Wenger backs youngster to give Arsenal boost

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The Independent Football

Arsene Wenger maintains giving youth a chance to shine in the Carling Cup will serve in the best interests of Arsenal's future - whatever the outcome of tonight's quarter-final at Manchester City.

Despite the disappointment of Sunday's 3-0 home defeat by Barclays Premier League leaders Chelsea - which left the Gunners 11 points off the pace, albeit with a game in hand - Wenger will stick to the policy of handing vital big-match experience to the younger members of his squad.

The Carling Cup has long been a breeding ground for Arsenal stars of the future, with Cesc Fabregas, now the Gunners' captain, making his debut as a 16-year-old against Rotherham during October 2003.

Wenger sees no reason why the current crop of youthful talent, which includes reserve captain Kyle Bartley, pacy forward Sanchez Watt, versatile Craig Eastmond - who are all 18 - and 19-year-old Spaniard Fran Merida, who netted a spectacular strike against Liverpool in the last round, should not go on to become first-team regulars.

"Let's keep the faith in our young players who keep waiting for this game and I want to give them a chance to play," said the Arsenal manager.

"I believe any result should not influence too much your policy.

"We know what we want to do in the Carling Cup but we also want to win it.

"It is a cup game and I believe, in a cup game, anything is possible."

Wenger added: "A player who has now left the club once said to me, 'it is very different at Arsenal because there is always a young player on your back, ready to take your place and that creates great pressure'. I told him you use that pressure to make yourself a better player.

"When you have only experienced players, there is a little bit of hierarchy installed and expected, but with young players they keep you under pressure - they want to eat you, want to get in front of you.

"I believe this has to be good for the players in the team and the club as a whole."

A full-strength Arsenal side were somewhat unfortunate to lose 4-2 against City back in September, when former Arsenal striker Emmanuel Adebayor grabbed the headlines for all the wrong reasons - with his controversial goal celebration and a stamp on Robin van Persie that saw the Togo striker handed a ban by the Football Association.

Wenger, though, insists tonight will not be about any kind of retribution when they return to Manchester.

"On the day, we behaved how you want Arsenal to behave and so I do not see why we should worry about that," he said.

"What is important is that we focus on our game and do not worry about our opponent too much.

"Of course you want their strikers to be quiet but that is more down to the quality of our defenders."