Arsenal chief Per Mertesacker names ‘very talented’ prospect who has big first-team future

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Arsenal academy director Per Mertesacker has explained the reasons behind keeping ‘very talented’ forward Charlie Patino at the club this season, rather than sending him out on loan to gain senior first-team experience. Patino is widely regarded as one of Arsenal’s brightest young prospects and looks primed to enjoy a long and successful career at the highest levels of the game.

The Gunners have a long and storied history of producing quality players, with Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe just two of the latest stars to roll off the Hale End production line.

It seems as though Patino could be set to follow in their footsteps by establishing himself as a key man in Arsenal’s first-team setup over the coming years.

He has already turned plenty of heads with his form at youth level and is now a fully-fledged member of Kevin Betsy’s under-23 side.

Patino has made seven appearances for the team since the beginning of the season, scoring once and providing an assist in the process.

The 17-year-old has also shown the versatility required to play in a number of roles, sparking plenty of excitement behind closed doors at Arsenal.

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Although he is yet to make his senior debut under Mikel Arteta, Mertesacker believes that Patino’s introduction to the fold is only a matter of time.

The former Gunners defender told football.london that Patino was kept in north London with a view to featuring at first-team level before the end of the season.

Mertesacker also showed no hesitation in waxing lyrical over the Watford-born marksman, who is eligible to represent England or Spain at international level.

“We always knew that Charlie is very talented with what he can produce for our youth teams,” said Mertesacker.

“The link with the first team was always there and he got some exposure this summer. He had some injuries as well.

“Sometimes it’s not always that easy to track a player where everything works out for him nice.

“Towards the end of the season he had an injury, so he came back into the system, we kind of exposed him, wanted to give him a proper pre-season.

“His plan was always to stay with the under-23s and then be exposed to the first team at some stages.

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“That was always the plan for this season for him, so there was not a loan conversation to be made yet.”

Mertesacker went on to urge Patino to make the most of his opportunities in the Papa John’s Trophy against senior-level opposition in order to force himself into Arteta’s plans.

“We want him, which he’s doing at the moment, to dominate under-23 games and be exposed to first-team friendly games and hopefully to a couple of competitive games,” added the German.

“But that’s always determined by what’s required on the first team side. But what helps are these games against Swindon and Newport.

“He played against Swindon and was one of the best players. These are the games he needs to dominate and be exposed to, to make the next step.”

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