Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta said he was happy to take the risk of playing his youngsters in the FA Cup after they helped seal a 2-0 victory at Portsmouth on Monday that secured a place in the quarter-finals of the competition.
Arteta made nine changes to the team that lost to Olympiakos Piraeus and went out of the Europa League last week but Arsenal were too good for third-tier Portsmouth, as goals from Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Eddie Nketiah ensured progress.
“I’m pleased with all of them, the kids responded really well,” Arteta told reporters. “They fully deserve the chance … I don’t know if it’s risky to play them in this competition but they are worth a risk.
“I was looking at them in the 94th minute and they were still pressing and going and chasing. It’s a joy and I’m really enjoying working with them.
“To come here with seven under-23 players and dominate completely is a bit unrealistic.”
Arteta said some of his senior players were still recovering from the defeat by Olympiakos.
“Some of them were knackered, some had issues, some mentally were hanging on to what happened so I tried to pick the right team,” Arteta added.
“If you win, it’s okay but if we had lost it would have been the wrong decision.”
Victory against Portsmouth was soured by a potentially bad leg injury to Uruguay midfielder Lucas Torreira, who was taken off on a stretcher following a challenge from James Bolton.
Arsenal, who are 10th in the Premier League, host West Ham United on Saturday.