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With nothing material to play for, is it time for Arsenal to blood young Guns?

A win against Reading on Saturday will guarantee Arsenal a Champions League qualification slot for next season, so with nothing else to prove this season, should Arsene Wenger take the opportunity of his remaining four league games to give some of his youth and reserve players a first team appearance?

Now I know there will be those among you who reckon we can still pip Chelsea to second place, but ignoring that for a moment, I wouldn't mind the chance to see one or two of our emerging stars given a cameo role during the run-in to the end of this campaign.

Certainly, players like Cesc Fabregas, William Gallas, Gael Clichy and Alexander Hleb could do with a break and with three of those players expected to feature in this summer's Euro 2008 tournament, Wenger may take the opportunity to rest them. That might not happen during our remaining home fixtures against Reading and Everton, but away to Derby and Sunderland, I don't see that we really need to risk our star performers.

But just who could we expect to see promoted to the first team squad if Le Gaffer agrees with me that this is an ideal chance to blood some of his young Guns? Well, here are five players we could potentially see in the first team squad before the end of the season...

Armand Traore
The young Frenchman is highly thought of by his fellow professionals at Arsenal and there was an interesting article about the 18-year-old here on the official website earlier this week, talking about his conversion from a full back to a winger. The former Monaco player has lightning pace and I wouldn't be too surprised to see him getting a run on the left wing before the end of the season, perhaps allowing Alexander Hleb to take a breather.

Henri Lansbury
Lansbury is one of the most talked about prospects in the English game. He's been at Arsenal since the age of nine and the midfielder made his first team debut shortly after his 17th birthday last October in the 3-0 Carling Cup game away to Sheffield United.

Jay Emmanuel-Thomas
Jay has been Arsenal's most used teenager this season, notching up 36 appearances to date in all competitions. Although he's a natural defender, Jay has also been used in midfield this term and he's even knocked in seven goals. The coaching staff are known to be impressed by the 17-year-old and a place in the first team squad would be a fitting reward for this promising youngster.

Nacer Barazite
Like Lansbury, we caught a glimpse of Barazite during the 3-0 win against Sheffield six months ago, but the young Dutchman has been on fire for the Gunners' second string this season. The 17-year-old operates mostly in midfield, but has scored 18 goals during this campaign and in that kind of form it won't be too long before he's promoted to the first team squad.

Havard Nordveit
I definitely think we'll see and hear more about Havard next year, as I know he's one of Wenger's favourites. Le Gaffer personally flew to Norway to make sure that Arsenal were first in line to land the talented defender, who was then just 16, so given Arsene's ability to identify future stars, the Norwegian teenager is definitely one to keep an eye on. Now turned 17, Nordveit has suffered a frustrating start to his Arsenal career with injury ruling him out for much of this season, but he's been handed the captain's armband for the reserves and his commanding performances in defence have won praise nearly every time he's played this year. As a result, I wouldn't be too surprised if he were to make it on to the bench for one of our remaining fixtures this season.

What do you lot think? Are there any other fringe players you'd like to see given a chance? Or do you think Arsenal should be fielding their strongest possible team to try to secure second place - and therefore automatic entry to the Champions League group stage? Share your thoughts here.

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Posted by Gordon Masson on April 17, 2008 10:59 AM in Debate of the Day| News| Players
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