The inclusion of Nabil Bentaleb as a starting midfielder raised plenty of eyebrows ahead of the Arsenal cup tie and head coach Tim Sherwood went on to keep faith with the youngster for Saturday’s home game with Crystal Palace.
Still only 19, the Frenchman shows maturity way beyond his years and his display at the weekend could have been rounded off by a goal in what was the only highlight of a dire first half for the club.
Former Tottenham midfielder Jamie Redknapp isn’t one to pour too much praise on his former side but he was very impressed with Nabil’s display – likening him at one stage to Xavi.
‘People say anybody can make five-yard passes, but if they think that’s easy, they are kidding themselves. For a teenager to come in and play the way he has is unbelievable,” Redknapp said in his Daily Mail column.
‘Tim Sherwood knows him from the youth set-up and he certainly knows a thing or two about playing in midfield.
‘But Bentaleb’s ability belies his age. He is confident and plays with a nice arrogance, as if he’s saying: ‘Here I am, give me the ball.’ It was a brave decision to blood the youngster, but it looks like one that will pay off.’
Bentaleb made 106 passes on Saturday – completing 93.4% of them. Incredible stats which suggest he will be a permanent fixture in the side under Sherwood.