Unai Emery was quick to praise all his young players after last night’s 1-0 win over Qarabag in the Europa League, but reserved some special words for Bukayo Saka who was making his first start for the club.
The Arsenal boss handed starts to Eddie Nketiah, Joe Willock, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, all of whom impressed at times, but it was the 17 year old who really caught the eye with an exciting display down the left hand side.
He might also have capped his display with a goal, denied late on by the face of Qarabag keeper Vagner da Silva, but it was a performance the youngster could be proud of and one which clearly resonated with Emery when he faced the press afterwards.
“Today Saka also played with a good performance, with a very big personality and we were speaking at half-time,” he said. “His personality is very important for us to continue trying to go 1v1 and break lines with his quality.
“He played with a very big personality and sometimes with a very good performance. It’s very important for his confidence and for us also, because we can look at this player and see quality to help us.”
The Spaniard was keen to ensure the other young players were acknowledged too, saying, “Every young player, we have the responsibility to give them chances, first to train with us and to be demanding with their performances
“We give them these chances in the games like today, when we can do that. They show us in every match positive things.
“Two weeks ago we played in Kiev and it was the same with Emile and Willock, who scored there. Nketiah played today also and gave a good performance.”
With a Carabao Cup quarter-final against the homeless goblins coming up next week, one or two of them will have done their chances of involvement some good with how they played last night.