Arsenal: Per Mertesacker says Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe can pull off Champions League return

No pressure! Arsenal chief Per Mertesacker believes Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe can carry club back into the Champions League for the first time in FIVE years as he hopes duo can inspire Gunners’ next generations

  • Mertesacker feels academy duo can secure Champions League football for club
  • Arsenal have not been in Europe’s elite club competition since 2016-17 campaign
  • The Gunners have struggled recently and are without European football this year
  • However, Mertesacker believes Saka and Smith Rowe can inspire generations











Per Mertesacker believes Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe can carry Arsenal back into the Champions League following a five-year absence from the competition.

Mertesacker, a former defender for the Gunners and now their academy director, insists the duo can inspire the club’s future generations for many years to come after they rose through the ranks to become regulars in the first team. 

Saka and Smith Rowe are two of Mikel Arteta’s most trusted players and have shown glimpses this season of what Arsenal could achieve after years of underachievement for the club.

Emile Smith Rowe (left) and Bukayo Saka (right) can fire Arsenal back into the Champions League, says club’s academy director Per Mertesacker

Arsenal’s last top-four finish came in the 2014-15 campaign, which was the last time they managed to qualify for Champions League. But they’ve had to put up with Europa League football since then while the club fell to a new low of going without European football for the first time in 25 years this season.

However, Mertesacker acknowledges that Saka, 20, and Smith Rowe, 21, will both ‘need to suffer’ before they can fire the club back into European football’s promised land. 

Mertesacker told The Mirror: ‘It’s always been a narrative at Arsenal to give young players a chance to play at the top. We’re asking Bukayo and Emile to lead us back to the Champions League. They will proudly take that but we also have to understand the context. 

Arsenal have not been in Europe's elite club competition since the 2016-17 campaign

Arsenal have not been in Europe’s elite club competition since the 2016-17 campaign

However, Mertesacker (right) believes Saka (left) and Smith Rowe can inspire generations

However, Mertesacker (right) believes Saka (left) and Smith Rowe can inspire generations

‘It’s always been there. If you ask Bukayo and Emile they will tell you how they were inspired by Jack Wilshere, Fabregas, Bellerin. So the next generation of Under 9 players at the academy will be inspired by these players.

‘However they will speak about the bumpy road, their learning, that journey that hasn’t always been easy. The reality is that these two are exceptions.

‘We are giving young players the chance to learn to be vulnerable, to be exposed to the highest level and to be proper leaders for this club in two or three years’ time, while acknowledging they probably need to suffer before they bring us back to glory.’ 

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