Unai Emery was pleased with his young side’s performance as Arsenal cruised to a 4-0 victory against Standard Liege to open a three point lead at the top of Europa League Group F.
Gabriel Martinelli’s quick-fire brace set the Gunners on their way before Joe Willock extended the advantage going into the break. Martinelli then turned provider in the second half dinking a cross for Dani Ceballos to score his first goal for the club.
After the game, Emery again touched on the responsibility he has for blooding the club’s Academy kids.
He said: “Historically Arsenal have that responsibility with young players, and I told you before that my responsibility now is also speaking with the club and giving them chances.
“We want to give them chances, but we need to find our very high demands in our performance to achieve our targets.
“We are in one process and we want to do it as quickly as we can because our targets for the season are very important to achieve.
“Each match for the young players when they have the chance to play, if they play like tonight or before in the pre-season, then they deserve to be with us and to continue creating our way with them.
“Matches like tonight are good to use them because this competition is an important competition after the Premier League. They deserve to be with us in the next matches and they are coming in at a key moment with a high level. I think they are close with us.”
The boss reserved special praise for 18-year-old Martinelli who took his tally for the season to four goals in two starts. Despite being deployed as a central striker, a position he’s not used to, he thrived from the off, haranguing defenders and taking up smart positions in the penalty box.
“Yes, he played in this position with us and in every training he showed us his hunger to be with us,” replied Emery when asked if he sees the teenager as an out-and-out striker.
He went on: “In pre-season he played in different positions, but above all he preferred playing on the left wing. But also he played as a right winger. I used him as a striker because in Brazil he played this position (centre forward).
“It’s not the best position for him, but the first thing in his mind is to help us and receive some minutes with us in the team. Tonight I think his performance and attitude was amazing.
“I saw him in pre-season and he was working and in each training showing us his hunger. In pre-season he was perfect all the time with us in training, and I spoke to him to be calm because when he arrived with an opportunity to play like tonight, if he continues with this hunger then I think he will do well. Tonight confirmed that.”
For the record, Arsenal’s starting line-up had an average age of 22 years and 350 days; the second youngest in their European history (after Olympiakos away in December 2009 at 21 years and 215 days).
What’s more only Romelu Lukaku (16 years and 218 days) and Mario Gotze (18 years and 105 days) have scored braces in the Europa League at a younger age than Martinelli (since the competition’s rebranding in 2009-10).