Jack Wilshere paid tribute to Reiss Nelson and Jo Willock after the teenage duo produced composed performances in Arsenal’s 1-0 win over Red Star Belgrade in the Europa League.
Nelson, playing at right wing-back, and Willock, anchoring the midfield, coped well with the intense atmosphere produced by the local crowd as they made their tenth and eighth appearances of the season respectively.
Speaking after the game, Wilshere, who impressed again in midfield, reflected on his own experience of playing in Serbia as a youngster.
“It’s only a good thing [for Nelson and Willock playing in this environment],” he told Arsenal.com.
“I remember when I was 18 or 19, we came to Partizan Belgrade and we won 3-1. It was a massive learning curve for me, so I’m sure they’re going to take stuff from this.
“I thought they were both outstanding, both of the starting boys and the boys that came on. But especially the boys that started.
“It’s a tough ask for them to come here, they’re only young, Reiss is just 17. So he’s playing in a position he’s not used to as well and he’s getting better and better.
“First half, I thought he was outstanding and Joe is the player who can win the ball back in their half and our half. He’s fit, he gets around the pitch and that’s massively important for this team.
“Going forward in this competition they’re going to learn and grow and be big players for us.”
After Saturday’s defeat by Watford, Wilshere also drew attention to the character the Gunners needed to show to secure all three points.
“I said yesterday in our press conference I don’t think anyone can question our character, we showed that tonight, you know it’s a tough place to come I don’t think they’ve lost here this season.
“We knew that before the game and we knew that they were going to be up for it, of course they were, there fans were, it’s one of the most noises stadiums I’ve played in my career and of course they’re going to be up for it.
“They were well organised and they sat back and made us take the game to them when we had the ball and when they had the ball they caused us a few problems so we knew we were going to have to be ready and focused and the boss said at half time as well just keep playing keep playing because spaces are opening up and they did, we got the win so we’re happy.”