By Richard Clarke

Theo Walcott will be the blueprint for Arsène Wenger’s development of Jack Wilshere.

The 16-year-old was once again back page news this week after an eye-catching performance against Wigan in the Carling Cup. Walcott arrived at Emirates Stadium at the same age and endured a difficult few years before emerging as a fully-fledged Arsenal player at the start of the 2008. He has gone on to become an essential selection for both club and country.

“It is a tough period [coming up for Jack],” said Wenger. “Let’s say the honeymoon is at the start. After that you are questioned. The level of expectation becomes very, very high and you have to show you are ready to deal with that pressure.

“Sometimes it is terrible at 16 that is why I try to protect him. I remember back when I was 16 I had games when I was unbelievably terrible and I knew it. You do not want to be judged definitely by people at that age because you develop at 18 or 19.

“You do not want to put these players under too much pressure because at 16 it can kill their appetite for the game because it kills your freedom.”

“I think we did the right thing with Theo,” Wenger went on. “Until they are 19 you do not consider them as a regular. The exception is we have had is Cesc but he had a very mature game. Theo had a game based on individual action. Wilshere as well is a guy who goes at you and dribbles. These players are exposed to be kicked so you have to protect them a little bit more.”

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14 Nov 2008