Arsenal head coach Arsene Wenger named his youngest ever team for Tuesday evening’s third round Carling Cup clash with Championship side Sheffield United.
Wales Under-21 midfielder Aaron Ramsey, 16-year-old Jack Wilshere, reserve team captain Gavin Hoyte, Kieran Gibbs and Mark Randall all started, while first-year scholar Emmanuel Frimpong, also 16, and Jay Emmanuel-Thomas, 17, were on the bench at Emirates Stadium.
Arsenal Starting XI
G.Hoyte – Djourou – Song – Gibbs
Wilshere – Ramsey – Randall – Merida
Bendtner – Vela
Halford – Morgan – Kilgallon – Naysmith
Cotterill – Speed – Quinn – Montgomery
Beattie – Webber
Arsenal started in similar fashion to the game at Bolton last Saturday. Crisp passing inside their own half which drew Sheffield United’s players towards them.
The youngsters faced a tough test against experienced midfield general Gary Speed but it certainly didn’t phase them. Kieran Gibbs sprinted down the left before dragging his shot inched wide.
Sheffield United won an early corner with Fabianski clinging onto a poor delivery from Stephen Quinn. North London was shining in the light of Arsenal’s youthful display and Aaron Ramsey proved his worth with a nice passing move which was cut out by the Blades.
Danny Webber smacked a shot into Row Z and the Gunners’ fans looked as if they were enjoying themselves at the Emirates.
Blades’ shot stopper Paddy Kenny collected a shot from Vela but it was Ramsey who was the most impressive of the bunch. Alex Song hooked the ball forward but Sheffield stayed resilient and mopped things up at the back.
Arsene Wenger’s young Gunners were keen and aggressive in the opening stages and that showed when Gavin Hoyte’s work-rate got the better of him after a rash challenge on Montgomery.
Mexican forward Carlos Vela showed off his attacking prowess with some fantastic trickery to get a cross inches past strike partner Bendtner.
A free-kick on the far edge of the box was awarded thanks to some witty play from Jack Wilshere. The resulting set-piece was lifted over everyone despite the presence of Arsenal’s towering strength inside the box.
Impressive pre-season midfielder Mark Randall was spreading the play well and Johan Djourou took advantage of it with a silky strike which Kenny denied well.
Gibbs, Randall, Ramsey, Djourou & Bendtner were all brilliant and the latter’s superb work-rate paid off when Carlos Vela turned sharply away from his marker and feed Bendtner who in turn finished it beautifully past the stranded Paddy Kenny.
Goal: Nicklas Bendtner (31)
Kevin Blackwell’s side were stunned. A team with an average age of 18 years were cruising in footballing terms against one of Championship’s giants.
United had a chance to equalise. A Blades free-kick was jabbed away from Alex Song and Johan Djourou hooked it over to the half way line and struck to safety.
All the pressure was Arsenal, but Djourou stayed strong in defence and kept calm as the Gunners’ hung onto their one-goal lead.
Jack Wilshere combined with Nicklas Bendtner and the 16-year-old claims for a penalty were denied by Referee Phil Dowd.
Just minutes before half time, summer signing Aaron Ramsey backheeled a magnificent ball into the path of Bendtner who finished it calmly for his second of the game.
Goal: Nicklas Bendtner (41)
Unbelievably, Arsenal made it three within minutes, Bendtner played Vela down the inside right channel and the Mexican clipped it calmly inside the far post. Arsenal Youth were cruising against Championship opposition – stunning.
Goal: Carlos Vela (44)
It was a magical first half from Wenger’s kids, and there was surely more to come in a most likely mouthwatering second period.
Wenger’s Young Guns slipped out the tunnel in a confident mood – who wouldn’t be after scoring three in a first half.
Kieran Gibbs immediately searched for the fourth and was unlucky to not strike it past Kenny who saved well from the England man.
It was starting to become more and more embarassing for Blackwell’s troops. Vela was a little fortuitous as he shouldered the ball over his marker but then produced an audacious lob over Paddy Kenny. Another excellent goal from the Mexican striker.
Goal: Carlos Vela (50)
This side were in stunning form and Wilshere started to knock it about with Welsh International Ramsey, Sheffield couldn’t get the ball off the teenage sensations.
Then, Wilshere’s moment came. He received a corner on the edge of the penalty area and then shot low with his left foot into the corner and Paddy Kenny failed to scramble across his line to keep the shot out. Jack Wilshere. Five star Arsenal. Fantastic.
Goal: Jack Wilshere (56)
Minutes after Wilshere’s goal, Danish striker Bendtner went on the attack for his hatrick and came inches away from granting it after rolling Merida’s pass wide.
Carlos Vela struck a sweet shot over the bar as Arsenal started to move closer to the sixth goal of the night.
70 mins: Fran Merida replaced by Francis Coquelin (tactical).
70 mins: Nicklas Bendtner replaced by Jay Simpson (tactical).
70 mins: Alexandre Song Billong replaced by Henri Lansbury (injury).
Substitutes Simpson and Lansbury tested Kenny with some late efforts while Francis Coquelin marshalled his area in front of the back four brilliantly for the remaining 15 minutes.
A brilliant 56,000 crowd were present in the Emirates to watch on and see the Gunners’ hit a poor Blades’ side for six and the youngsters passed it around deliciously as the clock ticked down.
There was enough time for a sixth though, Carlos Vela was put through by the sensational Aaron Ramsey and the Mexican grabbed his hat-rick with open arms and sealed a memorable win for Arsenal’s young Gunners.
Goal: Carlos Vela – Hatrick (87)
What a result for Arsene Wenger’s young Magicians. There was surely more to come from this blossoming youthful team who were deservedly applauded off the field by the loyal Arsenal faithful.