Mikel Arteta plans to stand by Arsenal’s kids even if they miss out on Champions League football this weekend.
The Gunners go into the final day of the Premier League season needing to beat Everton at home and hoping Norwich can stun Tottenham at Carrow Road to secure an unlikely fourth-place finish.
Arsenal had been in the driving seat to clinch Champions League football at the beginning of May when they moved four points clear of Spurs but back-to-back defeats means Arteta’s young side look set to have to settle for the Europa League.
Many critics have suggested more experience is required in the playing group at the Emirates but the 40-year-old Spaniard has no intention of a big overhaul.
“They are not going to be kids for the rest of their lives, next season they will be more mature than they are this season and you have to start somewhere with those kids,” Arteta insisted.
“What we cannot say is we want to use academy players and do that but then the moment where something goes a little bit wrong then we are not going to do anything with them.
“I am so grateful for what they have done, what they have brought to the team and to the club, especially in this moment.
“We are going to stick with them and give them exactly what they need because they deserve that.”
Arsenal boast the youngest squad in the Premier League and only trimmed the average age further with the departure of 32-year-old Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in January.
It has opened the door for Eddie Nketiah to take his chance but with his future still undecided and Alexandre Lacazette set to move on, Arteta knows the club will need to make investment this summer.
He feels a handful of “top-quality” additions will be key, adding: “It is all about the balance.
“Now we have cleared the deck and now we have a squad balance that is much more like what we want and much more affordable than what we had before.
“Now we have to start to add the top-quality pieces that they are not necessarily at 18, 19 or 20-years-old.
“We will do what it takes to get better in every department. Not only the age group but in terms of the quality, in terms of the leadership, in terms of the goal threat of this team, in terms of the physicality of the team that we need to improve as well so there are a lot of areas.”
Champions League football would no doubt help Arsenal attract the world-class players they want but it realistically requires already-relegated Norwich to claim only their fourth league win at home this term.
The Canaries have also struggled to find the net at Carrow Road but Arteta was in good spirits at Friday’s press conference.
“They are keeping the goals for Sunday,” Arteta said with a smile.
“We were in Tottenham’s position (with pressure) a few days ago and we lost the opportunity. Now it is down to them to lose it.”