By Chris Harris
Arsène Wenger will do whatever it takes to protect Jack Wilshere from the perils of 'burn-out'.
Football history is littered with stories of talented youngsters who shone brightly and then faded from vision, and the Arsenal manager is determined to handle Wilshere with care.
That is easier said than done. The 17-year-old was so impressive at the Emirates Cup in August that he won two consecutive man-of-the-match awards and was even touted for a place in England's 2010 World Cup squad. No wonder the clamour for his inclusion in the Arsenal first-team has grown ever since.
But Wenger has chosen to keep Wilshere on the fringes of the side until tonight, when the teenager will start the Carling Cup tie against West Bromwich Albion at Emirates Stadium. In an exclusive pre-match interview with Arsenal TV Online, the manager explained why Wilshere's progress must be managed correctly.
"I believe last year he paid a little bit of a price physically for a very demanding start," said Wenger. "This year we feel that he is strong, more mature, and I'm sure that he will show that.
"It's difficult to treat them [young English players] completely the same because you want to speed up a little bit their progress, but physically I will still treat him like anybody else because most people once they get to 19 years of age - 19 or 20 without big injures - they are over-used. A big injury can always happen because you get over-use of the players."
With that in mind, Wenger will use Wilshere sparingly. The 17-year-old can expect to pick up valuable first-team experience this term but his manager is setting no targets on that front.
"You cannot predict that too much, because for a player like Aaron Ramsey you know what can happen because he's now physically ready," said Wenger.
"I believe you do not know what will happen throughout the season so for Jack the most objective target is to improve. There are some areas where he can improve and that is most important that you work on everything."Copyright 2016 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source