Arsenal’s youngsters were the focus of attention after Thursday night’s 3-0 Europa League win at Molde.
No fewer than eight academy graduates were named in the matchday squad, and it was a memorable night for 19-year-old Folarin Balogun, who scored with his first touch of the ball.
Reiss Nelson also impressed, opening his account for the season and putting Arsenal on the way to victory after Nicolas Pepe broke the deadlock just after half-time.
One of the most noteworthy but perhaps slightly overlooked talking points was Emile Smith Rowe’s cameo. The 20-year-old, who has found first-team opportunities hard to come by, came on late in the second half and caught the eye, creating Balogun’s goal with an excellent piece of play on the left flank.
“Emile is a player with an incredible talent. He’s got the ability and the quality,” said Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta after the game.
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“Mentally, it is always a challenge because the demands are so high, the pressure is high to play here and you need to hit those levels to become an Arsenal player. It’s down to him as well.
“I really like him and he’s a player that if we are a little bit patient [with], we have a great player there.”
The issue for Arteta is finding a place in his team for Smith Rowe. Substitute appearances in the Europa League are all well and good, but the youngster will, at some point, expect to play more often in the Premier League.
What is clear is that Arsenal need an injection of creativity. Smith Rowe would provide that, but Arteta may be reluctant to give up on Joe Willock, who has shown real promise early in the season.
Admittedly, the 21-year-old was underwhelming in the goalless draw at Leeds United last weekend, but his performances in the Europa League have often been exceptional. He…