Arsenal young guns Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Reiss Nelson hailed by Arsene Wenger despite 1-0 Europa League defeat to Cologne
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Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has singled out two talented young guns from his second-string side for special praise – despite losing 1-0 to Cologne in their Europa League clash in Germany on Thursday.
The long-serving Frenchman whose side had already qualified for the knock-out stages of the continent’s second tier trophy had special words of praise for two of his starlets in Ainsley Mailtland-Niles and Reiss Nelson.
A second half penalty from Sehrou Guirassy was enough to clinch a hard fought victory against the Gunners to send their passionate fans wild – but with Wenger’s side sitting pretty at the head of Group H with two matches remaining prior to kick-off and a five-point lead over second placed Red Star Belgrade in the runners-up spot, the Frenchman picked a young side laced with a few old heads.
Jack Wilshere was given another start in Europe, while Olivier Giroud also played after missing the 2-0 victory over Spurs in the North London derby, with Danny Welbeck getting 45 minutes under his belt before being replaced by Alex Iwobi during the interval.
But it was the sterling performances of the versatile 20-year-old Mailtand-Niles – who has played for England representative teams from every age from U17s to U20s – and fellow young gun Reiss Nelson which earned plaudits from Wenger.
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When the Islington Gazette asked him after the game in Cologne which young players’ performances pleased him he responded by saying: “I felt Maitland-Niles was very good. Especially in the first half when we had problems to create dangerous situations. He did very well.”
He also hailed the 17-year-old Elephant and Castle-born Nelson by adding: “I thought Nelson, when he came on, looked very tricky and dangerous going forward every time.
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“Overall I would say my really young players did well on that front.
“After, guys like Rob Holding they are already older, but from the really young players those two did well.”
Eddie Nketiah also came on for the final few minutes and saw a goal-line chance narrowly trickle wide.