In pictures: Arsenal v Sunderland
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Arsenal hero Paul Merson believes the Gunners’ young players can emulate the success of Manchester United’s Class of 92. Arsenal beat Sunderland 5-1 in the quarter-final of the Carabao Cup on Tuesday. Eddie Nketiah grabbed his first senior hat-trick before 18-year-old Charlie Patino netted a debut goal.
Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta has put plenty of faith in his younger player this season.
The Gunners have the youngest average XI in the Premier League so far this term.
Academy graduates Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka have perhaps stood out above the rest.
But Gabriel Martinelli is also now starting to fulfil his huge potential.
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Arsenal are fourth in the Premier League as they aim to qualify for the Champions League for the first time since 2016.
And Merson has backed the quintet of youngsters to be mainstays in the side for years to come.
“There’s some good things happening at Arsenal,” he said on Sky Sports.
“You’ve got these young players. Imagine if Nketiah gets in the team then all of a sudden you’ve got Smith Rowe on one side and Saka on the other or Martinelli and Smith Rowe dropping back.
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“Them four players and the young lad Charlie can be the next five, six, seven years at Arsenal.
“Who knows, they could be the next Man United.”
Nketiah is out of contract at the end of the season and recently rejected an offer of an extension.
In his post-match press conference, Arteta insisted he still wants the former England under-21 star to stay.
“I tell you every day that we want to keep Eddie,” Arteta said.
“We see how he trains, that’s what he does every day, he works so hard and puts the ball in the net every session.
“I am really delighted with him. Every time we have needed him he has always responded.
“We are trying. It’s not about anything else but minutes. He wants game time, he wants to be on that field and that is the only reason to say, ‘Can I do it here?’
“That’s the question. We all want him to stay.”
And speaking to Sky Sports, Nketiah outlined his desire to play more regularly.
“Wherever I’m asked to play, I’m going to do my best and help the team, so yeah, I’m ready if the manager needs me,” Nketiah said.
“I’m desperate to play football, you know? Every player wants to play, so all I can do is keep working hard and improve day by day, and I think it’ll sort itself out; hopefully, I get opportunities.
“Like I said, I’m just eager to play football, that’s my ambition.
“So, like I said, I’m here under contract, and as long as I play for Arsenal, I’m going to give my all, and if the manager needs me, I’ll be ready to help the team.”
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