Arsene Wenger, the Arsenal manager, may believe he has the most promising crop of young players since his arrival at Highbury but he is still ready to ease them out of the side for the latter stages of the Carling Cup.
Wenger fielded the usual collection of teenagers mixed with several first-teamers for the fourth-round game with Wolves and that policy paid off once again as the Gunners won 5-1 on Tuesday night.
The young French striker Jérémie Aliadière led the way with two goals, while the Spanish midfielder Francesc Fabregas, still only 16, became Arsenal's youngest ever goalscorer when he tapped home two minutes from time.
Kanu and Sylvain Wiltord also weighed in with a goal apiece but it was the young reserves who really shone, prompting Wenger to declare that Arsenal fans have not seen such a talented group of youngsters since the days of Tony Adams and Paul Merson.
Now the quarter-finals beckon but Wenger is ready to discard those players who have swept the club to the last eight in such emphatic style. "It's difficult to know what team I will pick for the next game. My first responsibility is towards the club - you must always make the decision which is right for the club," he said.
"The players know that. I've shown faith in them by letting them play in the Carling Cup. These matches improve their confidence and they also give me a good line on who to follow for the future. I can see who I can count on as I slowly rebuild the team.
"But I will always play the team which I think has a chance of winning. Yesterday I thought we could outplay Wolves but knew that it is the only competition where we could throw on the younger players to such an extent.
"I would like the Carling Cup to involve home and away legs so that I could see the younger players in action more often," he added.
Wenger has no intention of selling off any of the youngsters to raise transfer funds - several scouts were at Highbury for the Wolves game - and revealed that Gunners fans were given a glimpse of the future. "I was not aware of the scouts in the press box - they didn't necessarily come to see us, maybe they came to watch Wolves' players! But do you think we educate players for five years and then let them go away?" he said.
"If they are not good enough we let them go but we won't let the ones with promise be taken away. Against Wolves we saw some players who will be a part of Arsenal sides in years to come. This is the best bunch of players that have been here in my time.
"The last big generation was Paul Merson and Tony Adams, but since then I think we now have the biggest quality ever."
The result was painful for the Wolves manager, Dave Jones, who is struggling to instil consistency into his team. "We can't string two good performances together and that's what I'm trying to get this team to do," he said. We've got a small squad and are down to the bare bones, but it wasn't about systems or players against Arsenal.
"When we apply ourselves we're a match for anybody as we showed against Newcastle on Saturday. But after this result and performance we've got to start all over again."Reuse content