Arsenal academy director Per Mertesacker has claimed that Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka can fire the club back into the UEFA Champions League.
The Gunners qualified for Champions League 19 years in a row under Arsene Wenger’s tutelage but are currently on a five-year hiatus from the prestigious competition.
Head coach Mikel Arteta has led the north Londoners to back-to-back eighth-placed Premier League finishes – a feat that means they are currently without any European competition for the first time in 25 years.
However, Mertesacker is still confident that they will find a way back into the coveted top four spots in the league, citing Hale End graduates Saka and Smith Rowe as the key to getting Arsenal back to the top level in the coming years.
Speaking to The Mirror, Mertesacker said: “It’s always been a narrative at Arsenal to give young players a chance to play at the top. We’re asking Bukayo (Saka) and Emile (Smith Rowe) to lead us back to the Champions League. They will proudly take that but we also have to understand the context.
“It’s always been there. If you ask Bukayo and Emile they will tell you how they were inspired by Jack Wilshere, Fabregas, Bellerin. So the next generation of Under 9 players at the academy will be inspired by these players.
“However they will speak about the bumpy road, their learning, that journey that hasn’t always been easy. The reality is that these two are exceptions.
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“The academy staff has always given its all in delivering players to the highest level which can make a difference in our first team or in some other first team. That is hugely important to the club and will always be a priority.
“We are giving young players the chance to learn to be vulnerable, to be exposed to the highest level and to be proper leaders for this club in two or three years’ time, while acknowledging they probably need to suffer before they bring us back to glory.
“That’s my expectations. Hopefully, Bukayo and Emile can take on the next level of talent into the first team and challenge them in the right way.”
Source by Football London