Arsenal young guns Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe and Eddie Nketiah hailed by Martin Keown
Former Arsenal stalwart Martin Keown has heaped praise on the academy stars who overran Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday (20 April).
The Gunners ended a three-game losing streak to punish the sloppy European champions 4-2, with all the goals coming from Eddie Nketiah, 22, Emile Smith Rowe, 21, and Bukayo Saka, 20.
It meant that the latter pair became just the second and third Arsenal players to score 10 or more Premier League goals at the age of 21 or under, after Nicholas Anelka, and only the third time in league history a club has had such a pair, according to the Daily Mail.
Keown, who also came through the ranks at the club wrote in his Daily Mail column: “I was at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night and told manager Mikel Arteta afterwards that the academy should be proud of themselves. I’m sure they are.
“A resounding result such as this, in a game that Arsenal needed to win, is a ringing endorsement of all their hard work.
“What a feeling it must have been for the boys in the Arsenal changing room after Wednesday’s win.
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“I’ve had that feeling — coming through the youth system with your mates but now you’re in the first team, winning games at the top level. It’s a dream.
“You gain a love for the club when you’re in the academy and an appreciation for what these matches mean.”
As Arteta looks to take this side into the top four, it was a crucial result against strong opposition.
And the fact that so many youngsters were key suggests that the club has a bright future.
The Gunners are making a habit of going to west London and upsetting the Blues at home, and it was no different this week.
Saka and Smith Rowe have emerged as the undoubted stars of present and future at the Emirates, while Nketiah’s brace may have been part of a send off as he is likely on the way out of the club in the summer.
Paul Merson compared him to Gunners legend Ian Wright in his Daily Star column, but tipped him to find more first team football elsewhere.
There is no such danger with the younger duo, as there would be uproar if either were allowed to leave, and the manager surely plans to build his team around them long term.
Saka also scored from the penalty spot to help banish the memories of his unfortunate miss in the Euros final for England.
He has also been tipped to take the captain’s armband before long, to make him central to the club’s growth and head off transfer suggestions.
With 20-year-old Gabriel Martinelli coming off the bench, and starting trio Martin Odegaard, Ben White and Nuno Tavares all 24 and under, there is an abundance of youth available to the manager.
Consistency has to be the objective amid uneven form, but with academy products powering the side to a strong win in a London derby fans will have been delighted.
In other Arsenal news, yet another youth attacker may be in line for his first-team debut soon with Alexandre Lacazette injured.