Why Arsenal fans’ ‘frustration’ with Mikel Arteta is ‘valid’ despite 6-0 win v Lens

Journalist James Benge has agreed with recent criticism of Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta.

Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal side cruised to a 6-0 win over Lens in a Champions League group stage fixture on Wednesday evening.

With the Gunners 5-0 up at half-time, Arteta took the opportunity to make some changes. Full-backs Takehiro Tomiyasu and Oleksandr Zinchenko were replaced by Ben White and Jakub Kiwior at the break.

Throughout the second half, Reiss Nelson, Jorginho, and Eddie Nketiah all made it onto the pitch. Meanwhile, two Hale End academy aces, Ethan Nwaneri and Myles Lewis-Skelly remained on the bench.

Arsenal youth reporter Jeorge Bird considered this a wasted opportunity to give the two youngsters a run out for the senior side, with the game all but won. He said, “there surely won’t be a much better chance to give minutes to Lewis-Skelly, Nwaneri or both.”

Nwaneri has already made his senior debut for the north London club. The 16-year-old became the youngest player to ever feature in the Premier League in September 2022, when he appeared as a late substitute against Brentford.

The talented teenager has since committed his long-term future to the club and has been named on the bench a number of times since then, without getting another runout. Lewis-Skelly is still waiting to make his debut for the club.

Mikel Arteta made the right Arsenal substitutions against Lens

Journalist James Benge, taking to X after the match, addressed the fact that neither of the young guns had been given an opportunity. He said, “the frustration on here that Arteta hasn’t given minutes to Nwaneri and Lewis-Skelly feels pretty valid. Suspect his counter argument will be he needs to keep established players in rhythm. That could easily be done whilst still giving two youngsters a quick run out.”

Of course, the two youngsters would have loved to get onto the pitch. However, there will be other opportunities to come in future. For a start, Arsenal have now qualified for the knockout rounds of the Champions League with a group stage game to spare. With so little riding on the club’s next game in the competition then, against PSV Eindhoven, Arteta will almost certainly rotate heavily. Nwaneri and Lewis-Skelly stand a great chance of featuring in that match.

As much as Arteta would probably have liked to give the academy talents a chance to shine against Lens, he has to prioritise the rotation options in his squad. The likes of Nelson, Kiwior, Nketiah, and Jorginho, amongst others, need these minutes as they could be required to step into the regular starting XI at any moment in the event of injury or suspension. It is vital, therefore, to keep them sharp. He could not sacrifice their needs against Lens in favour of Nwaneri and Lewis-Skelly.

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