Matt Macey proved he belongs in Arsenal's first team - Arsene Wenger
LONDON -- Arsene Wenger says third-choice goalkeeper Matt Macey proved he belongs in the first team with his display against Red Star Belgrade on Thursday.
Macey made a stellar one-handed save to tip a looping header onto the bar in the first half of the 0-0 draw, using every inch of his 1.98-metre frame. It was only the second career start for the 23-year-old Macey, who made his debut against Norwich in the Carabao Cup last week -- four years after arriving at the club's academy.
While Macey has had to wait for his chance, Wenger said his unique size makes him a very promising prospect.
"I think he took his chance very well. He's huge. He's quick. You don't often find combinations of that size and that speed. He's very agile as well for a guy who's tall like that," Wenger said.
"He came late to us, considering normally the goalkeepers come at the age of 16. He came at 20 basically. But he's intelligent and very focused and that's why I was pleased to give him a chance tonight. I think he took it already against Norwich and again tonight he played very well."
Aside from Macey, there were few individual performances to highlight in a drab draw. While Arsenal advanced to the knockout rounds with the result, there was a scattering of boos at the final whistle as the team's 13-game home winning streak came to end.
Wenger, though, played down the supporters' apparent discontent with the team's performance.
"No, no, no. I think people supported the team. In the end of course we didn't see goals. They are not used not to see goals at the Emirates," Wenger said. "For us it's frustrating as well that we don't score, but overall we have understandings as well that many young players are in the team. And that's part of the learning process for them to play these types of games."
Francis Coquelin and Theo Walcott both struggled badly to make an impact, while even Jack Wilshere was below the level he'd shown in previous Europa League games after missing out on an England call-up earlier in the day.
"He needs these kinds of games to come back to his best level," Wenger said when asked about Wilshere's performance. "What Jack needs is to be injury free for a long period until the end of the season and get games like that.
"He could have been involved [with England], he's not. So if he keeps his fitness, maybe next time."
Mattias is ESPN FC's Arsenal correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @MattiasKaren.