From Vela to Van Persie, Sunu to Cesc: Arsene Wenger's League Cup debutants

The kids are alright for the Gunners, writes Joe Brewin, Layth Yousif and Pete Sharland... 

The League Cup has long been Arsene Wenger's fine-tuning laboratory creating Arsenal's stars of tomorrow. There's been mixed success, but who can doubt the usefulness of English football's third-favourite competition to the Gunners' fastidious Frenchman? So here's a glance at some of the fresh-faced youngsters to have made their names in the red and white on frosty Tuesday nights...

Arsenal 4-1 Birmingham: 14 Oct, 1997

A Luis Boa Morte double, David Platt's pen and Alberto Mendez's fourth gives the Gunners an easy win after extra time. 

Paolo Vernazza: His performances for Arsenal's youngsters saw him claim a place in England's Youth World Championship squad, and play twice for the England U21s. Unfortunately for the Islington-born youngster they were to prove fleeting highlights. After 11 games for the Gunners' first team and one league goal (vs Coventry City in September 2000) he joined Watford permanently, via loan spells at Ipswich and Portsmouth. After three-and-a-half years at Vicarage Road he joined Rotherham on a free. Vernazza played for a further seven clubs and retired in 2010. He is now working as a football agent.
 

Jason Crowe: Debuts don't get much crapper than Crowe's. Having been handed his first professional contract at Highbury in the summer, these were exciting times for the young defender. Too exciting, perhaps. Just 33 seconds into his big debut he lunged at Martin O'Connor and was sent off by referee Uriah Rennie. The right-back would be given another two appearances by Wenger but, with Lee Dixon miles ahead in the pecking order, he joined Portsmouth in 1999. Went on to play for the likes of Grimsby, Northampton and Leeds in the Football League. 

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