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Arsenal starlet Charlie Patino pushing for debut against AFC Wimbledon as Gunners bid to maintain momentum

Evening Standard logo Evening Standard 22/09/2021 Malik Ouzia
a man holding a football ball on a field: Charlie Patino © Arsenal FC via Getty Images Charlie Patino

Momentum has not been easy for Arsenal to come by of late and with a north London derby looming, Mikel Arteta knows he daren’t surrender what little his side have managed to cobble together as AFC Wimbledon visit the Emirates in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday night.

Back-to-back 1-0 wins over Norwich and Burnley have not exactly dragged the Gunners back from the precipice of disaster over which they seem to perennially teeter, but they have created a fragile belief that progress is possible and things are perhaps not quite as bad as they seemed when the campaign began with three straight league defeats. 

Sunday’s clash with Tottenham - whose season so far has followed a similar trajectory but in reverse - will be the true test of whether that hopeful theory is an illusion or one of some credence.

But Arteta knows the importance of putting the League One outfit away in convincing fashion this evening, and not only because the competition represents one of only two realistic shots at silverware for the club this season. 

“After the difficult start that we had in many different aspects, when you start to win two games, you can win the third one,” the Spaniard said. “You get more momentum, more confidence, everybody's back, and then you start to create a different feeling.”

The return of key players from injury and illness, particularly in defence, has been integral to those successive wins and clean sheets, but with no Europa League group stage, tonight’s clash offers Arteta a rare chance for wholesale rotation and 17-year-old Charlie Patino is among those hoping to feature after training with the first team on Tuesday. 

Arteta added: “If somebody wants to play and is seeking an opportunity, it's great that you're doing the right things in training and your behaviour is good, but this is the opportunity to show us as well that you deserve to play and make it difficult for us in team selection, so there we are.”

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