ARSENAL starlet Charlie Patino is reportedly in line to start in the FA Cup third round tie against Nottingham Forest on Sunday.
The Gunners youngster could take advantage of a midfield crisis in the team to feature in the middle of the park at the City Ground.
Patino, 18, starred in his debut for the North Londoners last month where he came off the bench and scored in the 5-1 Carabao Cup win against Sunderland.
Taking to social media after the victory over the Black Cats, the teenager said: "The best day of my life and an early Christmas present.
"Thanks to all the fans for their amazing support! What a night."
And the England youth international could now be handed his first senior start with Thomas Partey and Mohamed Elneny unavailable due to the Africa Cup of Nations.
Meanwhile versatile midfielder Ainsley Maitland-Niles is poised to link up with Serie A outfit Roma on loan until the end of the campaign.
Arsenal could also be missing Granit Xhaka for their clash against Forest with the Swiss international not pictured in training this week.
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And according to Football.London, Patino is in contention to start alongside Albert Sambi Lokonga.
They state that the only other options besides Patino is for centre-backs Ben White and Calum Chambers to be deployed in central midfield.
The news outlet also adds that academy ace Salah-Eddine Oulad M'Hand could make his debut this weekend.
RIO FERDINAND A FAN
Big things are expected of Patino at the Emirates, with Rio Ferdinand expecting him to be one of the the breakthrough stars in 2022.
He said: "Just watching him, go on YouTube and watch his clips. It's a joke, what you see. The talent he's got…
"I've spoken to people at Arsenal and what they say about him in terms of this kid, talentwise he could potentially be the best of the lot that has come out in recent years.
"It's a huge bar but this kid has a talent I think, and the big part of him I think is the mentality.
"You talk to anyone who knows him, mentally doesn't get carried away. Doesn't get too low, doesn't get too high – very balanced kid.
"But [he] has all the fundamentals in his game to really go to the top of the tree.
"I think he will get the opportunities here, I think Mikel Arteta is somebody we've seen with Emile Smith Rowe [and] with Saka.
"He's introducing the young players. And this kid is the next on the runway to come out.
"I just feel when you watch him there's a beautiful wave. The balance, the rhythm The fans will enjoy watching him and what I liked about him is that when he came on the other day they were singing his name.
"They know what they've got here, they got to let him breathe, and breathe into it."
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