By Rob Kelly
Arsène Wenger admits he must strike the ‘right balance’ in his use of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain this season.
The 18-year-old has been in superb form for Arsenal in recent weeks and scored his first Premier League goals on Saturday as his side beat Blackburn 7-1 at the Emirates.
While Wenger is delighted with Oxlade-Chamberlain’s recent displays, he is wary of the potential for burnout if the forward were to be overburdened this term.
“That’s what happened to us last year with Jack Wilshere, it was exactly the same,” he said. “At the start of the season you think, 'I will play him 20 games, maybe 25'. When they deliver a performance [like Saturday’s] they play 45 and then they play for the national team and then they get injured.
“It's very difficult to manage because people understand very quickly what kind of influence the players have. You want to win the game so you play them.”
Oxlade-Chamberlain has attracted a host of plaudits for his eye-catching displays, but Wenger hopes he will not have to deal with the same pressure that Theo Walcott was put under after being selected for the 2006 World Cup.
“I don't say I don't want him to be rewarded with some praise when he has a good game” he said. “It's about trying to find the right balance between having confidence and not being too early and too much under pressure.
“Walcott went to the World Cup without having played in the Premier League at all, so it was a bit early because he was 17 years old. For a while I felt that the pressure on Walcott was after that because nobody had seen him.
“He didn't play at the World Cup and when he came back people said: 'OK, he has been at the World Cup, now he has to deliver something special'. But you've seen now that Theo is developing very well.
“I don't want to compare [the two players]. The only thing I would say is that Chamberlain already had a complete season in League One and he survived quite well. He was a few times injured on his ankle. He's 18 years old, Theo came here at 16 and a half or 17, so he is a bit older as well.”Copyright 2017 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