they have that energy, the eyes are open, there is a lot of enthusiasm. There is something fresh, something new and I have been there. 

“Everyone really wants to help them, I really want to help to fulfil their dream and hopefully we can achieve that.”

Nwaneri has already represented the first team, when he became the youngest player in Premier League history as a substitute against Brentford in September 2022. Since then he has continued to excel for our youth teams, and he scored five times at the weekend in the FA Youth Cup win over Crewe. 

Arteta said he’s a ‘unique’ talent, and compared him in style to his under-18s manager Jack Wilshere. 

“There’s something unique that he’s got that I really liked from the beginning,” the manager said. “He has the ability to take the ball in tight areas and to escape a little bit like Jack Wilshere used to do. The personality he has, he trains with us like he trains with the under-18s or under-16s and I love that in a player. 

“He’s got that bit between his teeth as well that he wants to show every single day how good he is and to impress people. When you have someone like that, you have to give him hope and as well it was a really important moment for us because we really wanted to keep him and I think it was a strange sign for him that this is his place for him to develop.”

But the manager was also keen to stress that he would not be handing out debuts cheaply, and that the priority on Tuesday night is to win the game. 

“Our duty as representatives of Arsenal is to win every game and tomorrow we need a big performance against a team that is going to make it very difficult like they have shown in the past two years here,” he said. 

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