By Chris Harris
Arsène Wenger says it is in the interests of Arsenal AND the Football Association to protect Jack Wilshere from burn-out.
The 19-year-old started the season as a promising youngster on the fringes of the Arsenal squad. Six months later he is a frontline Premier League star, a regular in Fabio Capello’s England team and on course to make more than 50 appearances for club and country this term.
But that tally will creep up towards 60 if Wilshere, already a shoo-in for England’s Euro 2012 qualifier against Switzerland in June, is selected for the European Under-21 Championships in Denmark the same month.
Wilshere is happy to take on a dual role but Theo Walcott trod a similar path two years ago and spent much of the following season on the treatment table. Wenger is keen to avoid what is commonly known as a ‘club versus country’ row but, at his pre-match press conference, he noted the dangers that lurk for his latest English gem.
“He looks to be a promising player for the first national team and for Arsenal, so the interest of the FA and Arsenal is to give him the right protection,” said Wenger.
“I don’t want to make a big problem with that because it’s normal he wants to play. That’s more positive than negative. It’s good they want to play because it’s what we all love passionately.
“But after that, basically the youth system is made to promote the players for the top team and once they are in the top team I don’t see a basic need to go back.
“Logically, why do you produce a youth system? It is to get them ready to be playing in the first team. Once they play in the first team, your job has been done so you can promote other players. Unless you say we want to go for national pride and ego, so we just play our best players in this tournament, then it is defendable. But that is not basically why the youth teams have been created.
“If I ask you to give me the winners of the World Cup since it has been created, I am sure you will give me them all. If I ask you to give me the winners of the Under-21s tournaments, you will struggle. That means the basic target is to get the players ready to play in the first team, once they play there it is less useful.
“It is in the interests of the FA as well that Wilshere is protected. It is normal that you play many games, but there is a number you have to respect and you must make sure you do not make a mistake with a promising player.”Copyright 2013 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 1 Apr 2011