Arsene Wenger gave senior debuts to four youngsters this evening, but it was some of the more senior players that struggled most as Arsenal suffered a deeply disappointing 3-0 defeat away to Sheffield Wednesday in the Capital One Cup.
Glen Kamara and Alex Iwobi both started the game, with summer arrival Ismael Bennacer soon pressed into action as an early substitute in place of the injured Theo Walcott, who himself had only just been brought on for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Krystian Bielik replaced the struggling Kamara in the second period, whilst Matt Macey and Ben Sheaf made the bench, but, overall, it was a hugely frustrating evening for the Gunners.
The defending for all three of the goals was diabolical, with experienced players such as Mathieu Debuchy and captain Per Mertesacker particularly culpable.
In addition Mathieu Flamini struggled throughout and often conceded possession with meaningless long balls. Joel Campbell again struggled, although the Costa Rican did at least demonstrate a desire to attempt to win the ball back on several occasions.
As far as the youngsters are concerned, Kamara started well enough as he kept the ball efficiently and made a couple of neat tackles, but the Finland U21 international became overrun in the second period and was subsequently withdrawn, with Bielik helping to add a little more assuredness to proceedings.
Iwobi tried his hardest but struggled to create many openings, save for one shot that was off target. The winger played a couple of clever passes but was afforded little time on the ball by a Sheffield Wednesday side that was resolute in its defensive work.
Bennacer, the diminutive midfielder plucked from Arles-Avignon, enjoyed a few encouraging moments, but also seemed a little overwhelmed at times, which isn’t very surprising given that he has barely even played for the club at youth level. He does, though, seem a very good prospect for the long term.
Bielik, as alluded to, fared rather well, even though he did concede possession on a couple of occasions. The youngster was used in midfield despite the fact that he has featured almost exclusively as a centre-back at U21 level this campaign.
Arsenal are out of the Capital One Cup, but, such is the depleted nature of the first-team squad, this may not be the end of the opportunities for youngsters at the club this season.
Arsenal already had six players (Mikel Arteta, David Ospina, Aaron Ramsey, Tomas Rosicky, Danny Welbeck and Jack Wilshere) out injured going into this fixture, and that list has now been added to following the problems suffered by Oxlade-Chamberlain and Walcott.
Several key players were completely rested tonight, with Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez, Hector Bellerin, Santi Cazorla, Laurent Koscielny and Francis Coquelin not in the squad and Nacho Monreal and Gabriel remaining unused substitutes.
At present, though, there are only 16 available senior players, so there is a strong chance that at least one youngster could make the bench for the Premier League game against Swansea City this weekend.