x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Arsenal boys brigade

Wenger is full of praise for team with average age of 19. "They are the best group I've ever had."

The Gunners striker Carlos Vela celebrates his hat-trick goal against Sheffield United.
The Gunners striker Carlos Vela celebrates his hat-trick goal against Sheffield United.

Carlos Vela had to wait three years to play for Arsenal and was obviously determined to make up for lost time. A superb hat-trick in the crushing 6-0 Carling Cup win over Sheffield United on Tuesday night showed that Arsene Wenger has another gem on his hands. It was a remarkable impact on English football from the 19-year-old, who was signed by Arsenal in 2005 for £2.5million (Dh17m) from Guadalajara after inspiring Mexico to the Fifa Under-17 World Cup.

He has had to ply his trade in Spain, on loan to Celta Vigo, Salamanca and Osasuna, until he met the UK work permit criteria, but Wenger always wanted him back and it was clear to see why as Vela, in his first competitive start, led Arsenal's young team in their cup stroll at the Emirates. Cool and clinical; a player who "makes you smile", admitted the Frenchman, who likened him to his Croatian frontman Eduardo.

Tuesday's side who thrashed Sheffield United were the youngest to represent Arsenal in a senior competition with an average age of 19. One of their goals was scored by a 16-year-old, the midfielder Jack Wilshere. "They are the best group I've ever had," said Wenger. "I was not surprised because I see them every day, but you never know on a big stage how they play. "They did that with the belief we want them to have and the spirit we want them to have. We knew about [Nicklas] Bendtner [who scored twice], but we discovered more about Vela. He is a clinical finisher.

"These players do not play like kids. They play with intelligence, talent and with spirit. They can beat many teams and I would not be scared to play any individual in the Premier League. When you are under immense pressure to buy in every transfer window, when you know that you have these players behind it would be killing the work we have done." The Danish striker Bendtner, 20, welcomed the manager's faith and the fact he would keep using the youngsters for the Carling Cup campaign and have them in mind for the Premier League.

He said: "Every year there is talk about new players and every year the boss says we have the players who are here. The players have showed they have the quality and are capable of doing what is required of them. "The guys who played at the start of the game and those who came on have played in the reserves together now for a few years. They know each other and we have played with them before as well. We have a very high belief and I think we showed a lot of character all through and showed what are Arsenal are about."