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Mikel Arteta explains decision not to play academy youngsters in PSV draw

Mikel Arteta has explained why Ethan Nwaneri, Lino Sousa and Reuell Walters didn’t feature in Arsenal’s 1-1 draw with PSV Eindhoven, stating he believed it wasn’t the “right context” for the trio to make their Champions League debuts.

Nwaneri, Sousa and Walters were all called up to the squad to face off against PSV in the Gunners’ final, dead-rubber, UEFA Champions League group stage game.

Arsenal fans had been excited to see the teenagers feature in the Netherlands, but manager Arteta ultimately opted against playing any of the three youngsters – bringing Declan Rice, Martin Odegaard, Ben White, Gabriel Jesus and a returning Emile Smith Rowe off the bench instead.

Speaking to the press after the 1-1 draw, Arteta discussed the decision to give Nwaneri, Sousa or Walters game-time.

Brentford FC v Arsenal FC - Premier League

Nwaneri made his Arsenal debut aged 15 / Visionhaus/GettyImages

“I don’t think it was the right context, making eight changes already to throw them in there against a team that hasn’t lost here almost in two years, I didn’t think it was the right moment,” Arteta said.

“I went on to wait to see how the game developed, but it was too much for them and as well we have three little issues, we had to make the subs and then we had no room because we really wanted to play a game as well.

“Emile, we wanted to play him a little bit earlier. We were waiting because we had two players with niggles. I was asking them can they continue? I was hesitant to make the change too early and than have six or seven minutes with ten men.”

Nwaneri has previously featured for the Arsenal senior team, becoming the Gunners’ youngest ever player when he made his first-team debut aged just 15 last season.

Walters and Sousa, both 18 years old, are still awaiting their senior debuts with Arsenal, although with both now being ingratiated into Arteta’s set-up, one can expect the pair to make their maiden bow sooner rather than later.


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