Arsenal’s first team might have jetted out to New York for their second pre-season game of the new season this weekend against the New York Red Bulls where they will play against former Arsenal star and legend Thierry Henry. But Arsenal manager – Arsene Wenger is still basking in the euphoria of his teams performance last weekend, where his young lads took centre-stage and didn’t disappoint.
Arsène Wenger has hailed the potential of 16-year-old Chris Willock after the winger caught the eye in a pre-season friendly against Boreham Wood on Saturday.
A fleet-footed youngster capable of playing as an advanced midfielder as well as on either wing or up front.
The teenager was a surprise inclusion in the Arsenal XI which beat the Conference South side 2-0 at Meadow Park, but he delivered an impressive performance during his 45 minute run-out.
Cesc Fábregas, Jack Wilshere and Serge Gnabry were all given opportunities to press their first-team claims in pre-season friendlies at the age of 16, and Wenger believes Willock could be the next youngster to make his mark at Arsenal.
“He’s a very young boy and I wanted him to have a run-out with the big boys to see how much he has to do,” said the Arsenal manager.
“But technically and tactically he integrated very well. Of course it’s natural that he lacks a bit of power at that age but when he gets that he will be a very interesting player.”
Willock is one of three footballing brothers. His younger brother Joe also plays for Arsenal, while his older brother Matthew plays for Manchester United.
“[The game] was a good opportunity to give everyone 45 minutes,” Wenger told the Arsenal website. “We lacked a bit of incisiveness in our runs and passes which is normal because we are not ready and it was very hot.
“It is more to see who can integrate into the first team from the youth team – who is the closest to the first team. For the first-team players who are used to playing in the Premier League, it was to see how fit they are and how much more work they need.”
Wenger was also delighted to see Abou Diaby get 45 minutes under his belt as he aims to prove his fitness before the new season. “You wish that he just gets through the game, which happened here – I’m very pleased with that,” he said.
“If you get a fit Diaby back, it will be a major asset for our team. At the moment we go step-by-step and he came through this game so that’s very good news for us.”
Wenger has once again given chance to a handful of youngsters as the Gunners take on the New York Red Bulls this weekend. Here is a list of the squad that jetted off to New York:
Goalkeepers: Damien Martinez, Wojciech Szczesny
Defenders: Hector Bellerin, Kieran Gibbs, Isaac Hayden, Carl Jenkinson, Ignasi Miquel, Nacho Monreal
Midfielders: Mikel Arteta, Santi Cazorla, Francis Coquelin, Abou Diaby, Mathieu Flamini, Kristoffer Olsson, Aaron Ramsey, Tomas Rosicky, Jon Toral, Jack Wilshere, Gedion Zelalem
Forward: Chuba Akpom.