Wenger puts his kids on the block
Tuesday 04 January 2005
Arsene Wenger will call on what he believes to be his youngest-ever line-up in a league match today to maintain Arsenal's push to retain the Premiership.
The Arsenal manager was moved to make that claim after the injury to Sol Campbell at the weekend means he will field the 19-year-old Philippe Senderos at centre-half at home to Manchester City tonight.
Senderos joins right-back Justin Hoyte, 20, and the Spanish midfielder Cesc Fabregas, 17, in the team while Robin van Persie, 21, is set to continue in attack alongside Thierry Henry.
Other injuries to midfield pair Edu and Gilberto Silva and striker Dennis Bergkamp have also forced Wenger's hand. Wenger, who is more used to choosing such a line-up for the Carling Cup, joked: "I look older and older on the bench because my team looks younger and younger.
"They have shown they can do well by playing in the Carling Cup. I am less reluctant to use them as a result. But even though you bring them in it is difficult to integrate them into the team because there is pressure on Arsenal to win the championship every year.
"We are a team with a youth policy and while it is one thing to have that, it is another to put them in. But we are in the position at the moment where we are not scared to put them in."
Senderos came on as a late substitute in the win against Charlton on Saturday and he will be making his first league start for the Gunners.
Wenger said: "Senderos came with a big reputation last season but was injured the whole time. The important thing was to get him playing for six months [in the reserves]. Now he looks like he has come back to the level where we expected him to be.
"I have no doubts about his quality, only about his health. The first thing you have to look to is their health. When a young player is out for a year that is a worry.
"He is impatient to play but is a very strong character. In general though my young players have not let me down. I rely on these young boys.In the league I cannot remember picking such a young team, not even when I was at Monaco."
Wenger also said he has not given up hope on Edu extending his deal, which runs out this summer. He said: "Contract talks with Edu are open. He can extend his contract now but it has to be sorted out before the end of January because he can sign for someone else this month."
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