Arsenal pick ‘three big prospects’ for Champions League match at PSV

Mikel Arteta can afford to experiment thanks to the Gunners’ unassailable position at the top of Group B

Lawrence Ostlere
Tuesday 12 December 2023 09:48 GMT
'He's fine' Arteta on absent Saka ahead of PSV match

Mikel Arteta has picked three rising talents from Arsenal’s Hale End academy to join the senior squad on their Champions League trip to PSV.

Reuell Walters, Ethan Nwaneri and Lino Sousa have travelled with the group and could make their Arsenal debuts in the dead rubber, with both clubs already qualified to the knockout phase and the Gunners assured of top spot in Group B.

Asked if it has become harder to blood youngsters while challenging for honours, the Spaniard replied: “It gets harder and harder. So the talent has to be really good. (They are) three big prospects. We want to keep developing players from our system. They deserve to be here. There are circumstances that have brought them here. We will try to give them the opportunity if we can in the right moment.”

Arteta has told another homegrown talent, Emile Smith Rowe, to use his latest injury setback as fuel to return to action better than ever. Smith Rowe has been sidelined with a knee injury and has not featured since a 5-0 win over Sheffield United on 28 October, but is back among the squad.

It remains to be seen what role, if any, Smith Rowe will fulfil on Tuesday but, asked if Smith Rowe needs to start again following another injury lay-off as he aims to keep fit for a prolonged period, Arteta replied: “I think what he’s been through is part of the experience that 90 per cent of footballers have to go through.

“Difficulties, injuries, setbacks and different types of performances now. That’s all in his bag now. If he can use that in a powerful way he’ll be a much better player. The way he’s done his rehab, I haven’t seen him do it before like how he’s done it this time. You see the way his team-mates reacted to his comeback which is really positive as well. The moment we can give him chances, the better we’re going to be.”

While Arteta admits the job of qualifying for the knockout stages is “technically done” he insists he and his players have a “duty” to try and win every game. Smith Rowe may have travelled but his England colleague and fellow academy graduate Bukayo Saka has stayed behind.

“He is fine,” Arteta added. “With a few of them we decided to have another day recovery just 48 hours before and he has played a lot of minutes so it wasn’t worth exposing him. We have five or six big injuries so we are already a bit thin. I don’t know in another context what I would have done but I also want everyone together with the mentality to win. I want to see that in their tummies tomorrow.”

Gabriel Martinelli is out with illness while Bukayo Saka is set to be rested following a minor foot issue.

additional reporting by PA

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